This is the documentation for older versions of Odoo (formerly OpenERP).

See the new Odoo user documentation.

See the new Odoo technical documentation.

Importing and Exporting Data

Every form in OpenERP has a standard mechanism for importing data from a CSV file through the client user interface. That is the same format as used in the language translations.


Forms and Lists

You have access to the Import and Export functions in the web client on a single form view in read- only mode – you cannot reach Import or Export in any other view or when the form is editable. If you are using the GTK client, you can find the functions from the top menu Form ‣ Import data... and Form ‣ Export data....

The CSV file format is a text format compatible with most spreadsheet programs (such as OpenOffice Calc and Microsoft Excel), and is easily editable as a worksheet. The first line contains the name of the field in the form. All the subsequent lines are data, aligned in their respective columns.

Exporting OpenERP Data to CSV

Start exploring OpenERP's use of the CSV format by exporting a modestly complex set of data, the partners and partner addresses in the demonstration data.

Go to Sales ‣ Address Book ‣ Customers for a list of partners, and select the records to export by clicking the checkbox on the left of each record. Then look for the Other Options section on the right of the list and click the Export link. This pops up the Export Data dialog box. Select the following fields:

  • Name,

  • Contact Name under the Contacts menu,

  • City under the Contacts menu.

You can either select and add them one at a time, or Ctrl-click them and add the multiple selection - the order in which you select them, is the order in which they will be displayed.

If you do not wish to export your data just yet, or would like to use the same fields for future exports, you have the option to save these settings. To do that, click Save List and give your export a name.

Then click Export and save the resulting data.csv file somewhere accessible - perhaps your desktop. You can open that file in a spreadsheet program or a text editor.

You will see that you have a list of partners, with the name and city of each partner's contacts alongside. In the couple of cases where there is more than one address, the partner name is left out. So it is important to note that the order of entries is critical - do not sort that list!


List Limits

There is a limit to the number of items you can export in the clients - it is the number you can actually see, and that is 20 items by default in the web client, but is arbitrary in the GTK client.

You can change the number of items viewed by clicking on the link which shows the count of the items. You can then make a selection of limiting it to a fixed number of items at a time, for example, 50 or 100, or you can choose to view unlimited number of items at a time.

Importing CSV Data to OpenERP

Use this export file as a template for an import file by deleting all of the data, and using new data (here you will just import new data alongside the demonstration data, but the principle is the same for a blank database).

For example, to import partners with several contacts for which you specify a name and a city, you would create the following CSV file from the export file:

Example of importing partner address fields


Contacts/Contact Name


Whole Globe Technologies

Graham Global



Wanda World



Emerson Earth

New York

Miles A Minute


From the list of partners, click the Import button, and then in the Import Data window click Browse to search for and import the new data.csv file. The web client automatically matches column names but the GTK client requires that you click the Auto detect button. You can use the default Options or change them according to preference. Then click Import.

You will get a dialog box showing that you have imported 2 objects, and you can see the new partners and partner addresses when you refresh the list on-screen.

The CSV Format for Complex Database Structures

When you import data, you have to overcome the problem of representing a database structure in .csv flat files. To do this, two solutions are possible in OpenERP:

  • importing a CSV file that has been structured in a particular way to enable you to load several different database tables from a single file (such as partners and partner contacts in one CSV file, as you have just done above),

  • importing several CSV files, each corresponding to a specific database table, that have explicit links between the tables.


Server-side Importing

You can also import CSV data through the server interface. The file format is the same, but column headings differ slightly. When importing through the user interface, it checks that the column heading names match the names seen in the forms on the user interface itself. In contrast, when importing through the server, the column heading names must match the internal names of the fields.

Start by building the header of the CSV file. Open the import tool on the object that you are interested in, and select the fields that you want to import into your OpenERP database. You must include every field that is colored blue because those fields are required (unless you know that they get filled by default with an appropriate value), and also any other field that is important to you.


Selecting fields to import using a CSV file

Use the field names as the column names in the first line of your CSV file, adding one field per column. If your CSV file has these names in the first line, then when you import your CSV file, OpenERP will automatically match the column name to the field name of the table. When you have created your CSV file, you will do that by clicking the Nothing button to clear the Fields to Import, then select your CSV file by browsing for a File to import, and then clicking the Auto Detect button.

To import CSV data that matches your database structure, you should distinguish between the following types of fields in the OpenERP interface: many-to-many fields (between multiple sources and destinations), many-to-one fields (from multiple sources to a single destination), and one-to-many fields (from a single origin to multiple destinations).


Foreground Table

Each of these types is described in relation to a foreground table – the table whose entry form you are viewing and whose entries would be updated by a simple CSV file.

Just because one of these relation fields appears on the foreground table, does not mean that there is an inverse field on the related table – but there may be.

So there is no one-to-many field in the User form to reflect the many-to-one user_id Salesman field in the Customer form, but there is a many-to-one partner_id Partner Name field in the Addresses form to reflect the one-to-many child_ids Partner Contacts field in the Customer form.

Have a look at the screenshots below to see the differences.


A many-to-one field: a salesperson linked to a partner


A many-to-many field: partner categories


A one-to-many field: partner contacts

All of the other fields are coded in the CSV file as just one text string in each column.

