Running OpenRefine

Starting and exiting

OpenRefine does not require internet access to run its basic functions. Once you download and install it, it runs as a small web server on your own computer, and you access that local web server by using your browser.

You will see a command line window open when you run OpenRefine. Leave that window alone while you work on datasets in your browser.

No matter how you load OpenRefine, it will load in your computer’s default browser. If you would like to use another browser instead, start OpenRefine and then point your chosen browser at the home screen:

OpenRefine works best on browsers based on Webkit, such as:

  • Google Chrome
  • Chromium
  • Opera
  • Microsoft Edge

We are aware of some minor rendering and performance issues on other browsers such as Firefox. We don't support Internet Explorer.

You can launch multiple projects at the same time by simply having multiple tabs or browser windows open. From the “Open Project” screen, you can right-click on project names and select “Open in new tab.”

To exit OpenRefine, close all the browser tabs, then navigate to the command line window. To close this window and ensure OpenRefine exits properly, hold down Control and press C on your keyboard.

With openrefine.exe

You can run OpenRefine by double-clicking openrefine.exe or calling it from the command line. If you want to modify the way openrefine.exe opens, you can edit the openrefine.l4j.ini file.

With refine.bat

On Windows, OpenRefine can also be run by using the file refine.bat in the program directory. If you start OpenRefine using refine.bat, you can do so by opening the file itself, or by calling it from the command line.

If you call refine.bat from the command line, you can start OpenRefine with modifications. If you want to modify the way refine.bat opens through double-clicking or using a shortcut, you can edit the refine.ini file.


If you are having problems connecting to OpenRefine with your browser, check our Wiki for information about browser settings and operating-system issues.

Starting with modifications

When you run OpenRefine from a command line, you can change a number of default settings.

On Windows, use a slash:

C:>refine /i /p 3334

Get a list of all the commands with refine /?.

CommandUseSyntax example
/wPath to the webapprefine /w /path/to/openrefine
/mMemory maximum heaprefine /m 6000M
/pPortrefine /p 3334
/iInterface (IP address, or IP and port)refine /i
/dEnable debugging (on port 8000)refine /d
/xEnable JMX monitoring for Jconsole and JvisualVMrefine /x

Modifications set within files

On Windows, you can modify the way openrefine.exe runs by editing openrefine.l4j.ini; you can modify the way refine.bat runs by editing refine.ini. You can modify the Mac application by editing info.plist. On Linux, you can edit refine.ini.

These JVM preferences are different options and have different syntax than the key/value descriptions above. Some of the most common keys (with their defaults) are:

  • -Drefine.autosave (5 [minutes])
  • -Drefine.data_dir (/)
  • -Drefine.development (false)
  • -Drefine.headless (false)
  • (
  • -Drefine.port (3333)
  • -Drefine.webapp (main/webapp)

The syntax within the .ini files is as follows:

Inside either of the .ini files, insert lines in this way:


Refer to the official Java documentation for more preferences that can be set.

The home screen

When you first launch OpenRefine, you will see a screen with a menu on the left hand side that includes “Create Project,” “Open Project,” “Import Project,” and “Language Settings.” This is called the “home screen,” where you can manage your projects and general settings.

Language settings

You can set your preferred interface language here. This language setting will persist until you change it again in the future. Languages are translated as a community effort; some languages are partially complete and default back to English where unfinished. Currently OpenRefine supports the following languages for 75% or more of the interface:

  • Cebuano
  • German
  • English (UK)
  • English (US)
  • Spanish
  • Filipino
  • French
  • Hebrew
  • Magyar
  • Italian
  • Japanese (日本語)
  • Portuguese (Brazil)
  • Tagalog
  • Chinese (简体中文)

We use Weblate to provide translations for the interface. You can check our profile on Weblate to see which languages are in the process of being supported. See our technical reference if you are interested in contributing translation work to make OpenRefine accessible to people in other languages.


At this time you can set preferences using a key/value pair: that is, selecting one of the keys below and setting a value for it.

SettingKeyValue syntaxDefaultExample
Interface languageuserLangISO 639-1 two-digit codeenfr
Maximum facetsui.browsing.listFacet.limitNumber20005000
Timeout for Google Drive importgoogleReadTimeOutNumber (microseconds)180000500000
Timeout for Google Drive authorizationgoogleConnectTimeOutNumber (microseconds)180000500000
Maximum lag for Wikidata edit retrieswikibase.upload.maxLagNumber (seconds)510

To leave the Preferences screen, click on the “OpenRefine” logo.

If the preference you’re looking for isn’t here, look at the options you can set from the command line or in an .ini file.

The project screen

The project screen (or work screen) is where you will spend most of your time once you have begun to work on a project. This is a quick walkthrough of the parts of the interface you should familiarize yourself with.

A screenshot of the project screen.

The project bar

The project bar runs across the very top of the project screen. It contains the the OpenRefine logo, the project title, and the project control buttons on the right side.

At any time you can close your current project and go back to the home screen by clicking on the OpenRefine logo. If you’d like to open another project in a new browser tab or window, you can right-click on the logo and use “Open in a new tab.” You will lose your current facets and view settings if you close your project (but data transformations will be saved in the History of the project).


Don’t click the “back” button on your browser - it will likely close your current project and you will lose your facets and view settings.

You can rename a project at any time by clicking inside the project title, which will turn into a text field. Project names don’t have to be unique, as OpenRefine organizes them based on a unique identifier behind the scenes.

