A Comparison between IronXL and CsvWriter

Working with CSV files can be a challenging task. However, today there are many libraries available to help developers with this task, and without the need to have Microsoft Excel installed.

In this article, we are going to discuss and compare how to work with Microsoft Excel documents programmatically in C# .NET technologies, either in CSV format or the standard Excel format, using two of the most popular libraries, IronXL and CSVWriter.

Let's look firstly at what both libraries have to offer.

The IronXL Library

IronXL is a .NET library that facilitates the reading and editing of Microsoft Excel documents with C#. IronXL. Excel is a standalone .NET software library for reading a wide range of spreadsheet formats. It does not require Microsoft Excel to be installed, nor does it depend on Interop.

IronXL is an intuitive C# API that allows you to read, edit and create Excel spreadsheet files in .NET with lightning-fast performance. IronXL fully supports .NET Core, .NET Framework, Xamarin, Mobile, Linux, macOS, and Azure.

IronXL is a leading .Net core and .net framework Excel spreadsheet library for C#.

IronXL Feature Set

  • Load, read, and edit data — from XLS/XLSX/CSV/TSV
  • Saving and exporting — to XLS/XLSX/CSV/TSV/JSON
  • Ranges — easy to use WorkSheet["A1:B10"] syntax. Combine and create ranges intuitively.
  • Sorting — sort ranges, columns, and rows.
  • Styling — cell visual styles, font, size, background pattern, border, alignment and number formats.

CSVWriter

A .NET library for writing CSV files. Extremely fast, flexible, and easy to use. Supports writing custom class objects.

CsvWriter Features

  • Fast: compiles classes on the fly for extremely fast performance
  • Flexible: conservative when writing, liberal when reading
  • Easy to use: reading and writing are as simple as GetRecords() and WriteRecords(records)
  • Highly configurable
  • Linux mode
  • Low memory usage

1. Create a Console Application

Use the following steps to create a Console Application:

  • Start the Visual Studio 2022 IDE.
  • Click on “Create new project”.
  • In the “Create new project” page, select C# in the language drop-down list, Windows from the Platforms list, and Console from the “Project types” list.
  • Select Console App (.NET Framework) from the project templates displayed.

Create Project - Console Application

  • Click Next.
  • In the Additional Information screen, specify the Framework version you would like to use. We will use .NET Framework 4.8 in this example.

Create Project - Net Framework

  • Click Create to complete the process.

The project is now created and we are almost ready to test the libraries. However, we still need to install and integrate them into our project. Let's install IronXL first.

2. IronXL C# Library Installation

You can download and install the IronXL library using the following methods:

  1. Using Visual Studio with NuGet packages
  2. Download the NuGet Package directly
  3. Manually Install with the DLL

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

2.1. Using Visual Studio with NuGet packages

Visual Studio provides the NuGet Package Manager to install NuGet packages in your projects. You can access it through the Project Menu, or by right-clicking your project in the Solution Explorer.

Select-Manage-NuGet-Package

  • Now, from the browse tab -> search for IronXL.Excel -> Install

Search for IronXL

  • And we are done.

2.2. Download the NuGet Package Directly

This can be done by visiting the NuGet site directly and downloading the package. The steps are:

2.3. Manually Install with the DLL

Another way to download and install the IronXL C# Library is to make use of the following steps to install the IronXL NuGet package through the Developer Command Prompt.

  • Open the Developer Command Prompt — usually found in the Visual Studio folder.
  • Type the following command: PM > Install-Package IronXL.Excel
  • Press Enter
  • This will download and install the package
  • Reload your Visual Studio project and begin using it

2.4. Add Necessary Using Directives

  1. In Solution Explorer, right-click the Program.cs file and then click View Code.
  2. Add the following using directives to the top of the code file:
using IronXL;
using IronXL;
Imports IronXL
VB   C#

All done! IronXL is downloaded, installed and ready to use. However, before that we should install CsvHelper.

3. CSVWriter Installation

3.1. Using the NuGet Package Manager Console

To work with CSVWriter you need to download and install the CsvHelper C# Library. To do so, make use of the following steps to install the NuGet package through the Developer Command Prompt.

  • Open the Developer Command Prompt — usually found in the Visual Studio folder.
  • Type the following command: PM> Install-Package CsvHelper -Version 27.2.1
  • Press Enter
  • This will download and install the package
  • Reload your Visual Studio project and begin using it
  • Check the CsvHelper.CsvWriter method detail for implementation

3.2. Direct Download

Download from the NuGet website: https://www.nuget.org/packages/CsvHelper/

4. Working with CSV Files using IronXL

A comma-separated values (CSV) file is a delimited text file that uses a comma to separate values. Each line of the file is a data record. To manipulate these files for calculations can be a challenging task, but IronXL provides a pretty good and easy option to achieve this, and without using Microsoft Excel. Let's first convert a CSV file to a normal Excel file.

4.1. Converting a CSV File to Excel Format

The process is pretty simple and easy. It is usually done with one line of code.

