Streaming Large Files in Apache POI

When working with large files in Apache POI, memory usage can become a concern. Loading the entire file into memory may not be feasible due to limited resources or performance issues. To address this, Apache POI provides streaming APIs that allow you to process large files efficiently. In this tutorial, you will learn how to stream large files in Apache POI.

Example Code

Let's start with an example that demonstrates how to stream the content of a large Excel file:

import org.apache.poi.xssf.eventusermodel.*;
import org.apache.poi.openxml4j.opc.OPCPackage;

public class StreamingExample {
  public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {
    String filePath = "large_file.xlsx";
    OPCPackage pkg =;
    XSSFReader reader = new XSSFReader(pkg);
    SharedStringsTable sst = reader.getSharedStringsTable();
    XMLReader parser = XMLReaderFactory.createXMLReader();
    ContentHandler handler = new SheetHandler(sst);
    Iterator sheets = reader.getSheetsData();
    while (sheets.hasNext()) {
      try (InputStream sheet = {
        InputSource sheetSource = new InputSource(sheet);

class SheetHandler extends DefaultHandler {
  private SharedStringsTable sst;
  private String lastContents;

  public SheetHandler(SharedStringsTable sst) {
    this.sst = sst;

  public void startElement(String uri, String localName, String name, Attributes attributes) throws SAXException {
    // Process start of an XML element

  public void endElement(String uri, String localName, String name) throws SAXException {
    // Process end of an XML element

  public void characters(char[] ch, int start, int length) throws SAXException {
    // Process XML element's content

In this example, we use the streaming APIs provided by Apache POI to process a large Excel file. The code reads the file in a streaming manner, sheet by sheet, and delegates the processing of XML elements and content to a custom SheetHandler class.

Steps for Streaming Large Files

Follow these steps to stream large files in Apache POI:

  1. Open the large file using the appropriate Apache POI OPCPackage implementation (e.g., XSSFWorkbook for Excel files).
  2. Get the necessary components from the package, such as the SharedStringsTable for shared string handling.
  3. Create an XMLReader and a ContentHandler for processing the XML elements and content.
  4. Iterate through the sheets of the file using the reader's getSheetsData() method.
  5. For each sheet, create an InputStream and an InputSource, and parse the sheet's content using the XMLReader.
  6. Close the OPCPackage to release resources associated with the file.

Common Mistakes

  • Not properly handling exceptions or error conditions during the streaming process, which can lead to unexpected behavior or resource leaks.
  • Forgetting to close the OPCPackage after processing the file, resulting in resource leaks.
  • Not implementing the necessary event handlers or content handlers correctly, which may lead to incomplete or incorrect data processing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Can I use streaming APIs for other file formats supported by Apache POI?

    Yes, streaming APIs are available for other file formats such as Word and PowerPoint. You can utilize the appropriate streaming APIs provided by Apache POI for each file format.

  2. How does streaming large files help in memory optimization?

    Streaming large files allows you to process the file's content in a sequential manner without loading the entire file into memory. This helps optimize memory usage, especially when dealing with large files that may exceed available memory resources.

  3. Are there any limitations when using streaming APIs?

    Streaming APIs are designed for sequential processing and may not be suitable for scenarios that require random access to data elements within the file. Additionally, certain features or operations may not be supported in the streaming mode.

  4. How do I handle complex processing logic with streaming APIs?

    For complex processing logic, you can utilize a combination of streaming and buffering techniques. For example, you can use streaming APIs to process the majority of the file and selectively buffer specific sections of data for more complex operations.


In this tutorial, we explored how to stream large files in Apache POI to optimize memory usage and efficiently process data. By leveraging the streaming APIs provided by Apache POI, you can process large files in a memory-efficient manner, reducing the risk of out-of-memory errors and improving performance. By following the steps outlined in this tutorial and avoiding common mistakes, you can successfully work with large files in Apache POI and handle them with ease.