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November 19, 2012
Via a reader, here's an excellent YouTube video for those of you who use ChemDraw. I've been using the software since it came out, and there are several useful tricks here that I didn't know were even in the software. Did you know that you could give your common structures nicknames, so that the program would immediately draw them when you typed in the name? Or how to use the "Sprout" tool for drawing bonds without going to the bond-drawing tool? There's also an detailed look at customizing hotkeys, which for a heavy ChemDraw user will make you look like you have magic powers. Well worth a look. Update: see the comments for more if you're into this sort of thing!
I'd still like to see how quickly all these would allow you to draw something like this (well, other than giving it a nickname - I'd suggest "Jabba" or "Chemzilla" - and having it appear instantly). Of course, those of us old enough to remember the pre-ChemDraw (or any-other-draw) days will have a different perspective on the whole field. I remember the first time I saw the program being used, which would have been 1986, not an awful long time after it came out (see the timeline of computers in chemistry here). Like every other practicing organic chemist, as soon as I saw the program I knew that I had to have it. It was, as they say, a "killer app", and ChemDraw sold Macs, albeit on a smaller scale than VisiCalc sold Apple IIs. But it's hard to get across how those programs felt, unless you've actually rubbed Helvetica capital letters from a transfer sheet into an ink-drawn chair-conformation ring to make a drawing of a carbohydrate, or had to go back and manually erase (and write in) half a column of figures because you had recalculate them. It feels like, instead of hitting "Print", being given instead a slab of hardwood and some sharp tools which which to start carving out a block for inking. Or instead of hitting "Send", having someone bring you a horse.
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