CSV to Excel formats:

WorkBook workbook = WorkBook.LoadCSV("test.csv", fileFormat: ExcelFileFormat.XLSX, ListDelimiter: ",");
WorkSheet ws = workbook.DefaultWorkSheet;
 
workbook.SaveAs("CsvToExcelConversion.xlsx");
WorkBook workbook = WorkBook.LoadCSV("test.csv", fileFormat: ExcelFileFormat.XLSX, ListDelimiter: ",");
WorkSheet ws = workbook.DefaultWorkSheet;
 
workbook.SaveAs("CsvToExcelConversion.xlsx");
Dim workbook As WorkBook = WorkBook.LoadCSV("test.csv", fileFormat:= ExcelFileFormat.XLSX, ListDelimiter:= ",")
Dim ws As WorkSheet = workbook.DefaultWorkSheet
'
workbook.SaveAs("CsvToExcelConversion.xlsx")
VB   C#

4.2. Read and Manipulate Converted CSV Files using IronXL

The IronXL WorkBook class represents an Excel sheet. To open an Excel File using C#, we use WorkBook.Load and specify the path of the Excel file (.xlsx). The following one-line code is used to open the file for reading:

//Load WorkBook
var workbook = WorkBook.Load(@"Spreadsheets\\sample.xlsx");
//Load WorkBook
var workbook = WorkBook.Load(@"Spreadsheets\\sample.xlsx");
'Load WorkBook
Dim workbook = WorkBook.Load("Spreadsheets\\sample.xlsx")
VB   C#

Each WorkBook can contain multiple WorkSheet objects. These represent worksheets in the Excel document. If the workbook contains worksheets, retrieve them by name as follows:

//Open Sheet for reading
var worksheet = workbook.GetWorkSheet("sheetnamegoeshere");
//Open Sheet for reading
var worksheet = workbook.GetWorkSheet("sheetnamegoeshere");
'Open Sheet for reading
Dim worksheet = workbook.GetWorkSheet("sheetnamegoeshere")
VB   C#

Code for reading the cell values:

// Read from Ranges of cells elegantly.
foreach (var cell in worksheet["A2:A10"])
{
    Console.WriteLine("Cell {0} has value '{1}'", cell.AddressString, cell.Text);
}
// Read from Ranges of cells elegantly.
foreach (var cell in worksheet["A2:A10"])
{
    Console.WriteLine("Cell {0} has value '{1}'", cell.AddressString, cell.Text);
}
' Read from Ranges of cells elegantly.
For Each cell In worksheet("A2:A10")
	Console.WriteLine("Cell {0} has value '{1}'", cell.AddressString, cell.Text)
Next cell
VB   C#

After loading and reading the workbook and worksheet, the following code sample can be used to either make changes to formulas or applied to specific cells. The code goes as follows:

// Set Formulas
worksheet["A1"].Formula = "Sum(B8:C12)";
worksheet["B8"].Formula = "=C9/C11";
worksheet["G30"].Formula = "Max(C3:C7)";
 
// Force recalculate all formula values in all sheets.  
workbook.EvaluateAll();
// Set Formulas
worksheet["A1"].Formula = "Sum(B8:C12)";
worksheet["B8"].Formula = "=C9/C11";
worksheet["G30"].Formula = "Max(C3:C7)";
 
// Force recalculate all formula values in all sheets.  
workbook.EvaluateAll();
' Set Formulas
worksheet("A1").Formula = "Sum(B8:C12)"
worksheet("B8").Formula = "=C9/C11"
worksheet("G30").Formula = "Max(C3:C7)"
'
' Force recalculate all formula values in all sheets.  
workbook.EvaluateAll()
VB   C#

4.3. Saving the Excel document back to CSV File

Writing CSV files is an easy process with IronXL. The following code simply saves the Excel file in the CSV format by using the SaveAsCsv method.

WorkBook wb = WorkBook.Load("Normal_Excel_File.xlsx");
//Import .xls, .csv, or .tsv file
wb.SaveAsCsv("SaveAsCSV.csv", ",");
//Saved as : SaveAsCSV.Sheet1.csv
WorkBook wb = WorkBook.Load("Normal_Excel_File.xlsx");
//Import .xls, .csv, or .tsv file
wb.SaveAsCsv("SaveAsCSV.csv", ",");
//Saved as : SaveAsCSV.Sheet1.csv
Dim wb As WorkBook = WorkBook.Load("Normal_Excel_File.xlsx")
'Import .xls, .csv, or .tsv file
wb.SaveAsCsv("SaveAsCSV.csv", ",")
'Saved as : SaveAsCSV.Sheet1.csv
VB   C#

5. Working with CSV Data using CSVWriter

Writing data to a CSV file is a common operation. CSVHelper method CSVWriter with supplied separator all the characters and new line characters can be handled in a very simple CSV writer released for C#. Here we are going to look at how to write data using CSVWriter.