Many-to-one Fields

Many-to-one fields represent a relationship between the foreground table and another table in the database, where the foreground table has a single entry for the other table. OpenERP tries to link the new record in the foreground table with the field in the other table by matching the field values.


Field Identifiers

If you are working on the server side, you can use identifiers rather than the names of resources to link tables. To do this, you import the first file (for example, Products) with a column named id in your CSV file that contains a unique identifier for each product. This could be an incrementing number.

When you import other files which link to the first table, you can use the identifier in preference to the names (so, for example, when you are saving inventory you can use product:id instead of the product name). You then do not need any complex conversion to create links between the two tables.

This considerably simplifies the importation of another database into OpenERP. You just create a linking id column for each table that you are importing that contains the identifier used in the first table.

Many-to-many Fields

Many-to-many fields are handled just like many-to-one fields in trying to recreate the relationship between tables: either by searching for names or by using identifiers.

There are several possible values in a single many-to-many field. Therefore a partner can be given several associated categories. You must separate the different values with a comma.

One-to-many Fields

One-to-many fields are a bit different. Take as an example the Partner Contacts field in the Customer form, which contains all of the linked contacts.

To import such a field you do not have to link to an existing entry in another table, but can instead create and link to several partner contacts using the same file. You can then specify several values for different fields linked to that object by the one-to-many field. Each field must be put in a column of the table, and the title of that column must be expressed in the form field_one-to- many/field_linked-object . The partner data you imported earlier took that form.


Symmetry in Relation Fields

Depending on the structure of your data, it can be easier to use the one-to-many form or the many-to-one form in relating two tables, so long as the relevant fields exist on both ends of the relationship.

For example, you can:

  • import one partner with different contacts in a single file (one-to-many),

  • import the partners first, and then the contacts with the field linking to the partner in a many-to-one form.

Another Example of a CSV Import File

To illustrate data importing, you can see another example below. First import partner categories, and then import some partners and their contacts along with links to the categories just created. Although you can create new contacts at the same time as creating partners (because you can do this for one-to-many relations), you cannot create new categories this way (because they use many-to-many relations). You must create new categories in a separate step.

Partner Categories

Start by creating partner categories in a CSV file:

  1. Create the following table in your spreadsheet program:

    Partner categories file

    Column A

    Column B

    Line 1

    Category Name

    Parent Category

    Line 2



    Line 3



    Line 4



    Line 5



    On the first line, Category Name and Parent Category are the column titles that correspond to field names in the Partner category form.

    Column A is for the different partner categories and Column B indicates if that category has a parent category. If Column B is blank, then the category sits at the top level.

  2. Save the spreadsheet file in CSV format – separated by commas – and name the file categories.csv.

  3. In OpenERP, select Sales ‣ Configuration ‣ Address Book ‣ Localisation ‣ Partner Categories.

  4. Click Import (to the bottom right of the list) to bring up the Import Data dialog box, in which you will find the list of fields that can be imported.

  5. Click Browse... on the File to import field and select the CSV file you just created, categories.csv . If you are using GTK client, click Auto Detect to match the column names in the CSV file with the field names available in Partner Categories.

  6. Click Import at the top-left of the dialog box to load your data. You should get the message Imported 4 objects in a new dialog box. Close both this and the Import Data dialog box to return to the original page.

  7. Refresh the Partner Categories list to view the tree of categories, including the new Quality branch and its child branches that you loaded.

New Partners

Here is how to create new partners with more than one contact, as you did before, and how to link them to these new categories:

  1. Enter the table below into your spreadsheet program.

    Partner data file - partners.csv

    Column A

    Column B

    Column C

    Column D

    Line 1



    Contacts/Contact Name


    Line 2

    Black Advertising


    George Black


    Line 3


    Jean Green


    Line 4

    Tiny sprl


    Fabien Pinckaers


  2. The second line corresponds to the creation of a new partner, with two existing categories, that has two contacts and is linked to a salesman.

  3. Save the file using the name partners.csv

  4. In OpenERP, select Sales ‣ Address Book ‣ Customers then import the file that you have just saved. You will get a message confirming that you have imported and saved the data.

  5. Verify that you have imported the data. A new partner should have appeared (Black Advertising), with a salesman (Administrator), two contacts (George Black and Jean Green) and two categories (Silver and Gold).

Exporting Data in Other Forms

OpenERP's generic export mechanism lets you easily export any of your data to any location on your system. You are not restricted to what you can export, although you can restrict who can export that data using the rights management facilities discussed above.

You can use this to export your data into spreadsheets or into other systems, such as specialist accounts packages. The export format is usually in the CSV format, but you can also connect directly to Microsoft Excel using Microsoft's COM mechanism.


Access to the Database

Developers can also use other techniques to automatically access the OpenERP database. The two most useful are:

  • using the XML-RPC web service,

  • accessing the PostgreSQL database directly.


Module Recorder

If you want to enter data into OpenERP manually, you should use the Module Recorder, described in the first section of this chapter.

By doing that, you will generate a module that can easily be reused in different databases. Then if there are problems with a database, you will be able to reinstall the data module you generated with all of the entries and modifications you made for this system.