How To Load CSV Machine Learning Data in Weka

Last Updated on December 10, 2020

You must be able to load your data before you can start modeling it.

In this post you will discover how you can load your CSV dataset in Weka. After reading this post, you will know:

  • About the ARFF file format and how it is the default way to represent data in Weka.
  • How to load a CSV file in the Weka Explorer and save it in ARFF format.
  • How to load a CSV file in the ArffViewer tool and save it in ARFF format.

This tutorial assumes that you already have Weka installed.

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How To Load CSV Machine Learning Data in Weka

How To Load CSV Machine Learning Data in Weka
Photo by Thales, some rights reserved.

How to Talk About Data in Weka

Machine learning algorithms are primarily designed to work with arrays of numbers.

This is called tabular or structured data because it is how data looks in a spreadsheet, comprised of rows and columns.

Weka has a specific computer science centric vocabulary when describing data:

  • Instance: A row of data is called an instance, as in an instance or observation from the problem domain.
  • Attribute: A column of data is called a feature or attribute, as in feature of the observation.

Each attribute can have a different type, for example:

  • Real for numeric values like 1.2.
  • Integer for numeric values without a fractional part like 5.
  • Nominal for categorical data like “dog” and “cat”.
  • String for lists of words, like this sentence.

On classification problems, the output variable must be nominal. For regression problems, the output variable must be real.

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Data in Weka

Weka prefers to load data in the ARFF format.

ARFF is an acronym that stands for Attribute-Relation File Format. It is an extension of the CSV file format where a header is used that provides metadata about the data types in the columns.

For example, the first few lines of the classic iris flowers dataset in CSV format looks as follows:

The same file in ARFF format looks as follows:

You can see that directives start with the at symbol (@) and that there is one for the name of the dataset (e.g. @RELATION iris), there is a directive to define the name and datatype of each attribute (e.g. @ATTRIBUTE sepallength REAL) and there is a directive to indicate the start of the raw data (e.g. @DATA).

Lines in an ARFF file that start with a percentage symbol (%) indicate a comment.

Values in the raw data section that have a question mark symbol (?) indicate an unknown or missing value. The format supports numeric and categorical values as in the iris example above, but also supports dates and string values.

Depending on your installation of Weka, you may or may not have some default datasets in your Weka installation directory under the data/ subdirectory. These default datasets distributed with Weka are in the ARFF format and have the .arff file extension.

Load CSV Files in the ARFF-Viewer

Your data is not likely to be in ARFF format.

In fact, it is much more likely to be in Comma Separated Value (CSV) format. This is a simple format where data is laid out in a table of rows and columns and a comma is used to separate the values on a row. Quotes may also be used to surround values, especially if the data contains strings of text with spaces.

The CSV format is easily exported from Microsoft Excel, so once you can get your data into Excel, you can easily convert it to CSV format.

Weka provides a handy tool to load CSV files and save them in ARFF. You only need to do this once with your dataset.

Using the steps below you can convert your dataset from CSV format to ARFF format and use it with the Weka workbench. If you do not have a CSV file handy, you can use the iris flowers dataset. Download the file from the UCI Machine Learning repository (direct link) and save it to your current working directory as iris.csv.

1. Start the Weka chooser.

Weka GUI Chooser

Screenshot of the Weka GUI Chooser

2. Open the ARFF-Viewer by clicking “Tools” in the menu and select “ArffViewer”.

3. You will be presented with an empty ARFF-Viewer window.

Weka ARFF Viewer

Weka ARFF Viewer

4. Open your CSV file in the ARFF-Viewer by clicking the “File” menu and select “Open”. Navigate to your current working directory. Change the “Files of Type:” filter to “CSV data files (*.csv)”. Select your file and click the “Open” button.

Load CSV In ARFF Viewer

Load CSV In ARFF Viewer

5. You should see a sample of your CSV file loaded into the ARFF-Viewer.

6. Save your dataset in ARFF format by clicking the “File” menu and selecting “Save as…”. Enter a filename with a .arff extension and click the “Save” button.

