Faceting and filtering

Last updated on 2023-11-28 | Edit this page

Estimated time: 20 minutes



  • What is a facet in OpenRefine?
  • What is a filter in OpenRefine?
  • How can I use filters and facets to explore data in OpenRefine?
  • How can I correct common data issues in my data with OpenRefine?


  • Explain what Facets and Filters are
  • Answer questions about the content of a data set using Facets
  • Use facets and filters to work with a subset of data
  • Correct data problems through a facet


Facets are one of the most useful features of OpenRefine and can help in both getting an overview of the data and to improve the consistency of the data.

A ‘Facet’ groups all the values that appear in a column, and then allows you to filter the data by these values and edit values across many records at the same time.

One of the most commonly used facets is called a ‘Text facet’. This groups all the text values in a column and lists each value with the number of records it appears in. The facet information always appears in the left hand panel in the OpenRefine interface.

To create a Text Facet for a column, click on the drop down menu at the top of the publisher column and choose Facet -> Text Facet. The facet will then appear in the left hand panel.

The facet consists of a list of values used in the data. You can filter the data displayed by clicking on one of these headings.

You can include multiple values from the facet in a filter at one time by using the Include option which appears when you put your mouse over a value in the Facet.

You can also invert the filter to show all records which do not match your selected values. This option appears at the top of the Facet panel when you select a value from the facet to apply as a filter.

Let’s create a text facet

  1. Click on the drop down menu at the top of the publisher column and choose Facet > Text Facet. The facet will then appear in the left hand panel
  2. To select a single value, click the text of the relevant line in the facet
  3. To select multiple values click the Include option on the appropriate line in the facet (which only appears when you mouse over the line)
  4. You can ‘invert’ your selections to exclude
  5. Include a value and then look at top to invert inclusion.

Which licences are used for articles in this file?

Use a text facet for the licence column and answer these questions:

  1. What is the most common Licence in the file?
  2. How many articles in the file don’t have a licence assigned?
  1. Create a facet for the ‘Licence’ column
  2. Sort values by count
  3. What is the most common Licence in the file? Answer: CC BY
  4. How many articles in the file don’t have a licence assigned? Answer: 6


As well as using Facets to filter the data displayed in OpenRefine you can also apply ‘Text Filters’ which looks for a particular piece of text appearing in a column based on a unique text string, like a ‘find’ feature. Text filters are applied by clicking the drop down menu at the top of the column you want to apply the filter to and choosing ‘Text filter’.

As with Facets, the Filter options appear in the left hand panel in OpenRefine. As you type the text you want to use in the Filter in the Filter’s text box, OpenRefine works to display only rows that contain that text in the relevant column.

You can also use regular expressions in the filter.

Working with filtered data

It is very important to note that when you have filtered the data displayed in OpenRefine, any operations you carry out will apply only to the rows that match the filter - that is the data currently being displayed. To confirm you are working with the data you intended to select, check the number of matching records displayed above the data table.

Other types of Facet

As well as ‘Text facets’ OpenRefine also supports a range of other types of facet. These include:

  • Numeric facets
  • Timeline facets (for dates)
  • Scatterplot facets
  • Custom facets

Numeric and Timeline facets display graphs instead of lists of values. The graph includes ‘drag and drop’ controls you can use to set a start and end range to filter the data displayed.

Scatterplot facets are less commonly used. For further information on these see the tutorial at https://web.archive.org/web/20190105063215/http://enipedia.tudelft.nl/wiki/OpenRefine_Tutorial#Exploring_the_data_with_scatter_plots.

Custom facets are a range of different types of facets. Some of the default custom facets are:

  • Word facet - this breaks down text into words and counts the number of records each word appears in
  • Duplicates facet - this results in a binary facet of ‘true’ or ‘false’. Rows appear in the ‘true’ facet if the value in the selected column is an exact match for a value in the same column in another row
  • Text length facet - creates a numeric facet based on the length (number of characters) of the text in each row for the selected column. This can be useful for spotting incorrect or unusual data in a field where specific lengths are expected (e.g. if the values are expected to be years, any row with a text length more than 4 for that column is likely to be incorrect)
  • Facet by blank - a binary facet of ‘true’ or ‘false’. Rows appear in the ‘true’ facet if they have no data present in that column. This is useful when looking for rows missing key data.

Facets are intended to group together common values and OpenRefine limits the number of values allowed in a single facet to ensure the software does not perform slowly or run out of memory. If you create a facet where there are many unique values (for example, a facet on a ‘book title’ column in a data set that has one row per book) the facet created will be very large and may either slow down the application, or OpenRefine will not create the facet.

Find all publications without a DOI

  • Use the Facet by blank function to find all publications in this data set without a DOI
  1. On the DOI column drop down and select Facets > Customized facets > Facet by blank
  2. True means that it is blank, so you can:
  • Select include on True in the facet to filter the list of publications to only those that don’t have a DOI

Amending data through facets

If you create a text facet you can edit the values in the facet to change the value for several records at the same time. To do this, mouse-over the value you want to edit and click the ‘edit’ option that appears.

This approach is useful in relatively small facets where you might have small variations through punctuation or typing errors etc. For example, a column that should contain only terms from a small restricted list such as days of the week or months of the year.

The list of values in the facet will update as you make edits.

Correct the Language values via a facet

  • Create a Text facet on the language column and correct the variation in the EN and English values.
  1. Create a Text facet on the Language column
  2. Notice that there is both EN and English
  3. Put the mouse over the English value
  4. Click Edit
  5. Type EN and click Apply
  6. See how the Language facet updates

Key Points

  • You can use facets and filters to explore your data
  • You can use facets and filters work with a subset of data in OpenRefine
  • You can correct common data issues from a Facet