“Permalink” allows you to return to a project at a specific view state - that is, with facets and filters applied. The permalink can help you pick up where you left off if you have to close your project while working with facets and filters. It puts view-specific information directly into the URL: clicking on it will load this current-view URL in the existing tab. You can right-click and copy the Permalink URL to copy the current view state to your clipboard, without refreshing the tab you’re using.

“Open…” will open up a new browser tab showing the “Create Project” screen. From here you can change settings, start a new project, or open an existing project.

“Export” is a dropdown menu that allows you to pick a format for exporting your current dataset. It will only export rows and records that are currently visible - the currently selected facets and filters, not the total data in the project.

“Help” will open up a new browser tab and bring you to this user manual on the web.

The grid header

The grid header sits below the project bar and above the project grid (the data of your project). The grid header will tell you the total number of rows or records in your project, and indicate whether you are in rows or records mode.

It will also tell you if you’re currently looking at a select number of rows via facets or filtering, rather than the entire dataset, by displaying either, for example, “180 rows” or “67 matching rows (180 total).”

Directly below the row number, you have the ability to switch between row mode and records mode. OpenRefine stores which projects are in records mode, and displays your data as records by default if you are.

To the right of the rows/records selection is the array of options for how many rows/records to view on screen at one time. At the far right of the screen you can navigate through your entire dataset one page at a time.


The "Extensions" dropdown offers you options for extending your data - most commonly by uploading your edited statements to Wikidata, or by importing or exporting schema. You can learn more about these functions on the Wikidata page. Other extensions may also add functions to this dropdown menu.

The grid

The area of the project screen that displays your dataset is called the “project grid” (or the “data grid,” or simply the “grid”). The grid presents data in a tabular format, which may look like a normal spreadsheet program to you.

Columns widths are automatically set based on their contents; some column headers may be cut off, but can be viewed by mousing over the headers.

In each column header you will see a small arrow. Clicking on this arrow brings up a dropdown menu containing column-specific data exploration and transformation options. You will learn about each of these options in the Exploring data and Transforming data sections.

The first column in every project will always be “All,” which contains options to flag, star, and do non-column-specific operations. The "All" column is also where rows/records are numbered.

The project grid may display with both vertical and horizontal scrolling, depending on the number and width of columns, and the number of rows/records displayed. You can control the display of the project grid by using Sort and View options.

Mousing over individual cells will allow you to edit cells individually.

The sidebar


The Facet/Filter tab is one of the main ways of exploring your data: displaying the patterns and trends in your data, and helping you narrow your focus and modify that data. Facets and filters are explained more in Exploring data.

A screenshot of facets and filters in action.

In the interface, you will see three buttons: “Refresh,” “Reset all,” and “Remove all.” Refreshing your facets will ensure you are looking at the latest information about each facet, if you have changed the counts or eliminated some options, for example.

Resetting your facets will remove any inclusion or exclusion you may have set - the facet options will stay in the sidebar, but your view settings will be reset.

Removing your facets will clear out the sidebar entirely. If you have written custom facets using expressions, these will be lost.

You can preserve your facets and filters for future use by copying a Permalink.

History (Undo/Redo)

In OpenRefine, any activity that changes the data can be undone. Changes are tracked from the very beginning, when a project is first created. The change history of each project is saved with the project's data, so quitting OpenRefine does not erase the steps you've taken. When you restart OpenRefine, you can view and undo changes that you made before you quit OpenRefine.

Project history gets saved when you export a project archive, and restored when you import that archive to a new installation of OpenRefine.

A screenshot of the History (Undo/Redo) tab with 13 steps.

When you click on “Undo / Redo” in the sidebar of any project, that project’s history is shown as a list of changes in order, with the first “change” being the action of creating the project itself. (That first change, indexed as step zero, cannot be undone.) Here is a sample history with 3 changes:

0. Create project
1. Remove 7 rows
2. Create new column Last Name based on column Name with grel:value.split(" ")
3. Split 230 cell(s) in column Address into several columns by separator

The current state of the project is highlighted with a dark blue background. If you move back and forth on the timeline you will see the current state become highlighted, while the actions that came after that state will be grayed out.

To revert your data back to an earlier state, simply click on the last action in the timeline you want to keep. In the example above, if we keep the removal of 7 rows but revert everything we did after that, then click on “Remove 7 rows.” The last 2 changes will be undone, in order to bring the project back to state #1.

In this example, changes #2 and #3 will now be grayed out. You can redo a change by clicking on it in the history - everything up to and including it will be redone.

If you have moved back one or more states, and then you perform a new operation on your data, the later actions (everything that’s greyed out) will be erased and cannot be re-applied.

The Undo/Redo tab will show you which step you’re on, and if you’re about to risk erasing work - by saying something like “4/5" or “1/7” at the end.

Reusing operations

Operations that you perform in OpenRefine can be reused. For example, a formula you wrote inside one project can be copied and applied to another project later.

To reuse one or more operations, you first extract it from the project where it was first applied. Click to the Undo/Redo tab and click “Extract….” This brings up a box that lists all operations up to the current state (it does not show undone operations). Select the operation or operations you want to extract using the checkboxes on the left, and they will be encoded as JSON on the right. Copy that JSON off to the clipboard.

Move to the second project, go to the Undo/Redo tab, click “Apply…” and paste in that JSON.

Not all operations can be extracted. Edits to a single cell, for example, can’t be replicated.

Common extension buttons

Last updated on by allanaaa