You can now load your saved .arff file directly into Weka.

Note, the ARFF-Viewer provides options for modifying your dataset before saving. For example you can change values, change the name of attributes and change their data types.

It is highly recommended that you specify the names of each attribute as this will help with analysis of your data later. Also, make sure that the data types of each attribute are correct.

Load CSV Files in the Weka Explorer

You can also load your CSV files directly in the Weka Explorer interface.

This is handy if you are in a hurry and want to quickly test out an idea.

This section shows you how you can load your CSV file in the Weka Explorer interface. You can use the iris dataset again, to practice if you do not have a CSV dataset to load.

1. Start the Weka GUI Chooser.

2. Launch the Weka Explorer by clicking the “Explorer” button.

Weka Explorer

Screenshot of the Weka Explorer

3. Click the “Open file…” button.

4. Navigate to your current working directory. Change the “Files of Type” to “CSV data files (*.csv)”. Select your file and click the “Open” button.

You can work with the data directly. You can also save your dataset in ARFF format by clicking he “Save” button and typing a filename.

Use Excel for Other File Formats

If you have data in another format, load it in Microsoft Excel first.

It is common to get data in another format such as CSV using a different delimiter or fixed width fields. Excel has powerful tools for loading tabular data in a variety of formats. Use these tools and first load your data into Excel.

Once you have loaded your data into Excel, you can export it into CSV format. You can then work with it in Weka, either directly or by first converting it to ARFF format.


Below are some additional resources that you may find useful when working with CSV data in Weka.


In this post you discovered how to load your CSV data into Weka for machine learning.

Specifically, you learned:

  • About the ARFF file format and how Weka uses it to represent datasets for machine learning.
  • How to load your CSV data using ARFF-Viewer and save it into ARFF format.
  • How to load your CSV data directly in the Weka Explorer and use it for modeling.

Do you have any questions about loading data in Weka or about this post? Ask your questions in the comments and I will do my best to answer.

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98 Responses to How To Load CSV Machine Learning Data in Weka

  1. Avatar
    alcajerah June 23, 2016 at 10:13 pm #

    great post

    • Avatar
      Zhana August 2, 2020 at 8:49 am #

      Totally agree the post is very helpful. Thanks, very much appreciated.

  2. Avatar
    Ayo October 25, 2016 at 11:26 am #

    Thank you for this helpful post. please I encountered when trying to view my .CSV file in WEKA. I need your help.

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee October 26, 2016 at 8:29 am #

      I’m sorry to hear that Ayo.

      Maybe your file is too large?

      Maybe try loading it in excel first and check that the file is not corrupt?

  3. Avatar
    Sunkanmi November 29, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

    Hi Jason,
    Thanks for the good job you’re doing.

    What is the limit of the size of csv file that can be converted into arff format by the weka workbench.
    I have a csv file above 2gig and I couldn’t get weka Arff viewer or explorer to load it up for conversion.

  4. Avatar
    Rodney Williams December 17, 2016 at 11:20 am #

    I get an error message, “ 12 Problem encountered on line:2”

    same messagewhether I try to load with tools or directly using Explorer

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee December 18, 2016 at 5:28 am #

      Sorry to hear that Rodney. I’ve not seen this before. Perhaps try posting to stack overflow or the Weka email list?

  5. Avatar
    Farah Sardouk December 23, 2016 at 4:04 am #

    Thank you!

  6. Avatar
    santanu chatterjee January 28, 2017 at 7:52 pm #

    I have a data set which contains quantity,unit price,duty,model,sepcs,brand names of some products. I initially used Naive Bayes and later used auto weka to determine that my ideal algorithm will be random forest and its gives 10% accuracy rate and runs smoothly,whenever I use test using training data set.

    All hell breaks loose, when I copy the same data file and remove the brand names,so that I can use it as a test dataset. I either receive inputmappedclassifier option or errors like – “problem evaluating classifier-index4-size1 or “different nos of lables 15!=1.

