Signals Blog

Plugin-Free Spectrum and Chromatogram Analysis for the Web Browser: Preview of Spex

Spectra and chromatograms comprise a large and widely-used data type in chemistry and other scientific fields. As the Web browser continues to grow into its new role as the default software development platform in science, the need for convenient tools for manipulating spectra and chromatograms becomes ever more pressing.

Few XY data analysis tools compatible with deployment in a Web browser have been developed, and nearly all of them require client-side plugins. This plugin dependency presents a significant limitation in four key areas:

  1. End users require a properly installed and configured plugin on their machines (be it Java, Flash or otherwise). This creates a point of failure outside the direct control of most Web developers.
  2. The interface between plugin and browser is inconstant at best, and non-functional at worst. This prevents components like an XY data tool from interacting well with the rest of the content on an HTML page, from capturing keyboard and mouse input correctly, and in some situations - from displaying properly.
  3. The emerging tablet computing platform (iPad and Android) is hostile to browser plugins - most legacy plugin technologies will never be ported to these systems.
  4. Plugin startup time can vary dramatically across browsers and plugin versions.

Metamolecular builds high-performance browser-based components for scientific data visualization. Our structure editor, ChemWriter works in all browsers, including the legacy browser IE6. It also requires no browser plugins.

Recently, we've adapted the same development approach and tools that made ChemWriter a success to the development of a plugin-free spectrum and chromatogram viewer for the Web browser. Codenamed 'Spex', this rapidly progressing software is now capable of reading JCAMP-DX files and presenting visual representations of them.

One of the important features Spex inherits from ChemWriter is the ability to work on all browsers, including Internet Explorer 6.

Another feature Spex inherits is the clean and responsive ChemWriter user interface. To the greatest extent possible, Spex is designed to work just like ChemWriter. This is an extremely important feature to busy scientists with minimal time for learning new tools.

If working with XY analytical data within a Web browser is important to your organization, I encourage you to contact us about Spex.

A few screenshots of Spex can be seen below (thanks to ChemSpider for the JCAMP-DX files).