VBA: Calling Python from Excel

xlwings VBA module

To get access to the RunPython function and/or to be able to run User Defined Functions (UDFs), you need to have the xlwings VBA module available in your Excel book.

For new projects, by far the easiest way to get started is by using the command line client with the quickstart option, see Command Line Client for details:

$ xlwings quickstart myproject

This will create a new folder in your current directory with a fully prepared Excel file and an empty Python file.

Alternatively, you can also open a new spreadsheet from a template ($ xlwings template open) or manually insert the module in an existing workbook like so:

  • Open the VBA editor with Alt-F11
  • Then go to File > Import File... and import the xlwings.bas file. It can be found in the directory of your xlwings installation.

If you don’t know the location of your xlwings installation, you can find it as follows:

$ python
>>> import xlwings
>>> xlwings.__path__


While the defaults will often work out-of-the box, you can change the settings at the top of the xlwings VBA module under Function Settings:

PYTHON_FROZEN = ThisWorkbook.Path & "\build\exe.win32-2.7"
PYTHONPATH = ThisWorkbook.Path
  • PYTHON_WIN: This is the full path of the Python interpreter on Windows, , e.g. "C:\Python35\pythonw.exe". "" resolves to your default Python installation on the PATH, i.e. the one you can start by just typing python at a command prompt.
  • PYTHON_MAC: This is the full path of the Python interpreter on Mac OSX, e.g. "/usr/local/bin/python3.5". "" resolves to your default installation as per PATH on .bash_profile. To get special folders on Mac, type GetMacDir("Name") where Name is one of the following: Home, Desktop, Applications, Documents.
  • PYTHON_FROZEN [Optional]: Currently only on Windows, indicates the directory of the exe file that has been frozen by either using cx_Freeze or py2exe. Can be set to "" if unused.
  • PYTHONPATH [Optional]: If the source file of your code is not found, add the path here. Otherwise set it to "".
  • UDF_MODULES [Optional, Windows only]: Names of Python modules (without .py extension) from which the UDFs are being imported. Separate multiple modules by ”;”. Example: UDF_PATH = "common_udfs;myproject" Default: UDF_PATH = "" defaults to a file in the same directory of the Excel spreadsheet with the same name but ending in .py.
  • UDF_DEBUG_SERVER: Set this to True if you want to run the xlwings COM server manually for debugging, see Debugging.
  • LOG_FILE [Optional]: Leave empty for default location (see below) or provide directory including file name.
  • SHOW_LOG: If False, no pop-up with the Log messages (usually errors) will be shown. Use with care.
  • OPTIMIZED_CONNECTION: Currently only on Windows: uses a COM Server. This will be faster, as the interpreter doesn’t shut down after each call

LOG_FILE default locations

  • Windows: %APPDATA%\xlwings_log.txt
  • Mac with Excel 2011: /tmp/xlwings_log.txt
  • Mac with Excel 2016: ~/Library/Containers/com.microsoft.Excel/Data/xlwings_log.txt


If the settings (especially PYTHONPATH and LOG_FILE) need to work on Windows on Mac, use backslashes in relative file path, i.e. ThisWorkbook.Path & "\mydirectory".

Call Python with “RunPython”

After adding the xlwings VBA module to your Excel file, go to Insert > Module (still in the VBA-Editor). This will create a new Excel module where you can write your Python call as follows (note that the quickstart or template commands already add an empty Module1, so you don’t need to insert a new module manually):

Sub HelloWorld()
    RunPython ("import hello; hello.world()")
End Sub

This calls the following code in mymodule.py:

# hello.py
import numpy as np
import xlwings as xw

def world():
    wb = xw.Book.caller()
    wb.sheets[0].range('A1').value = 'Hello World!'

You can then attach HelloWorld to a button or run it directly in the VBA Editor by hitting F5.


Place xw.Book.caller() within the function that is being called from Excel and not outside as global variable. Otherwise it prevents Excel from shutting down properly upon exiting and leaves you with a zombie process when you use OPTIMIZED_CONNECTION = True.

Function Arguments and Return Values

While it’s technically possible to include arguments in the function call within RunPython, it’s not very convenient. To do that easily and to also be able to return values from Python, use UDFs, see UDF Tutorial - however, this is currently limited to Windows only.