    Namely, I have placed brand name column for both test and training datasets at the end.I did some online search and used question mark on the brand column of the test data set. I have used random alphanumeric values. I have even converted them into arff format and cross checked the attribute data type on both file,but nothing seems to help. Where am I going wrong?I know I am close.can anyone help?

  7. Avatar
    Asmaa M. Elmohamady January 29, 2017 at 7:55 am #

    Dear Jason,

    i have two problems when load .csv file to weka

    1- The file loaded correctly but because of enclosure character the sentences are not loaded completely.

    2- When trying to apply stringTowordvector filter this error appear (attribute names are not unique! causes: ‘class’).

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee February 1, 2017 at 10:12 am #

      Hi Asmaa, sorry, I don’t have good examples of loading textual data in Weka.

  8. Avatar
    vidhi February 22, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

    i have multiple values for a single attribute. how can i write them

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee February 23, 2017 at 8:45 am #

      Great question!

      Consider making them binary attributes. Have one column for each value, then mark a 1 or a 0 on a row for each column for a given observation.

      I hope that helps.

  9. Avatar
    Toby March 15, 2017 at 7:19 am #

    Hi Jason,

    Great post! Just curious, is it possible to set this up real time? In that if I have a process that collects data real time via a CSV file that then needs to be converted to arff. Can this be done?

    And then once this is done, is it possible to add and delete values from the arff object?


    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee March 15, 2017 at 8:17 am #

      I would recommend using the command line interface for Weka to achieve this.

      Sorry, I don’t have examples, but consider checking the Weka system/user guide provided with Weka.

  10. Avatar
    Boum March 21, 2017 at 10:44 am #

    How can i introduce 3 indpendent real attributes classes ?
    ie: Not one class that contains 3 values No; 3 indpendent real attributes classes

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee March 22, 2017 at 7:54 am #

      I believe Weka does not support outputting a vector prediction (e.g. 3 classes).

  11. Avatar
    nicolas April 28, 2017 at 6:12 am #

    Hello jason,

    I have built and followed the steps on this page to transform my CSV file into an arff successfully. However, now that I load the dataset into Weka, it is impossible for me to use a j48 tree. What can I do to build a tree and begin analyzing my data? Thanks!


    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee April 28, 2017 at 7:57 am #

      Perhaps you need to make your output variable nominal so you can use classification algorithms?

  12. Avatar
    Dimple April 28, 2017 at 9:26 pm #

    the first row values are taken as attribute names, thus losing first row values. How can we retain the values and give explicit attribute names?

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee April 29, 2017 at 7:25 am #

      Good question. I’m not sure off-hand, sorry.

      One way would be to specify col names in your file. Or even add a dummy first line to the file.

  13. Avatar
    reda June 9, 2017 at 11:46 pm #

    i tray to open my csv data in weka but is not work erreur [[ file’data.csv’ not recognised as an csv data files file reaon : 1 problem encountered on line 2

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee June 10, 2017 at 8:24 am #

      Consider double checking your file is a CSV file. Open in a text editor or MS Excel to confirm.

  14. Avatar
    marzieh July 26, 2017 at 10:59 pm #

    Deer Mr.Brownlee,

    I going to use weka for a IDS purpose on KDDcup99 dataset.
    I have to use SVM and Entropy on this dataset ,and according to this result I will decrease some attributes from the dataset and make a decision tree for detecting intrusion faster ,
    let me know is it possible to use WEKA GUI? or I should use weka library in java?

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee July 27, 2017 at 8:07 am #

      Sorry, I have not used that dataset in many years. My best advice is to try.

  15. Avatar
    mai hegazy October 23, 2017 at 10:51 pm #

    hello Dr.Jason,
    please I have a problem with kosarak dataset , I can’t run it into weka

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee October 24, 2017 at 5:32 am #

      Sorry, I don’t know about that dataset. Perhaps post your error to stack overflow?

  16. Avatar
    Sarah October 30, 2017 at 1:21 am #

    Can I open .mat file in Weka?

