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6 The Origin Interface

The Origin Workspace

This chapter contains basic information on navigating the Origin workspace. Long-time Origin users can skim this chapter.

GSB Origin Interface.png

Windows File Explorer Previews

While not part of the Origin interface, you can use Windows File Explorer (previously "Windows Explorer") to preview graphs in a project file.

Interface Windows Explorer2.png
  • Windows Explorer's Large or Extra large icons views (right-click in File Explorer and choose View: Large Icons or Extra Large Icons or select from the Explorer View menu) will show an image of the last active graph before the project file was saved.
  • Open the Preview Pane (ALT + P) and scroll through all graphs in the project file.

Origin Menus and Menu Commands

  • Context-sensitivity of menu bar and menus: The menu bar and menu commands are context-sensitive; they change as you change window type (from worksheet to graph to matrix, for instance). Only menus pertinent to the active window will display.
  • Menu bitmaps, toolbar buttons and shortcut keys: Some menu commands also have bitmaps that display to the left of the command. Additionally, you may see a shortcut key combination listed to the right of a menu command. The button bitmap and the shortcut keys indicate alternate ways to access the same functionality.
  • Shortcut menu commands: Many commands are available from shortcut menus. To open a shortcut menu, right-click on an Origin object (worksheet window, graph axis, text object, etc.). Only pertinent menu commands will show.
  • Collapsible menus: By default, main and shortcut menus in Origin are "collapsed", meaning they display an abbreviated set of commands. When you use a menu item which isn't included, it is added to the menu.
  • Most frequently used analysis menu commands: Most-recently used menu commands will appear at the bottom of the analysis menus (Worksheet, Analysis, Statistics, Image, etc.). This gives you quick access to tools when performing repeat operations.
  • Custom Menu Organizer: Since Origin 8.1, Origin users have been able to use the Custom Menu Organizer to add or remove menu items. To learn more, see the chapter Customizing Origin, later in this Guide.

Origin Toolbars

Use the Customize Toolbar dialog box (View: Toolbars) to control toolbar display and reset or reinitialize toolbars.

  • Customize toolbar button appearance: Use controls on the Options tab of the Customize Toolbars dialog box to modify button and toolbar appearance.
  • Dock/Float a toolbar: Toolbars can be undocked and made to float on the workspace. To float a toolbar, hover over the left-end of the toolbar. When the pointer becomes a four-headed arrow, drag the toolbar off of the toolbar space. To return the toolbar to its former docked position, double-click the toolbar title bar.
  • Hide/Show a toolbar: Clicking the Close button on a toolbar removes the toolbar from view. To restore a hidden toolbar, open the Customize Toolbars dialog box and select the toolbar.
  • Hide/Show a button: Clicking the tiny arrow at the end of toolbar to turn on/off some buttons on a toolbar.
  • Move button location: Alt+drag a button to move it to a new location within or among toolbars. Alt+drag to blank workspace to create a new toolbar. Alt+drag a button to child window till X shows to remove a button.

Origin Central

Origin Central is a "startup" dialog intended to give you quick access to key files and support information. Origin Central was introduced in Origin 2017 and has been updated for 2018.

To open the dialog, choose Help: Origin Central or press F11.

  • Create a new workbook or matrix book.
  • View and load sample graphs, including sample data and notes on re-creating the graph.
  • Load analysis samples and templates.
  • Quick links to recent Origin files, including Autosaved files†.
  • Browse the Learning Center tab for tutorials and videos.
  • Move files from your previous User Files Folder to your new Folder.

† If you have closed a project without saving your changes, you may be able to recover your work if you have Autosave Unsaved Project enabled (default setting in Tools: Options > Open/Close tab). Open Origin Central and click on the Projects tab and look for your file under Auto Saved Projects. By default, projects are kept for 7 days.

Project Explorer

Project Explorer (PE) is a tool to help you organize the contents of your Origin project files (OPJ).

PE window features2.png

Project Explorer is split into two panels. The primary panel shows the OPJ folder structure. The sub-panel shows folders and windows in the folder highlighted in the primary panel.

  • Right-lick the PE title bar to display the panels stacked (Vertical Alignment) or side-by-side (Horizontal Alignment).
  • Context menus in both panels provide options to delete, hide, print, etc. Menu options vary depending on what is selected or where you have right-clicked.
  • Multiple-selection of windows in the sub-panel is supported (press Shift or Ctrl while clicking with your mouse).
  • The sub-panel supports differing views of windows: Details (default), List, Small Icons, Large Icons, Extra Large Icons.
  • In any view (except "Extra Large Icons"), mousing over a graph window icon shows a preview of the graph. Mousing over a matrix or worksheet window shows an optional PE comment:
    Comments in PE 650.png
  • When displaying windows as Extra Large Icons, the PE sub-panel displays a preview of graph and layout windows.
    PE XLicons and tooltip3 600.png

To disable PE previews, open the Script Window (Window: Script Window) and type one or both of the following, then highlight the text and press Enter:

@PESS=-1; //turn off graph preview in PE
@PESH=0; //turn off comments preview in PE

When you set the value of a system variable using the Script Window, you are altering Origin's behavior for the current session only. To set the value of a system variable across sessions, see this FAQ.

  1. By default, Project Explorer is docked to the left side of the Origin workspace in auto-hide mode. Mouse over the Project Explorer tab to show the PE window.
    PE tab mouseover.png
  2. Click on the "push pin" icon on the PE title bar to pin the window in the docked position.
  3. By default the sub-panel is in Details view. In this view, window metadata such as Name, Size and Comments show below these column headings. Right click the column header and check Modified. A new column shows. Now, drag column headers to reorder them.
    PE headings.png
  4. Select Help: Open Folder: Program Data Folder to open the Program Data folder. Browse to \Origin\Central\Graphing folder. Select the file Contour.opj, drag and drop it to Origin workspace to open it.
  5. At left side, click Project Explorer tab to expand its two panels. The root folder is selected in primary panel. The sub-panel shows folders and windows in the root folder. Also, in the Origin workspace, you can now see windows in the selected folder.
    PE folder view1.png
  6. In the primary panel, click the Contour Plot with Vector Overlay folder. All windows in this folder now show in the sub-panel and in the Origin workspace. Note that the window that is active in the workspace appears in bold type in the PE sub-panel.
  7. Mouse over each window in the PE sub-panel. Different tooltips show for different window type: Graph windows show a preview of the graph; Notes windows show the contents of the note; Workbook windows show workbook comments if it has.
  8. Single-click the Vector XYAM window in the sub-panel and click in the corresponding cell in the Comments column. You can modify the comments by in-place edit. You can also right-click on a window or folder and choose Properties... to edit names and comments.
  9. Double-click the Contour Data window in the sub-panel to make it the active window. Active window is bold in Project Explorer. Double-clicking an active window will hide it in the Origin workspace.
  10. Right-click on the Contour Plot with Vector Overlay folder in the primary panel or right-click below the window list in the sub-panel and choose New Folder to create a new folder. Rename the folder Graphs. Select the graph window Contour Plot with Vector Overlay and drag it into the new Graphs folder.
  11. Right-click the Contour Plot with Vector Overlay graph window in the sub-panel and choose Add Shortcut to Favorites from the context menu. The folder Favorites will show under the root folder, and the graph window will be listed under it as a shortcut item.
    PE folder view2.png
  12. Click the Contour Plot with Vector Overlay folder again in the primary panel and choose Save as Project to save the folder and windows under it as a project on your computer.
  13. Choose File: Recent Projects: to load the saved OPJ file. The new project file is opened and PE displays the project's folder structure.

Apps Gallery and App Center

Apps are add-on applications for Origin that perform specific graphing and/or analysis tasks. For Origin 2018, we have pre-installed a small set of Apps broadly applicable to science and engineering fields. Many more Apps are available. Users can browse for Apps and download and install them from the File Exchange area of the OriginLab website. The Apps Gallery displays installed Apps and is docked to the right side of the workspace, by default.

LaTeX apps gallery.png

For Origin 2018, there is a new App Center dialog for browsing, updating or downloading new Apps. This new dialog gives you direct access to all of the Apps on the OriginLab File Exchange without you having to open a browser and navigate there.

