For people like me who have always used a paper-based laboratory notebook to keep track of my experiments and notes, the idea of using an Electronic Lab Notebook online seems a bit odd at first. But, it also has that slightly neat feel to it too.
I guess i can now be considered a DIY scientist or maybe a Citizen Scientist now, considering how many crazy things i seem to be pursuing these days. I’m already subscribed to the DIYbio mailing list, which often has very interesting discussions, and many of those are way over my head in terms of technical knowledge.
Still, in this age of Interconnectivity and social blogs, people wan’t to know what kinds of cool things your experimenting with. Cool is a relative term i suppose though, and interests vary. For a few days i’ve been trying to use the powers of Google to help me find a really good (and free) online lab notebook. Ideally one with the ability to use OCR software to recognize text in any photos i upload. I only really found two free ones that i was willing to consider. The rest seemed designed for a whole group of people in a lab, and cost lots of money.
1. The first option is hosted on OpenWetWare, and is a simple wiki. For most people this is the best option, and apparently is what the IGEM teams now use for their lab journals. It’s actually really good, but doesn’t have any OCR indexing software. This is the one i am now using. The only “downside” is that it has a small learning curve to figure out how formatting works on a wiki. If you’ve ever edited wikipedia before, you might already know how.
2. The second option
is called Evernote. It’s a note taking platform with sharing options available. It has a free version, but it kindof sucks, and wants you to pay for a pro version. I have my doubts the pro version would be worth it. I must admit that while testing it out, i almost ran out my allowed uploads for the month. Thats the part that really soured it for me, especially when combined with odd designed interface. It’s actually not that bad, but not what i was looking for. I was interested in Evernote because it looked like it might have a good interface, and boasted about an image indexing feature that essentially uses some sort of OCR tool. The OCR feature does work… but the whole interface is slow and clunky. It also didn’t display the search results in a friendly way.
Here is the test notebook i was testing with my evernote account if you want to see what it looked like. Just be sure to know that i have now migrated to using OpenWetWare’s wiki, and will be using that from now on. Here is my online notebook: http://openwetware.org/wiki/User:Andrew_Barney/Notebook
But in truth i think i prefer paper notebooks to any offering online. This is a nice printable one: here.