  17. Avatar
    samridhi November 25, 2017 at 12:37 am #

    trying to run a .csv file in weka on my MacBook but there is an error which says

    invalid stream header:49642c53

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee November 25, 2017 at 10:21 am #

      Perhaps double check your data file in a text editor and ensure the format matches your expectations.

  18. Avatar
    Roghayeh November 30, 2017 at 9:01 pm #

    Excellent post

  19. Avatar
    FS December 1, 2017 at 5:41 am #

    Hi Jason,
    Is there a way to add a column in my test data csv file indicating which data sample it is and then, identifying corresponding prediction score against the individual sample?
    Thank you for the excellent post!

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee December 1, 2017 at 7:42 am #

      Perhaps add in CSV and use a filter to separate and save the separate datasets.

  20. Avatar
    Pranati Mathur December 11, 2017 at 1:07 pm #


    I get the error “java.lang.illegalArgumentException: Attribute names are not unique! Causes: ‘vhigh’ ‘2’”. Please help.
    I tried to upload .csv file to the weka explorer, but I get this exception and the file doesn’t load.

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee December 11, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

      Perhaps double check your data in a text editor or excel?

  21. Avatar
    Marie January 4, 2018 at 5:39 pm #

    hi Jason
    after loading .csv file and saving it as a .arff file and opening it in WEKA, my histograms are all in black and white. I have tried many different things but none of them are working. What could the problem be?

    thanks for reading.

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee January 5, 2018 at 5:21 am #

      Weka things you have a real valued output. Perhaps double check your file?

  22. Avatar
    ehren February 15, 2018 at 1:20 pm #

    is there a post that explains how to write the header correctly in order to view the file in weka? i have tried MANY times to create the header, check it and correct errors with extra commas using a text editor and it won’t open at all in the arff viewer. no matter what i do i get an error and the file won’t even open. it looks EXACTLY like an arff opened in my text editor from within weka but weka will not read my csvs at all.

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee February 15, 2018 at 2:50 pm #

      Open an existing .arff file and adapt it for your data.

      Or use the ARFF editor provided with Weka.

  23. Avatar
    ilhame April 20, 2018 at 10:06 pm #

    Thank you so much for your guidance

    My probem occurs after converting csv file to arff file, I notice that a new index column is added as attribute, although arff provides index column. So if my csv file has 5 attributes it becomes 6 in arff file.

    I don’t know how to fix this.

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee April 21, 2018 at 6:50 am #

      Perhaps check your CSV file does not have extra columns. Maybe look in excel or a text editor?

  24. Avatar
    Douye May 29, 2018 at 1:52 pm #

    MONTH/YRS 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
    JANUARY 5.3 4.4 7.5 4.5 2 5.2 5.4 5.4 5.5 6.4 5.2 4.6
    FEBRUARY 6.7 4.7 7.4 6 2.2 5.2 5.9 4.9 4.1 4.6 5.3 2.2
    MARCH 5.5 2.9 5.8 4.7 8.0 3.3 6.1 5.4 5.7 5.6 4.4 4.3
    APRIL 5.4 4.8 5.2 5 3.6 5.8 5.1 5.7 5.6 5.8 4.7 5.7
    MAY 4.8 3.7 6.1 6 5 5.3 5.6 5.1 5.9 5.8 5.2 5.1
    JUNE 4.7 4.6 5.6 5 4.2 3.8 3.3 3.8 4.3 4.5 3 4.3
    JULY 2.2 2.3 4.4 3.1 2.9 2.9 2.4 1.7 2.7 2.5 2.1 4.2
    AUGUST 1.5 1.4 2.7 2.3 2.2 2.4 1.6 2.6 2.1 1.5 1.6 2.8
    SEPTEMBER 3.8 2 3.9 3.1 3.4 3.6 2.5 3.6 2.8 1.8 2.5 2.2
    OCTOBER 4.1 3.5 5.9 5.6 3.8 5.5 4.4 4.7 4.7 3.7 5.2 4.9
    NOVEMBER 6.7 5.7 7.5 7.6 6.8 6 7 6.3 6.1 5.9 6.8 5.5
    DECEMBER 6.3 5.8 7.4 6.1 7.5 7.1 7.3 7.6 6.5 6.2 8.8 4.4
    TOTAL 57 45.8 70.4 59 44.4 56.1 56.6 56.8 56 54.3 54.8 50.2
    MEAN 4.8 3.8 5.9 5 3.7 4.7 4.7 4.7 4.6 4.5 4.6 4.2

