Tutorial:Origin GUI

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This tutorial will introduce you to the Origin workspace. You will learn about the different kinds of Origin Windows that make up a Project, and how to manipulate these windows with Project Explorer.

Minimum Origin Version Required: Origin 8.0 SR6

What you will learn

This tutorial will show you how to:

  • Manipulate Workbooks
  • Create Graph Windows
  • Manage workspace with Project Explorer


The Origin Project File is a convenient container for all of your data, whether it be loose or associated with child windows - workbooks, graphs, and matrices. It also contains results saved in the Results Log.

Only one project file can be open but you can append the contents of one project to another.


Origin has numerous windows and workspaces available for completing various tasks. You can see all types of windows from the New dialog (File: New). The most frequently used windows are Workbook, Graph, and Matrix.


The Origin workbook is the primary structure for organizing your data. Each workbook is composed of one or more Origin worksheets. And each worksheet, in turn, is composed (usually) of one or more worksheet columns or datasets. Columns in Origin have different types, such as X, Y, Z, yError, etc, which represent the plot designation for graphing.


To learn how to manipulate Origin workbooks, try the following:

  1. Select File: New from the menu and choose Worksheet to create a new worksheet.
  2. Select File: Import: Single ASCII to bring up the Open dialog. Browse to the \Samples\Curve Fitting subfolder of the Origin program folder. Highlight the file Gaussian.dat and click the Open button to import the data into the Origin worksheet.
  3. On import, sparklines were automatically turned on, allowing you to quickly view the shape of the data; the sheet name became the name of the file; and as needed an additional column was added to the worksheet. You can see from the Long Name that the 3rd column represents data error. To set this column as an Error Column, click the column title to highlight the column, right-click to bring up a fly-out menu, and then select Set As: Y Error.
  4. Plotting data in Origin is now easy; highlight all three columns and select Plot: Symbol: Scatter from the menu to create a scatter plot.



The Graph window is a container for graphical depictions of your experimental data and your analysis results. Graph windows may contain a single plot in a single graph layer or they may contain multiple plots in multiple graph layers.

The graph layer is the fundamental unit of the Origin graph. The layer is comprised of a set of axis scale values, one or more data plots, and any included text labels, drawing objects, graph legends/color scales, button objects, etc. Graph layers can be created, sized, and moved independently of one another, allowing you a great deal of latitude in charting your data.

To learn how to organize layers in a graph window, try the following:

  1. Create a new workbook, and import the file Linear Fit.dat from the \Sample\Curve Fitting folder. You can see that there are three Y columns and one X column after import; each Y column will use the left-most X column as its X coordinates.
  2. Highlight columns B and C, and select Plot: Multi-Curve: Vertical 2 Panel to plot the curves. This is a two layer graph. While a graph can have multiple layers, only one layer is active at any given time. You can perform operations on the active layer, such as resizing, changing the plot color, etc. When working on a layer, the active layer is denoted by a depressed layer n icon in upper left corner of the graph window.


  3. To rearrange these two layers, with the graph window active, select the menu item Graph: Layer Management to bring up the dialog. Activate the Arrange tab, on the middle panel. Enter 2 in the Column edit box. Enter 1 in the Row edit box and click the Apply button. After you click the OK button, the graph layers are arranged horizontally.


Most often you will use the worksheet for tabulating and manipulating your data, while you will use the graph window for plotting your data. However, if you are making 3D surface or contour plots of XYZ data, you will need to become familiar with another window type, the Origin Matrix.


The Origin matrix window is a container for one or more Origin matrices. Each matrix window contains one or more matrix sheets, and each matrix sheet can contain one or more matrix objects. The matrix object itself, is a vector of Z values. These Z values are related to one another in the X and Y dimensions by their relative row and column positions in the matrix. Matrices are a precursor to constructing Origin's 3D graph types such as contour graphs and color-mapped surfaces, and since they are used in depiction and manipulation of 3D data, they are used by Origin in image processing and analysis. We will show you how to use the Origin Matrix to create a 3D plot in a later tutorial.

Project Explorer

Typically, users amass quite a lot of data in an Origin project file. If you anticipate building a project file that contains dozens of worksheets, graphs, notes windows, etc., you will probably want to use Project Explorer (PE) to help you manage your Origin workspace. Project Explorer helps to organize your workspace so that you see only data that is relevant to the task at hand. In addition, you can use Project Explorer to create new project files from a portion of an existing project file or to append the contents of another project file to your current file. The Project Explorer workspace can be hidden or restored as needed.

Open/Close Project Explorer

When you first start Origin, Project Explorer displays docked to the edge of the workspace. You can dock it to any other edge or float it in the workspace. Because Project Explorer uses some of your workspace, you may want to close Project Explorer, even if you have already created a folder structure. To close/open Project Explorer, press Alt + 1 or select menu item View: Project Explorer.

Browse Origin windows in Project Explorer

There are two panels in Project Explorer: the folders panel and the contents panel, which displays all objects in the active folder. When you start a new Origin session, you can click the new workbook image:New Workbook.png, new graph image:New Graph.png or new matrix image:New Matrix.png button to create some blank windows, and then you can see these window's icons in the contents panel. Double-click the icon to hide/view the window.


Add a subfolder in Project Explorer

To create a new folder, right-click on the project folder (or a subfolder) in the folder panel, and select New Folder from the shortcut menu.


Once you have created one or more subfolders, you can move child windows between folders by dragging & dropping them within the Project Explorer workspace.

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