On the ThinkPHP blog today there's a new post looking at their experience with PHPExcel to open, modify, save, etc Microsoft Excel files directly from PHP.
EAR's Spreadsheet_Excel_Writer combined with the project Spreadsheet_Excel_Reader on SourceForge was a good helper in the past - but only for BIFF5. BIFF8 support in spreadsheet excel writer has been a problem for a long time, and according to the authors, is still somewhat kludgy in the current version. So I needed an alternative. After a short research I stumbled upon PHPExcel which supports reading and writing of many formats in one API.
He lists some of these input and output formats and includes a simple example of how to use the tool. He creates a basic Excel file with a few different attributes (title, body, keywords) and show how to read in a document to extract the document's content.