Using SharePoint with Python

Share the pain with me in using SharePoint and Python

Not so painful!


A new requirement came up for the internal service I built at work: grabbing the Excel file directly from SharePoint and loading into an AWS S3 bucket -just one more step of automation for the service, because currently I upload the Excel file manually into the POC environment bucket and use Postman jobs to copy that file to the AWS testing environments. After much debate with IT about the use of Graph API, we were able to compromise and choose using just the SharePoint API to do this. The reason why there was debate over the Microsoft Graph API, which is the designated API to work with Microsoft products including SharePoint, Outlook, and OneDrive, is that security wanted to narrow down permissions to just the needed resources. Using the Graph API would have given too much control over many Microsoft resources teams wouldn't use.

As usual, the API documentation could have been better. More specifically, the documentation on working with SharePoint files. The examples used C# as the client for the SharePoint REST calls, and I was not looking forward to making a separate service, and looked into making it work with Python. After writing some pet scripts using the python requests library, I was able to perform the operations needed for this requirement.

Prerequisite : SharePoint API Access Token

The SharePoint API access token is the big kahuna that makes all the following requests possible. You will need to contact the SharePoint admin or find some other way to get credentials to be able to use SharePoint. The config you need are: a client id, client secret, resource id, and SharePoint ID.

This is the structure of the request I am using to get the access token:

curl --location --request POST '{SharePoint ID}/tokens/OAuth/2' \
--header 'Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded' \
--data-urlencode 'grant_type=client_credentials' \
--data-urlencode 'client_id=<client id>' \
--data-urlencode 'client_secret=<client secret>' \
--data-urlencode 'resource=<resource id>'

So I created a utility function in Python to make the request for the SharePoint token, based on the CURL request:

creds = {
    'type': 'client_credentials',
    'id': '<client id>',
    'secret': '<client secret>',
    'resource': '<resource id>'

def get_sharepoint_token():
    token_url = "{SharePoint ID}/tokens/OAuth/2"
    headers = {
        'Content-Type': 'application/x-www-form-urlencoded'
    payload = {
        'grant_type': creds['type'],
        'client_id': creds['id'],
        'client_secret': creds['secret'],
        'resource': creds['resource']

    access_token = ""

        response =, data=payload, headers=headers, timeout=1)

        # if response was successful no Exception will be raised
        success = response.status_code == 200
        access_token = response.json()["access_token"] if success else ""
    except HTTPError as http_error:
        print('HTTP error occurred: {}'.format(http_error))
    except Exception as err:
        print('Other error occurred: {}'.format(err))
    return access_token

Once you have this access token you will need to provide it as a Bearer token in the Authorization headers of each request.

Step by Step with the SharePoint API

  • Base URL (which will be used in following examples) for my organization is in the format of: https://<organization><Base folder> In the SharePoint API documentation you see: https://{site_url}/ often. the site_url using my example would be: <organization><Base folder>.
  • Get list of folders inside the SharePoint site
curl --location --request GET 'https://{Base URL}/_api/web/lists' \
--header 'Authorization: Bearer <SharePoint Access Token>'
  • Retrieve a file that is attached to that list item (in this case an Excel file)

In the following example, I get a file in the SharePoint site at . Inside is a folder called 'apples'. Inside is an Excel workbook called prices.xlsx.

curl --location --request GET 'https://{Base URL}/_api/web/GetFolderByServerRelativeUrl('apples')/Files('prices.xlsx')/$value' \
--header 'Authorization: Bearer <SharePoint Access Token>'

If you try this out in Postman or whatever REST client, you'll run into some trouble: the response is completely unreadable!! That is because the response received is in bytes.

Which is where our friend Python comes in...

  • Read SharePoint file contents with Python

Below is a simple script in which I use the Python requests library to query SharePoint using the "Retrieve a file that is attached to that list item" query, providing the access token in the headers. The key is that we want the response to be in bytes.

For half an hour I was getting into ugly parsing territory because I was using response.text, not response.content. The former would return a string of the returned Excel byte data that would lead to parsing issues because of alien characters. The latter would return a byte array, which you could inspect with: print(type(response.content)). I called strip() to clean up the bytes some more. Then I used the openpyxl library which I was familiar with before to load in the bytes and read the Excel Worksheet -basically the behavior I wanted with a Microsoft Graph API call. It's as simple as that!

import requests
import io
from openpyxl import load_workbook

url = "https://{BASE_URL}/_api/web/GetFolderByServerRelativeUrl('apples')/Files('prices.xlsx')/$value"
# sharepoint_token = "<sharepoint token>"

# using our util function
sharepoint_token = get_sharepoint_token()

headers = {
    'Authorization': 'Bearer {}'.format(sharepoint_token)

response = requests.get(url, headers=headers)
modded = response.content.strip()

wb = load_workbook(filename=(io.BytesIO(modded)), data_only=True)
ws = wb['<name of a worksheet in the Excel workbook>']

for row in ws.values:
   for value in row: