Chemical Shortcuts

I was writing some lecture notes this morning when it occurred to me that I’d probably never told my students of some shortcuts that are really useful. I was trying to draw structures for a synthetic route towards paclitaxel…trying is the operative word unless you are aware of what a SMILES string is and the fact that you can copy-paste that through paste-special in ChemDraw and other programmes and the structure will be drawn for you. In the case of paclitaxel derivatives, that’s hours of pain reduced to seconds of smugness.

The best source of SMILES or InChI strings is ChemSpider ( that has all kinds of useful information as well as that bit. What I didn’t know before writing this post was that SMILES (apart from creating a great many smiles at the sheer simplicity of complex structures) stands for Simplified molecular-input line-entry system, and InChI, International Chemical Identifier.

Another simple trick when looking for scientific journals (or making quick references in work ahead of proper referencing) is to copy-paste the DOI of the article rather than the reference. Digital Object Identifiers ( are found on most reputable articles (and probably most disreputable ones as well, but hey) and can be a very quick and easy way to keep tabs on references electronically. They are found on most journal articles, their websites on the publishers site, and are readily googled to find the full text.  Of course, they do not replace the proper reference in the desired format but they do make wrangling a reference collection in early drafts much easier.

I can’t think of any more at the moment – any suggestions?