Interface App Central.png

To launch the App Center, click the Add Apps button that appears on all tabs of the Apps Gallery, docked at the right-side of your Origin workspace.

  • Installed and up-to-date Apps will appear in the App Center with a green check mark beside them.
  • Those not installed will appear with a clickable Download and Install icon beside them.

You can also see a list of installed Apps by browsing the Apps Gallery. Click View: Apps to open the Gallery if it is not open.

For more information on Apps, please visit www.originlab.com/apps.

Object Manager

The Object Manager is a dockable panel that opens to the right side of the workspace, by default. Use the Object Manager for quick manipulation of graph layers and data plots in the active graph window:

  • Select an element (layer, plot group, data plot or special point) in the Object Manager to select the corresponding element in the graph window and vice versa.
  • Hide or show plot elements by clearing or selecting the corresponding check box in the Object Manager.
Object Manager general.png

For additional actions, right-click on an element in the Object Manager panel and choose from the shortcut menu:

  • Show or hide plots of the same Long Name.
  • Within a plot group, re-order plots by dragging or by shortcut menu command.
  • Toggle Edit Mode for grouped plots between Dependent and Independent
  • Change plot type.
  • Remove a plot from the graph window (not the same as hiding).
  • Access the Plot Details, Layer Contents and Plot Setup dialog boxes.

Origin Child Windows

  • Origin Workbooks: The Origin workbook provides a framework for importing, organizing, analyzing, transforming, and plotting your data. The tabbed workbook contains between 1 and 1,024 sheets. Each sheet may contain more than 1 million rows and up to 10,000 columns of data. Workbook windows may also store annotations, column-based functions, scripts and programmable button objects, LabTalk variables and import filters.
  • Origin Matrix Books: Like the worksheet, a matrix sheet is a grid of cells, arranged in rows and columns. The primary difference is that in the worksheet, each column is a dataset and each dataset can be configured to contain various types of data (text, text & numeric, numeric (double), numeric (int), etc). In contrast, the matrix is a single, numerical dataset of Z values, related in the XY plane by row (Y) and column (X) index numbers.
  • Graphs: The graph window is the primary container for your data plots. Origin supports over 100 chart types, chosen specifically for their applications in various technical fields. Each chart is created using a built-in, user-modifiable graph template that can be saved with your custom settings. In addition to data plots, the graph may also contain annotations (text and drawing objects) or button objects that, when triggered, perform some custom graphing or analysis task. Graph windows can be inserted into worksheet cells or "floated" on worksheets (outside the grid) in a workbook window.
  • Function Graphs: The function graph is a specialized graph window that displays a curve described by a function. The function graph differs from other Origin graphs in that it is not produced from a dataset of discreet values (though you can generate data after plotting).
  • Layout Pages: The layout window allows you to combine and arrange graph and worksheet windows and various annotations onto a single "display panel." It is used primarily for creating presentations.
  • Excel workbooks. Excel workbooks can be opened or created in Origin. Workbooks can be saved separately or as part of your Origin project file.
  • Notes: The Notes window is a text-only window used for recording analysis procedures, making notes to students and colleagues, and cutting and pasting text from other applications.
Note: For more information on Origin's child windows, see

Help: Origin: Origin Help > Origin Basics > Elements of the Origin Workspace > Creating a Child Window

Help: Origin: Origin Help > Origin Basics > Elements of the Origin Workspace > Basic Child Window Operations

To save an Origin child window independently of the Origin project file:

  • Select File: Save Window As... to save active window. File extensions OGW(U), OGG(U), OGM(U) are for Origin Workbook, Graph and Matrix windows, respectively.
  • Right click any window title bar and choose Save as... context menu.

Note: To save an Excel window as an external Excel file, right click the Excel window title in Origin and choose Save Workbook as... context menu.

Origin 2018 adds Unicode (UTF-8) support for Origin projects, child windows and templates. When you save a window file, you will have the option of saving a file with or without a "u" appended to the file type (*.opj or *.opju). If you intend to use the file only in the latest version of Origin, you should choose the Unicode (appended "u") option as it offers some performance advantages.

