With time the entire world is adapting to going digital, and it is somewhat the same with lab notebooks.
Nowadays, paper lab notebooks have the alternative to electronic lab notebooks (ELN), which obviously is the digital version of it. However, this also means better organizing and fewer complications and confusion in the long run, as you can manage things from one place.
To put it in the simplest words, an electronic lab notebook is a software that helps you collect information and jot down notes digitally. It’s meant for that purpose and does a great job fulfilling that purpose, as researchers can efficiently record their work and refer to examined information whenever the need arises.
You could be in any field, food tech, chemistry, or biology. An electronic lab notebook will be useful to you. There are no second thoughts about the evolution of this digital transition as more and more professionals are switching to it from traditional paper.
Difference between ELN and a regular note-keeping app
There are quite a lot of differences between an electronic lab notebook and a regular note-keeping app like Evernote and Google Keep, but the main one is definitely got to be the fact that ELN is custom-built for scientific research.
An ELN will allow you to draw figures like chemical structure or document a bioassay protocol with absolute ease compared to a regular note-keeping app. It basically has all specific tools on standby whenever you need them as opposed to having to find a way out of the situation if you’re going to use a regular note-keeping app.
This is not to say note-keeping apps are bad, but just that for purposes like scientific research, an ELN is ideal to use and has a clear edge.
Features of an ideal ELN
While features can vary from software to software, here are some common features that every ELN solution should have:
- Electronic signature support 🖊️
- Note keeping apps integrations 📝
- Ability to manage the lab inventory 🧪
- Collaboration tools with team administration for role assigning 👥
- User-friendly interface 🖥️
- Secure and compliant with guidelines ⚖️
- Create, import, store, and retrieve essential data 💾
- Responsive design to view on multiple platforms 📲
- User-level restrictions to keep certain data to be kept unedited by anyone 👤
The above features are good starting pointers to remember before selecting electronic lab notebook software.
Benefits of using an ELN
There are numerous benefits of using ELN software, mainly because of the flexibility and convenience it provides. Here are some of the many ones:
- Highly customizable to fit your needs
- Accessible outside the laboratory and virtually anywhere
- Tools that keep the notebook organized and functional
- Sharable with the team easily as opposed to a paper notebook
It also eliminates the hassle of trying to remember where you stored your paper notebooks because everything can be accessed digitally.
With all that aside, let’s look at the best electronic notebook software you can choose from.
First, on the list, Labguru promotes better results, innovation, and insights as soon as you start using it. It’s powerful and used by some of the biggest names in the market, such as AstraZeneca and Moderna.
It basically provides an all-in-one platform that contains an ELN, LIMS, automation, inventory management, and informatics to make it the ultimate solution you could rely on.
Their ELN is a treat to use, with features like sample management, integrated inventory, secure data hosting, and lab data management. It helps you track progress and share every single result with other members if you wish to.
Run your lab efficiently with Benchling, an ELN solution that does far more than you’d expect. It’s super user-friendly and is used by over 200,000 scientists around the world.
Some main highlights of Benchling include:
- Better data integrity
- Third-party integrations
- Collaboration and role-based permissions
- Data capture and transfer
- Instrument management
- Instant history of all notebook entries
- Reporting and statistics
- Sample management
There are also some productivity tools like to-do lists, drag and drop editor, and excel-like tables. You can gather daily experimental data in the ELN and basically connect the dots to relevant items in the registry.
Not to mention, it’s also customizable and adjustable to your needs. For example, you can add your own fields for entries.
LabArchives can handle teams of any size, so this ELN makes for a good collaborative solution as well when you want members to come together for research. It’s trusted by well-known research teams and institutions, so you can be sure this solution can be relied on.
For convenience, it can be integrated with a lot of popular endpoint solutions. You can also utilize templates and various entry types and customize them. It provides a seamless organization of your research data.
Moreover, they also have ELN for education, using which you can build your course and manage your content library.
An ELN that prioritizes your time a lot, SciNote pushes for features that help you complete your task faster than you usually would. A study by Liane Kober concluded that tasks are completed using this solution with an 86% time reduction compared to those without using this solution.
Not to forget, their ease of use and reliability eventually leads you to a great return on investment filled with only benefits.
A fully customizable, all-in-one ELN solution, eLabJournal allows you to improve your efficiency in the lab and basically end up doing more output in the same amount of time. You’d also be increasing your productivity with the required tools that come with it.
Some of the key features include:
- Set important notifications
- Collaborate with members and assign roles
- Build detailed experiments from numerous segments
- Utilize free add-ons to extend the functionality
You can export your data in various formats like PDF, HTML, and XML.
As they like to call it, Sapio “Seamless” is what it truly is. It’s seamless and lets you record your experiment details immediately, even without prior experience with similar software. If you don’t prefer using software, you can run it in any browser online and access it from anywhere.
The company literally took decades of hard work in creating different solutions such as ELN, SDMS, and LIMS to merge them into one thorough product, saving you money and time in the long run.
Features like tracking day-to-day progress and lab management processing of samples are just the tip of the iceberg for Sapio. It has so much more to discover, so be sure to check this one out.
Completely free and open source, eLabFTW makes it easy to keep track of your experiments and carry out collaboration projects seamlessly. In fact, this solution can also be used for other fields like biotech, universities, and tinkerers.
It features a powerful and versatile database, and the whole software is secure, easy to get along with, and most importantly, compliant with policies.
Other features include:
- Cross-platform support
- Responsive design across devices
- Inventory management
- Timestamps for better referencing of data
- Translation available in different languages
- Integrated scheduler to plan certain things beforehand for the future
eLabFTW does much more than you’d expect for software that comes with no cost attached.
An electronic Lab Notebook that is future-proof with advanced features, Signals Notebook might really be a solution you’d want to invest in. It has a powerhouse of benefits and features, such as lab automation, seamless workflow, enhanced collaboration, and more.
It can be used for a bunch of use cases, be it for spanning biology, analysis, chemistry, etc. It also has APIs and interfaces for integration to extend the functionality and make it more flexible.
I’ve not even scratched the surface here, so I’d recommend going ahead and giving this one a free trial to test it all out yourself.
Electronic lab notebook software can definitely make life so much easier for you, especially if you’re currently using a paper notebook for all your entries and formations. The above solutions deliver the best features you’d want to find in an ELN, so choose one according to what suits you the most.