5.1. Create a Simple Console Application

Create a simple CSVWriter with supplied separator console application using Visual Studio. Once the project is created, the next step is to create a Person class:

public class Person
{
    public int Id { get; set; }
    public string Name { get; set; }
    public bool IsLiving { get; set; }
}
public class Person
{
    public int Id { get; set; }
    public string Name { get; set; }
    public bool IsLiving { get; set; }
}
Public Class Person
	Public Property Id() As Integer
	Public Property Name() As String
	Public Property IsLiving() As Boolean
End Class
VB   C#

Within the Main method, let’s now make a list of Person objects which we will write to the CSV file:

var myPersonObjects = new List<Person>()
{
    new Person { Id = 1, IsLiving = true, Name = "John" },
    new Person { Id = 2, IsLiving = true, Name = "Steve" },
    new Person { Id = 3, IsLiving = true, Name = "James" }
};
var myPersonObjects = new List<Person>()
{
    new Person { Id = 1, IsLiving = true, Name = "John" },
    new Person { Id = 2, IsLiving = true, Name = "Steve" },
    new Person { Id = 3, IsLiving = true, Name = "James" }
};
Dim myPersonObjects = New List(Of Person)() From {
	New Person With {
		.Id = 1,
		.IsLiving = True,
		.Name = "John"
	},
	New Person With {
		.Id = 2,
		.IsLiving = True,
		.Name = "Steve"
	},
	New Person With {
		.Id = 3,
		.IsLiving = True,
		.Name = "James"
	}
}
VB   C#

5.2. Writing into a CSV File in C# with Default Settings

CsvHelper has emerged as the standard way to write CSV in C# using the CSVWriter method, and it is very easy to use:

using (var writer = new StreamWriter("filePersons.csv"))
using (var csv = new CsvWriter(writer, CultureInfo.InvariantCulture))
{
    csv.WriteRecords(myPersonObjects);
}
using (var writer = new StreamWriter("filePersons.csv"))
using (var csv = new CsvWriter(writer, CultureInfo.InvariantCulture))
{
    csv.WriteRecords(myPersonObjects);
}
Using writer = New StreamWriter("filePersons.csv")
Using csv = New CsvWriter(writer, CultureInfo.InvariantCulture)
	csv.WriteRecords(myPersonObjects)
End Using
End Using
VB   C#

5.3. Appending Data

We need to keep in mind the fact that every time we run our program, old CSV files will be overwritten. Sometimes we want the data to be appended at the end of a file, instead of overwriting existing data. CSVWriter doesn’t provide a method to do this, as opening/writing a file is not the responsibility of CSVWriter with supplied separator. We can achieve this by using a FileStream, and then constructing our StreamWriter by using that FileStream. Although this does not fall within the scope of this article, I will show you how to do it, as it is an integral part of any application.

var configPersons = new CsvConfiguration(CultureInfo.InvariantCulture)
{
    HasHeaderRecord = false
};
using (var stream = File.Open("filePersons.csv", FileMode.Append))
using (var writer = new StreamWriter(stream))
using (var csv = new CsvWriter(writer, configPersons))
{
    csv.WriteRecords(myPersonObjects);
}
var configPersons = new CsvConfiguration(CultureInfo.InvariantCulture)
{
    HasHeaderRecord = false
};
using (var stream = File.Open("filePersons.csv", FileMode.Append))
using (var writer = new StreamWriter(stream))
using (var csv = new CsvWriter(writer, configPersons))
{
    csv.WriteRecords(myPersonObjects);
}
Dim configPersons = New CsvConfiguration(CultureInfo.InvariantCulture) With {.HasHeaderRecord = False}
Using stream = File.Open("filePersons.csv", FileMode.Append)
Using writer = New StreamWriter(stream)
Using csv = New CsvWriter(writer, configPersons)
	csv.WriteRecords(myPersonObjects)
End Using
End Using
End Using
VB   C#

Appending to an existing file is tricky, however, as the ordering might be changed when we append, or we might have added new properties. We should make sure to take this into account when appending.

6. Licensing

IronXL is an openly commercial C# Excel library. It is free for development and can always be licensed for commercial deployment. Licenses are available for single-project use, single developers, agencies, and global corporations, as well as SaaS and OEM redistribution. All licenses include a 30-day money-back guarantee, one year of product support and updates, validity for dev/staging/production, and also a permanent license (one-time purchase). The Lite package starts from $749.

CSVWriter with supplied separator is a comma-separated element and completely free for commercial-friendly use.

7. Summary and Conclusion

Summary

IronXL is a complete library offering everything you need to be able to manipulate an Excel file. It provides you the facility to convert various formats to XLSX, and also from XLSX to other formats, such as CSV. This interconversion provides users the flexibility to manipulate other file formats with ease.

On the other hand, CSVWriter works only with CSV file formats and with very limited options. Users can not switch between different file formats, whereas with IronXL they can. All the code samples can be found in the CsvHelper documentation files. This document provides guidelines on how to use CSVWriter in your project.

Conclusion

IronXL has a clear advantage over CSVHelper.CSVWriter, as it supports working with multiple formats. Moreover, you can apply formulas and styles according to your choice, whereas CsvHelper only allows for the reading and writing of CSV files, and with limited options. Further, you can not append new records to an existing CSV file, as it simply overwrites previous entries.

You can download the software product from this link.