To open a worksheet, graph, matrix, or notes window that was saved to a file:

  • Select File: Open or click the Open button Button Open.png on the Standard toolbar to open window files.
  • Select File: Recent Books, File: Recent Graphs to open recently saved workbook and graph window files.

Note: Origin supports window short name, long name and comments and short name must be unique in an Origin session. So your window short name will be renamed if such name has already been used. After opening a window file, if you then save the project, the window will become part of the current project.

To open an Excel workbook file:

  • Select File: Open Excel menu to open a external Excel file. Or, you can click Import Excel button in the Standard toolbar or select File: Import: Excel (XLS, XLSX, XLSM)... from the main menu to import the excel file.

Note: If you choose Open Excel, the Excel file is opened as an Excel workbook, in an Excel session that runs inside Origin. It can't access all features of Origin. If you choose Import Excel, the Excel file is imported into Origin workbook so all Origin features are available.

The Command Window and Script Window

The Command Window can be used to issue LabTalk commands to Origin, to do simple mathematical calculations, or to check the value of LabTalk variables. The Command Window maintains a time-stamped command history that can be carried over from session to session, and intellisense which provides auto-completion features when writing x-function command.

The Command Window is dockable and has two panels. The left-hand panel displays the command history, while the right-hand panel provides the command line.

The Script Window provides some of the same functionality as the Command Window. It lacks some of the Command Window's features (no intellisense, no command prompt, no command history) but it is handy for issuing LabTalk commands and running Python scripts. The window's Tools menu also opens the LabTalk Variables and Functions dialog box where you can view a list of Origin variables, functions, macros, loose datasets, etc.

To open the Command Window:

  • Click the Command Window button Button Command Window.png on the Standard toolbar. Alternately, select Window: Command Window menu or press ALT+3.

To open the Script Window:

  • Select Window: Script Window menu or press SHIFT+ALT+3.

The Status Bar

The Status Bar-1.png

The Status Bar is located at the bottom of the Origin workspace. It reports multiple parameters, including:

  • Help messages and tool descriptions.
  • Statistics on the current workbook, matrix or graph selection.
  • Whether the AutoUpdate analysis feature is turned on.
  • The name of the System Theme, if any.
  • Information pertinent to the active window.
  • Angular unit (radians, degrees, or gradians).
  • Tool tips for functions listed in the Set Values F(x) menu.
Note: You can select what shows in the Status Bar by right-clicking on the Bar and selecting (or clearing) items from the context menu. You can copy displayed statistical values by selecting Copy Statistics from the context menu. The copied data are TAB separated between quantity and values, with each key value pair separated by a CRLF delimiter.

Smart Hints and the Smart Hint Log

Smart Hints give the user focused advice, pertinent to the task at hand. It's triggered by actions you have done. These hints may appear briefly inside a dialog box, as in this example.

Smart Hint1.png

Alternately, Smart Hints may appear in the lower left corner of the Origin workspace, as in this example.

Smart Hint2.png

Unless you hover over a Hint, it will quickly fade. You can prevent display of individual Smart Hints by checking the "Do not show this message in the future" box.

Hints are logged for the current Origin session and can be reviewed by clicking the Smart Hint Log tab, docked at the edge of the Origin workspace (Note that in-dialog Hints are not logged).

Smart Hint3.png

To open (and close) the Smart Hint Log window:

  1. From the Origin menu, select View: Smart Hint Log or press ALT+7.

To prevent a particular Smart Hint from displaying again in the current session, right-click on the hint in the Smart Hint Log window and check Do not show this hint again from the context menu. A message asks you to confirm that you do not want to show or log this message.

To turn off all Smart Hint display in the session, open the Script Window and type the following:

@SHS = 0;

To turn on Smart Hint display (including those were individually hidden), type @SHS = 1, and click Help: Reactivate All Hints.

You can customize general properties of Smart Hints by setting system variables @SHG and @SHO. See the system variable list for details.

When you set the value of a system variable using the Script Window, you are altering Origin's behavior for the current session only. To set the value of a system variable across sessions, see this FAQ.

