Exporting and Saving Data from OpenRefine


Teaching: 10 min
Exercises: 5 min
  • How can we save and export our cleaned data from OpenRefine?

  • Save an OpenRefine project.

  • Export cleaned data from an OpenRefine project.


Saving and Exporting a Project

In OpenRefine you can save or export the project. This means you’re saving the data and all the information about the cleaning and data transformation steps you’ve done. Once you’ve saved a project, you can open it up again and be just where you stopped before.


By default OpenRefine is saving your project. If you close OpenRefine and open it up again, you’ll see a list of your projects. You can click on any one of them to open it up again.


You can also export a project. This is helpful, for instance, if you wanted to send your raw data and cleaning steps to a collaborator, or share this information as a supplement to a publication.

  1. Click the Export button in the top right and select OpenRefine project archive to file.
  2. A tar.gz file will download to your default Download directory. The tar.gz extension tells you that this is a compressed file, which means that this file contains multiple files.
    • On Mac and Linux, you can double-click on the tar.gz file and it will expand into a directory. A folder icon will now appear.
    • On Windows, opening tar.gz files requires additional software such as 7-zip or WinZip.
    • Download and run the installer of your choice.
    • Double-click the exported tar.gz file. If Windows asks how you want to open the file, check the ‘Always use this app to open .gz files’ box, then select “More apps”.
    • If your chosen application is not listed, select ‘Look for another app on this PC’.
    • In the file browser, navigate to C:\Program Files, find the application you installed, and double-click on its executable (7zFM, for example).
  3. Look at the files that appear in this folder. What files are here? What information do you think these files contain?


You should see:

  • a history folder which contains three zip files. Each of these files itself contains a change.txt file. These change.txt files are the records of each individual transformation that you did to your data.
  • a data.zip file. When expanded, this zip file includes a file called data.txt which is a copy of your raw data. You may also see other files.

You can import an existing project into OpenRefine by clicking Open... in the upper right > Import Project and selecting the tar.gz project file. This project will include all of the raw data and cleaning steps that were part of the original project.

Exporting Cleaned Data

You can also export just your cleaned data, rather than the entire project.

  1. Click Export in the top right and select the file type you want to export the data in. Tab-separated value (tsv) or Comma-separated value (csv) would be good choices.
  2. That file will be exported to your default Download directory. That file can then be opened in a spreadsheet program or imported into programs like R or Python, which we’ll be discussing later in our workshop.

Remember from our lesson on Spreadsheets that using widely-supported, non-proprietary file formats like tsv or csv improves the ability of yourself and others to use your data.

Key Points

  • Cleaned data or entire projects can be exported from OpenRefine.

  • Projects can be shared with collaborators, enabling them to see, reproduce and check all data cleaning steps you performed.