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Would you use a digital lab notebook?

Posted by , on 26 January 2012

Nature featured a news article about digital lab notebooks, which launched a discussion in various places (including the comments of the article itself) about whether or not they’re useful.

What do you think? Would you use a digital lab notebook in your lab, or would you rather keep your old paper notebook? Or maybe you already keep all your notes in a digital format only. You’re all web-savvy Node readers, of course, but let’s see how digital you are when it comes to benchwork. Here’s a poll:

(Photo by zmtomako on Flickr)

Thumbs up (2 votes)

Categories: Discussion, News

9 thoughts on “Would you use a digital lab notebook?”

  1. I’m a PhD student shared between two labs in two cities. I find Dropbox a handy way to share data/documents. It’s a web-based file sharing system, so you can access things from any computer and can be shared with anyone you choose.

    Maybe the Node could have a little section on handy freeware for scientists?

    1. I like that idea. We have had posts about online resources specific to (developmental) biology (see the “resources” category), but not yet about more general things like Dropbox.
      It probably makes the most sense to have it as a post, so that people can suggest their own in the comments (and make it more complete). Do you want to collect a few suggestions and start a post? I’ve been out of the lab too long to know what’s actually useful/free these days.

    2. I also used Dropbox in the lab a lot — it was great having documents easily accessible between lab and home (although, this does mean you may tend to do more lab work while at home!).

      The main problem I came up against was running out of space (I eventually paid for some). If you’re dealing with large files a lot (such as sorting through microarray data or other computational-heavy data, or lots of immunocytochemistry images), you’ll probably want to buy some space.

  2. Over the past year I’ve been using Microsoft OneNote and have been greatly enjoying it. It seems just right for the type of lab work I’ve been doing so far (which is essentially running gels, cloning and generating in situ hybridization data). I can create separate notebooks or separate sections of notebooks etc., can easily construct tables, simple calculations can be performed within the program, and unlike Microsoft Word, OneNote makes handling images very easy. The last in particular has been very useful whereas instead of generating gel picture printouts or copying by hand DNA spec results I just snap a picture of the output with my iPhone, hook the phone up to my computer, and drag the image into the notebook. Simple. Also like any word document OneNote is searchable, and I can easily convert any portion of the notebook into a .pdf file for sharing/printing.

    One feature I have not used yet is to migrate the digital notebook online, which presumably would let me access and maintain it from anywhere with internet access.

    Finally, I can’t imagine using OneNote for writing complex mathematical formulas, but that’s not what I do. So for my purposes the simplicity of this software has been enough of an incentive to stop me from maintaining a paper lab notebook.

  3. I am using Sparklix digital lab notebook and we found it as the best for our need.

    Sparklix electronic lab notebook is an online lab notebook so you can access it anywhere, you have endless storage, can share with friends (edit or view permission), can upload any type of file, edit excel online and save in the notebook, and the most important for it is very user friendly and easy to handle.

    Sparklix is free for everybody,You may find Sparklix ELN at .

    Sparklix is highly recommended.

    1. According to CrunchBase, you are the CEO of Sparklix. It’s fine to suggest a free product to people, but please don’t pretend you’re an independent user when you’re not.


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