Code Builder

Origin's programming language is called Origin C. Origin C's integrated development environment (IDE) is called Code Builder. Code Builder provides tools for writing, compiling, and debugging your Origin C functions.Origin C, IDE

To open Code Builder:

  1. From the Origin menu, select View: Code Builder. Alternately, click the Code Builder button Button Code Builder.png on the Standard toolbar or press ALT+4.

Quick Help

As the name implies, the Quick Help window is intended to provide help with specific Origin tasks.

To open (and close) the Quick Help window:

  1. From the Origin menu, select View: Quick Help or press ALT+5.

To use the Quick Help window, start typing in the Find box. Generally speaking, typing in a few keywords works best. Like several other Origin tools, the Quick Help window can be floated, docked or set to auto-hide.

Messages Log

The Messages Log window shows messages about operations including Output Information, Results and Errors. It displays messages that are not sent to the Script Window or the Command Window.

To open (and close) the Messages Log window:

  1. From the Origin menu, select View: Messages Log or press ALT+6.

Results Log

Origin automatically types many analysis and fitting results to the Results Log. Each entry in the Results Log includes a date/time stamp, a window name, a numeric stamp which is the Julian day (see Dates below), the type of analysis performed, and the results.

In most cases, when results are reported to the Results Log, it opens automatically. Manually open (or close) the Results Log by doing one of the following:

  1. Click the Results Log button Button Results Log.png on the Standard toolbar. Alternately, from the Origin menu, select View: Results Log or press ALT+2.

Right-click in the Results Log to open a shortcut menu with commands to Copy, Print, Clear..., and View Results.

Float, Dock and Auto-Hide Windows

There are several Origin windows, which can be floated, docked, auto-hidden, or hidden. These windows include Project Explorer, Results Log, Command Window, Messages Log, and Quick Help. This allows you to customize your Origin workspace so as to maximize utility and save screen space.

Numbers in Origin

  • Displayed vs. Actual Cell Value: When you import or type your data into a workbook or matrix book, Origin uses a combination of user-specified settings to determine how to display the data in each cell. What displays is a visual representation of the data value. The actual data values are stored with the full precision allowed by the dataset's Data Type (see table below). When you perform calculations, it is the actual data values that are used and not the displayed values.
  • Display of Numbers that Exceed Cell Width: If a workbook or matrix book contains data that exceed the cell (column) width, Origin displays values as series of pound signs (######). This avoids confusion caused by a truncated display of cell values. Pound signs ###### will revert to numbers when you enter cell editing mode.
  • Missing Values in the Worksheet: When spreadsheet programs first appeared it was recognized that there was a need for a special number that was "not a number" which would - when used in a calculation - generate itself. Origin has such a number and its internal value is -1.23456789E-300. Because Origin recognizes this value as a special value, it can be used to enter a missing value into a worksheet or matrix and it can be used in calculations or scripts (for instance, to return a missing value unless some condition is met). Origin displays missing values in a worksheet or matrix sheet as "--". However, you shouldn't confuse this display (output) with what you enter as a missing value (input).
  • Decimal, Scientific and Engineering Notation: You can display workbook or matrix book data in Decimal:1000, Scientific:1E3, Engineering:1k, and Decimal:1,000 notations. You can manually choose from these data display options but you can also pre-define thresholds for automatic display of scientific notation. By default, these thresholds are set to 6 (upper) and -3 (lower).
  • Dates and Times in Origin: Origin interprets dates based on the Gregorian Calendar. Origin's mathematical system for dates and time is based on Astronomical Julian Day Numbers. This defines January 1, -4712 (January 1, 4713 BCE), 12 hours Greenwich Mean Time as zero.
Note: For more information on numbers, see

Help: Origin: Origin Help > Origin Basics > Elements of the Origin Workspace > Numbers in Origin

Origin workbooks and matrix books support the following Data Types:

Workbook Matrix Book Bytes Range of Values




±1.7E±308 (15 digits)




±3.4E±38 (7 digits)




-32,768 to 32,767




-2,147,483,648 to 2,147,483,647




-128 to 127


char, unsigned


0 to 255


short, unsigned


0 to 65,535


int, unsigned


0 to 4,294,967,295




±1.7E±308 (15 digits), each 8 bytes

Topics for Further Reading


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