Modern Spreadsheets in MATLAB
MATLAB is a numeric computing
platform. It has a native table
type with limited support for spreadsheets.
SheetJS is a JavaScript library for reading and writing data from spreadsheets.
This demo uses SheetJS to pull data from a spreadsheet for further analysis within MATLAB. We'll explore how to run an external tool to convert complex spreadsheets into simple XLSX files for MATLAB.
This demo was tested by SheetJS users in the following deployments:
Architecture  Version  Date 

darwinx64  R2024a  20240609 
win10x64  R2024a  20240609 
MATLAB has limited support for processing spreadsheets through readtable
^{1}
and writetable
^{2}. At the time of writing, it lacked support for XLSB,
NUMBERS, and other common spreadsheet formats.
SheetJS libraries help fill the gap by normalizing spreadsheets to a form that MATLAB can understand.
Integration Details
MATLAB does not currently provide a way to parse a CSV string or a character
array representing file data. readtable
, writetable
, csvread
, and
csvwrite
work with the file system directly. strread
and textscan
are
designed specifically for reading numbers.
The current recommendation involves a dedicated commandline tool that leverages SheetJS libraries to to perform spreadsheet processing.
The SheetJS NodeJS module can be loaded in NodeJS scripts and bundled in standalone commandline tools.
CommandLine Tools
The "CommandLine Tools" demo creates xlsxcli
, a
commandline tool that reads a spreadsheet file and generates output. The
examples in the "NodeJS" section are able to generate XLSX spreadsheets using
the xlsx
command line flag:
$ xlsxcli xlsx ./pres.numbers ## generates pres.numbers.xlsx
The commandline tool supports a number of formats including XLSB (xlsb
).
The tools pair the SheetJS readFile
^{3} and writeFile
^{4} methods to read
data from arbitrary spreadsheet files and convert to XLSX:
const XLSX = require("xlsx"); // load the SheetJS library
const wb = XLSX.readFile("input.xlsb"); // read input.xlsb
XLSX.writeFile(wb, "output.xlsx"); // export to output.xlsx
MATLAB commands
The MATLAB system
command^{5} can run commandline tools in Mfiles. For
example, if the xlsxcli
tool is placed in the workspace folder and the
test file pres.numbers
is in the Downloads folder, the following command
generates the XLSX file pres.numbers.xlsx
:
% generate ~/Downloads/pres.numbers.xlsx from ~/Downloads/pres.numbers
system("./xlsxcli xlsx ~/Downloads/pres.numbers");
In an interactive session, the exclamation point operator !
^{6} can be used:
% generate ~/Downloads/pres.numbers.xlsx from ~/Downloads/pres.numbers
!./xlsxcli xlsx ~/Downloads/pres.numbers
Reading Files
Starting from an arbitrary spreadsheet, xlsxcli
can generate a XLSX workbook.
Once the workbook is written, the XLSX file can be parsed with readtable
:
% `filename` points to the file to be parsed
filename = "~/Downloads/pres.numbers";
% generate filename+".xlsx"
system("./xlsxcli xlsx " + filename)
% read using `readtable`
tbl = readtable(filename + ".xlsx");
The following diagram depicts the workbook waltz:
Write Files
Starting from an MATLAB table, writetable
can generate a XLSX workbook. Once
the workbook is written, xlsxcli
can translate to NUMBERS or other formats:
% tbl is the table
tbl = table({"Sheet";"JS"}, [72;62], 'VariableNames', ["Name", "Index"])
% `filename` points to the file to be written
filename = "~/Downloads/sorted.xlsx";
% write using `writetable`
writetable(tbl, filename);
% generate filename+".xlsb"
system("./xlsxcli xlsb " + filename);
The following diagram depicts the workbook waltz:
Complete Demo
This demo was tested in macOS. The path names will differ in other platforms.
This demo processes pres.numbers
.
There are 3 parts to the demo:
A) "Import": SheetJS tooling will read the test file and generate a clean XLSX
file. MATLAB will read the file using readtable
.
B) "Process": Using sortrows
, MATLAB will reverse the table order.
C) "Export": The modified table will be exported to XLSX using writetable
.
SheetJS tooling will convert the file to XLSB.
 Create the standalone
xlsxcli
binary^{7}:
cd /tmp
npm i save https://cdn.sheetjs.com/xlsx0.20.3/xlsx0.20.3.tgz exitonepipe commander@2
curl LO https://docs.sheetjs.com/cli/xlsxcli.js
npx nexe t 14.15.3 xlsxcli.js
 Move the generated
xlsxcli
to the MATLAB workspace folder. On macOS, this folder is typically~/Documents/MATLAB/
:
mkdir p ~/Documents/MATLAB/
mv xlsxcli ~/Documents/MATLAB/
 Download https://docs.sheetjs.com/pres.numbers and save to Downloads folder:
cd ~/Downloads/
curl LO https://docs.sheetjs.com/pres.numbers
 Save the following to
SheetJSMATLAB.m
in the workspace folder:
% Import data from NUMBERS file
system("./xlsxcli xlsx ~/Downloads/pres.numbers");
tbl = readtable("~/Downloads/pres.numbers.xlsx");
% Process data (reverse sort)
sorted = sortrows(tbl,"Index", "descend");
% Export data to XLSB workbook
writetable(sorted,"~/Downloads/sorted.xlsx");
system("./xlsxcli xlsb ~/Downloads/sorted.xlsx");
 In a MATLAB desktop session, run the
SheetJSMATLAB
command:
>> SheetJSMATLAB
It will create the file sorted.xlsx.xlsb
in the ~/Downloads
folder. Open the
file and confirm that the table is sorted by Index in descending order:
Name Index
Joseph Biden 46
Donald Trump 45
Barack Obama 44
GeorgeW Bush 43
Bill Clinton 42
If the matlab
command is available on the system PATH
, the "headless"
version of the command is:
cd ~/Documents/MATLAB
matlab batch SheetJSMATLAB
Footnotes

See
writetable
in the MATLAB documentation. ↩ 
See "MATLAB Operators and Special Characters in the MATLAB documentation. ↩

See "Commandline Tools" for more details. ↩