An awesome youtube video on advanced ChemDraw techniques is making the rounds today (via), so let’s dust off some ChemDraw tips.

First, here’s a breakdown of Pierre Morieux’s video.

0:00 – 0:55:     Intro.

0.56 – 3:36:     General shortcuts.  “Ctrl + Drag” creates copies of the selected structures, which blew my mind.

3:38 – 8:16:     Setting up custom hotkeys [1].

8:17 – 9:48:    The SPROUT hotkeys.  Probably the most important thing to take away from this video.

9:49 – 10:48:   How to draw simple alkyl chains and rings.

10:50 – 11:15: A list of common and useful hotkeys.

11:18 – 14:20: Defining nicknames (ie. templates).


Other resources.

Use a Custom Stylesheet

The default everywhere is the 1996 ACS style guide, which is handily included in most versions of ChemDraw.  This works well enough for publications, but for presentations and the web I prefer Totally Synthetic’s style sheet, available on his blog.  The bonds are thicker, and on a screen everything looks just a little crisper.

Improve Your Curly Arrows.

As azmanam relates, the edit curve tool makes everything oh so pretty.  This post comes complete with its own youtube video as well, for visual learners.  Colorblind Chemistry also covered this topic recently, in the context of catalytic cycles.


Mix ChemDraw and Latex

Any paper with more than about ten structures is a nightmare to revise, as every little change requires that you update the reference numbers for each compound.  The best way to solve this problem is to use Latex to do the fine detail work for you, similar to what reference managers do for citations.

Switching to an entirely different writing program has a somewhat sharp learning curve, but thankfully there’s a rather nice set of guides available that break everything down (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).  This is a must if you expect your thesis to have over one hundred chemicals, and it’s a lot easier if you start early.


Learn from the designers.

Cambridgesoft/PerkinElmer have put together quite a few videos over the years explaining various aspects of ChemDraw, all only a couple of minutes long. Unfortunately the videos are both encoded in flash, and require registration. (via)


Leave ChemDraw behind?

Cambridgesoft was recently purchased, so there’s hope that ChemDraw will soon get a much needed upgrade.  However, a lot of very nice alternatives have sprung up over the last few years, with Marvin Beans and ChemDoodle leading the pack.  I haven’t had much time to try them out so far, but ChemDoodle in particular is quite impressive (Linux!).

[1] This has been covered well before in the blogosphere, but I couldn’t remember where.  These two livejournal posts by Liquid Carbon are the closest fit to my memory that I could find.