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Research Guides

OpenRefine, a Power Tool for Messy Data: Get Started

Get started with OpenRefine, a powerful application for cleaning and transforming tabular data.

Getting Started with Refine


Installing and starting a project in OpenRefine is easy!

For current information, visit the OpenRefine site and official Wiki.

Setup / Install Refine

  1. Install Java: OpenRefine is a Java application and requires Java JRE to run. Download and install Java if you do not have it (you can check by typing java -version into a terminal).
    • Windows and Mac: Clicking “Free Java Download” on the Java site will get you the correct installer. (When installing be sure to uncheck the “recommended” option to add Yahoo to your browsers!)
    • Linux: Install from your distros repositories, for example sudo apt install default-jre on Ubuntu/Debian (this is usually OpenJDK rather than Oracle’s version).
  2. Download Refine: Download the most recent OpenRefine package for your OS. Releases are posted on the OpenRefine site or GitHub releases page. (this workshop used openrefine-2.8)
  3. Extract Refine: Unzip the OpenRefine package to a permanent location, for example in your User directory or Documents.
    • Windows: unzip by right clicking and selecting Extract All.
    • Mac: drag the dmg to the application folder (Mac has known issues, try these solutions).
    • Linux: unpack in desired location with with tar, for example tar xzf openrefine-linux-2.8.tar.gz.

Full documentation is available on the official wiki.

Start Refine

  1. Start the Java app: Opening Refine differs depending on your OS, but in all cases the app will start running in a terminal window which you can ignore and minimize (but do not close!).
    • Windows: double click openrefine.exe (You may get a warning that the publisher could not be verified, ignore it, and click Run. Once open, pin the Refine icon to your taskbar for easy access in the future).
    • Mac: click the Refine icon in the applications folder.
    • Linux: in the OpenRefine directory open terminal and type ./refine.
  2. Use the GUI: Once Refine is running in a terminal, your default web browser should automatically open with the interface. If it does not open automatically or you close the browser tab, find the GUI by typing or localhost:3333 in your address bar. The user interface is rendered by your web browser, but Refine is not a web application. No information is sent online and no internet connection is necessary.
  3. Shut down: close any browser tabs with the GUI, then stop the host terminal window with Ctrl+C (or Command-Q on Mac). This will ensure any open projects are saved.

Terminal window:

Browser window:

Please note: although Refine runs in a web browser, the application is offline. You do not need an internet connection and no data is sent over the network