Tools: Summary of responses to "Software for drawing chemical structures?"

Subject: Tools: Summary of responses to "Software for drawing chemical structures?"
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: CEL <copyediting-l -at- listserv -dot- indiana -dot- edu>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, STC Science SIG discussions <stcscsig-l -at- lists -dot- stc -dot- org>
Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2006 14:32:03 -0400

Yesterday, I asked for suggestions on tools to help me draw a moderately complex chemical structure. Since the respondents proposed a range of tools, each of which will meet different needs, I haven't explored each tool and presented a recommendation. I'll do that myself later for my own specific needs, with the proviso that YMMV. That being said, here's my summary based on a quick glance at the recommended resources:

There are many professional-tools available for scientists, not all of which are accessible to those who only play one on the Internet. <g> For non-professionals (as opposed to unprofessionals <g>), there are several alternatives.

Electric Rain provides a range of tools for 3D illustration (, also available in trial versions. These don't seem to be directly dedicated to chemistry, but may be useful if you want full control and are comfortable with a "roll your own" solution. Similarly, the VTK (Visualisation Toolkit, also appears powerful, but not a dedicated application for chemistry.

Adept Scientific's ChemDraw ( looks promising, and will run on Mac and Windows.

ADC's Chem Sketch ( also looks cool, and is free for home/educational use, but a quick look suggests it's Windows only. That won't fly on my Mac.

MDL's ISIS/Draw ( Didn't take the time to register and check whether it'll run on my Mac, but Google suggests that it will.

Rasmol and OpenRasmol ( also appear promising, and are open source software that should run on Mac, Windows, and Unix. Ditto for PyMol (

The University of Illinois' Visual Molecular Dynamics software ( seems to be a power tool for real molecule geeks, and runs under Mac, Windows, and Unix. ETH Zurich's MOLMOL software ( falls into the same category, but seems to be Windows/Unix-only. The aforementioned geeks may also appreciate the links at the Protein Data Bank site <>.

Clip art may also be an option, but I'll use it as my last resort to avoid any copyright issues. If I draw the molecule myself, then barring any software licensing agreements to the contrary, copyright won't be an issue.

Thanks to Heidi Arnold, Cathy Arthur, Deborah Ausman, Debra Bissantz, Sandy Harris, Rob Hodgins, Joe Malin, and Iwan Thomas. If I missed your name or didn't include the information you provided in my summary, sorry 'bout that... possibly the message never arrived, or I just missed it. Feel free to re-post your message for the benefit of others.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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