    Above is a sample weather data, a word doc. Please is there any modification i should try before loading data into WEKA?

  25. Avatar
    Nelson Ajayi June 7, 2018 at 5:17 am #

    Thank sfor this interesting post Jason. I am more interested in how to use the ARFF-Viewer options for modifying your dataset before saving. Particularly to change their data types. I have played around the interface for such options but didnt get any clue. Please help

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee June 7, 2018 at 6:35 am #

      Sorry, I don’t have an example of changing data types in the ARFF viewer.

  26. Avatar
    Shravan June 7, 2018 at 2:08 pm #

    Thank you Jason, this article helps.

  27. Avatar
    Mark W. June 13, 2018 at 9:51 pm #

    Jason, I just stumbled upon this post in attempting to leverage WEKA for my own dissertation process. After only a few moments I believe that the resource you have given the rest of us ( is going to be the key to my success and that of many to come! Just learning how to turn a .csv into .arff has already opened countless doors for me. I now have a preliminary method for my research. Can’t thank you enough!

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee June 14, 2018 at 6:06 am #

      Well done Mark, I’m glad to hear about your progress! Hang in there.

  28. Avatar
    Himagaran August 18, 2018 at 5:08 pm #

    Great post

    I need to learn data mining for a project with code, any suggestions? links?


    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee August 19, 2018 at 6:18 am #

      This website is full of tutorials with code, dive in!

  29. Avatar
    ken stonecipher September 21, 2018 at 5:21 am #

    Jason can you help me. I cannot get a .CSV file to load in Weka. When I am in tools I get the message. java io.IOException wrong number of values. Read 11, expected 10 read Toek(EOL) line 13 problem encountered on line 13.

    My file is a CSV format.

    Help please

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee September 21, 2018 at 6:34 am #

      Perhaps inspect your file in a text editor and confirm it has a CSV format and that the file looks valid.

  30. Avatar
    vishnu November 11, 2018 at 1:15 am #

    Jason – how to load a .txt file into weka. I have to classify the reviews of a movie and then find out if the movie is bad or good. I have got bunch of .txt files of each positive reviews and negative reviews files.
    Help me how to load them in weka and perform classification

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee November 11, 2018 at 6:08 am #

      Sorry, I don’t have examples of working with .txt files in Weka, I cannot give you good advice.

  31. Avatar
    sameena December 20, 2018 at 3:11 pm #

    Hey Jason, wonderful article!!. It is helpful to a great extent, especially for the beginners. Thank you.

  32. Avatar
    stellamaris March 28, 2019 at 1:17 am #

    hi Jason

    pls help here,

    am trying to convert a csv file to arff and am getting this error; unable to determine structure as arff(reason:java io.ioexception:keyword@data expected,real token@attribute id numeric line 3. am using the wdbc breast cancer dataset for my research

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee March 28, 2019 at 8:17 am #

      Sorry to hear that, perhaps inspect the file in a text editor to get an idea of what the problem might be?

  33. Avatar
    jamila April 21, 2019 at 5:37 pm #

    I have a dataset from Kaggle i.e. train.csv and test.csv files. how I work from these two files together?
    I read some tutorials where one CSV files are loaded and then split into train and test files.

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee April 22, 2019 at 6:21 am #

      Typically kaggle test sets don’t have labels.

      I recommend focusing on how to load the training set only.

