How to Change an Excel File’s Sensitivity Label Without Using xlwings

What will you learn?

Discover alternative methods to adjust the sensitivity label of an Excel file without relying on the xlwings library. Explore approaches to modify Excel file properties and potential tools that can indirectly assist in achieving this task.

Introduction to Problem and Solution

When it comes to modifying an Excel file’s sensitivity label, direct access to this security feature is not readily available through standard Python libraries like openpyxl or pandas. However, by leveraging packages such as python-docx for Word files, we can find workarounds for manipulating metadata. Yet, as of 2023, a direct equivalent for Excel files specifically targeting sensitivity labels is lacking. This guide will focus on general strategies to alter Excel file properties and explore alternative tools that might help achieve our objective.

The challenge lies in the fact that sensitivity labels are intricately linked with Microsoft 365 compliance solutions, forming part of document encryption and rights management rather than simple metadata tags. While libraries like openpyxl are suitable for content manipulation within Excel files (.xlsx), adjusting sensitivity labels may require interfacing with Microsoft Graph API or similar interfaces provided by Microsoft.


Given the limitations surrounding direct manipulation of sensitivity labels through Python libraries up until 2023, providing a specific code example for this task isn’t feasible. However, if operating within a Microsoft 365 environment with necessary permissions:

  1. Explore Microsoft Graph API: Utilize its endpoints for accessing and modifying security features across Microsoft services.
  2. Consider PowerShell Scripts: Tasks unachievable directly via Python may be possible through PowerShell scripts invoked from Python using the subprocess module.
# Example: Calling PowerShell from Python (not specific to changing sensitivity labels)
import subprocess

script_path = "path_to_your_powershell_script.ps1"["powershell.exe", "-ExecutionPolicy", "Unrestricted", script_path], capture_output=True)

# Copyright PHD


The provided example showcases calling a PowerShell script from Python as a workaround since popular Python libraries do not directly support changing sensitivity labels in Excel files. This method relies on accessing appropriate PowerShell scripts capable of interacting with either local Office applications settings or cloud-based services like those offered through Microsoft Graph API.

  1. What Are Sensitivity Labels?

  2. Sensitivity labels enable organizations to classify and protect data based on confidentiality levels across various devices and services.

  3. Can I Use openpyxl To Change Sensitivity Labels?

  4. No, openpyxl does not offer functionality specifically related to managing document security features like sensitivity labels.

  5. Is Manipulating Document Metadata Possible Through Purely Open Source Libraries?

  6. While basic metadata manipulation is achievable using open-source libraries like Pillow or reading properties with openpyxl, advanced security features typically require proprietary APIs.

  7. Can python-docx Be Used For Excel Files?

  8. No, python-docx is tailored for working with Word (.docx) documents and does not support handling Excel (.xlsx) files.

  9. Why Not Use xlwings?

  10. While xlwings provides powerful control over Office documents under Windows environments via COM interface, it may not be suitable for all platforms or scenarios where dependency on VBA macros needs avoiding.

  11. Does Changing A File�s Sensitivity Label Require Special Permissions?

  12. Yes, altering these settings usually demands higher-level permissions associated with Azure Information Protection at the application level or Azure Active Directory at the directory service level depending on organizational configurations.

  13. Are There Any GUI Tools Available To Change Sensitivity Labels?

  14. End-users can manually apply changes within supported versions of Office applications through ribbon actions while administrators have access to GUI tools within Compliance Center or Azure portal based on deployment specifics.

  15. Could Custom Scripts Pose Security Risks?

  16. Caution should be exercised when automating operations involving credentials or sensitive data to ensure scripts run securely following best practices such as minimal privilege principles and auditing.

  17. What Alternatives Exist If Direct Modification Is Not Possible?

  18. If direct modification proves challenging, alternatives may involve restructuring how sensitive information is managed or exploring other Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solutions compatible with existing infrastructure.


Directly altering an Excel file’s sensitivity label using pure Python without external dependencies like xlwings poses significant challenges due to limited native library support. Integrating other tools or APIs offers a viable approach forward but introduces additional complexity and potential requirements for elevated permissions. Always adhere to organizational policies and legal requirements when automating sensitive data handling tasks.

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