Here is a solution that gives you unique and valid sheet names in Excel files that you are generating.

The problem

Generating Excel files in code could be fun. But when you do you need to make sure that the sheet names follow these rules:

  • The name cannot be more than 31 characters.
  • The name must be unique.
  • The name cannot be history.
  • The following characters cannot be used:
    • :
    • \
    • /
    • ?
    • *
    • [
    • ]

The solution

I am using ClosedXML that is a great library when you are generating Excel files in code. This is used in this code that solves the problem:

using ClosedXML.Excel;
using System;
using System.Linq;
using System.Text.RegularExpressions;

class Program
    static void Main()
        string[] sheetNames = new string[]
                // This is fine.
                "Sheet A",
                // Duplicate of above. Will be renamed to Sheet A-1.
                "Sheet A",
                // Too long. Will be truncated.
                "Sheet with a name that is longer than allowed",
                // ? is not allowed, will be removed.
                "Sheet B?",
                // Tab will be replaced with space. After this, this is a duplicate of above.
                // : is not allowed.
                // The word "history" is not allowed. A dot will be added to the name.

        XLWorkbook workbook = new XLWorkbook();
        foreach(string sheetName in sheetNames)
            workbook.AddWorksheet(CreateUniqueSheetName(workbook, sheetName));

        foreach(var sheet in workbook.Worksheets)

    const int MaxSheetNameLength = 31;

    public static string CreateUniqueSheetName(IXLWorkbook workbook, string sheetName)
        // :\/?*[] are invalid characters
        sheetName = Regex.Replace(sheetName, @"[:\\/?\*\[\]]", "");
        // Change all white space to regular space
        sheetName = Regex.Replace(sheetName, @"\s", " ");

        if(sheetName.Equals("history", StringComparison.CurrentCultureIgnoreCase))
            sheetName += ".";

        string newSheetName = sheetName.Substring(0, Math.Min(sheetName.Length, MaxSheetNameLength));

        int nameVariant = 0;

        while (workbook.Worksheets.Any(s => s.Name.Equals(newSheetName, StringComparison.CurrentCultureIgnoreCase)))

            string nameVariantExtension = "-" + nameVariant.ToString();

            newSheetName = sheetName.Substring(0, Math.Min(sheetName.Length, MaxSheetNameLength)) + nameVariantExtension;

        return newSheetName;

The output from this code is:

Sheet A
Sheet A-1
Sheet with a name that is longe
Sheet B
Sheet B-1


This is not a complicated problem, but I hope someone find this useful anyway. The largest problem I think is that there is no official documentation on the limitations of Excel sheet names. There is a page listing some specifications and limitations of Excel, but this is not mentioned.