  34. Avatar
    Hassan July 3, 2019 at 3:41 pm #

    Hi Jason,
    I have a csv file and when I want to convert it to arff with weka I get this problem: 42 Problem encountered on line:2

  35. Avatar
    Dharani Nimmagadda October 24, 2019 at 3:22 pm #

    I have glucose values in type >4 and <4 but i want the actual (numerical values)
    how do i input into weka

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee October 25, 2019 at 6:33 am #

      Perhaps you need to collect that data?

      Once collected, you can load the data file as a CSV and convert it to ARFF.

  36. Avatar
    Nwe Eain October 25, 2019 at 4:06 pm #

    I have a condition that import csv file in weka.

    ‘weka.core.converters.CSVLoader failed to load News.csv
    Reason: 2 problem encountered on line: 509’
    how can I do to fix it? thanks

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee October 26, 2019 at 4:35 am #

      Perhaps open your file in a text editor and look for something out of place on line 509?

  37. Avatar
    Rihab December 11, 2019 at 4:14 am #

    Dear Jason,
    I have a CSV file and when I want to convert it to ARFF I get this error: problem encountered on line:2

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee December 11, 2019 at 7:02 am #

      Sorry to hear that. Perhaps try posting the file and error to the weka user group?

  38. Avatar
    Nann February 6, 2020 at 1:06 am #

    thank you

  39. Avatar
    shwei March 27, 2020 at 2:31 am #

    Thank you for writing this great post. It helped me a lot.

  40. Avatar
    Jeff May 10, 2020 at 4:25 pm #

    I have a spreadsheet which I saved in CSV It has 48 Attributes and 58 Instances. Attributes are formatted as numeric two decimal points. When I load it into the the attributes are all 1 and a count is given not the actual numeric. How do fix this

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee May 11, 2020 at 5:55 am #

      Perhaps confirm a “.” is used for the decimal point and “,” is used to separate columns.

  41. Avatar
    Chris May 14, 2020 at 9:31 pm #

    I have many files which I want to load into WEKA. How can I do this?

  42. Avatar
    Vlad September 8, 2020 at 12:16 am #

    Hi Jason,

    Pardon the obviousness of my question – for a regression project, what is the order of the instances in the arff file? the latest data is right at the header or at the end of the file?

    Many thanks,

    • Avatar
      Jason Brownlee September 8, 2020 at 6:51 am #

      For regression, we assume all instances (rows) are iid. That order instances are created is irrelevant.

      If it is relevant, you have a time series problem and you should try to make the instances stationary over time – remove or model the time effect.

  43. Avatar
    Francisco Pérez Liébana October 16, 2020 at 6:31 pm #


    I´ve downloaded and installed weka workbench for OLM testing purposes. I´ve social workers dataset (as from Ben Davis 92 paper). It is a CSV format file as follows :


    I´m trying to convert it to ARFF format , as follows :

    @attribute In1 numeric
    @attribute In2 numeric
    @attribute In3 numeric
    @attribute In4 numeric
    @attribute In5 numeric
    @attribute In6 numeric
    @attribute In7 numeric
    @attribute In8 numeric
    @attribute In9 numeric
    @attribute In10 numeric
    @attribute Out1 numeric


    Everything seems to be working fine for preprocessing step, but when I turn into Classify step, and choose OLM Algorithm with every single property, I´m not able to activate “Start” Button.

    It may be the dataset file (but everything seems to be ok in the first step for reading it) .

    Do you have any idea what it´s going on ?

    Thanks in advance and congratulations for your blog. It is helping me a lot!


  44. Avatar
    Maikudi Umar May 11, 2021 at 10:41 pm #

    I think am good to go with loading dataset to weka now. Thanks alot for your time and understanding

  45. Avatar
    Dorinel Tanase December 1, 2021 at 6:07 pm #

    Hi. when I reopen a csv file in which data has been changed, I am shown old data that is no longer in the file. Do you know how to fix this error? Thank you

    • Avatar
      Adrian Tam December 2, 2021 at 2:52 am #

      If you have closed the file before (which triggered a flush on the cache), it should not be like that.

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