March 1, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 5)


Strong Points: Fantastic idea
Weak Points: A few rough edge

WebReactions offers a rather impressive approach to organic synthesis. The site provides users with a clean slate on which to draw their starting reactants and desired products. Tools for common structures such as rings of several sizes, specific atoms and stereochemistry options are available. After drawing the requested molecules, the program queries multiple databases containing hundreds of thousands of records to locate protocols to perform the desired reactions. This is an organic chemist’s dream application in theory, but I discovered some snags that were annoying. The application is written in Java and while that provides cross-platform options, the interface is not a simple GUI at all levels. Structures can be drawn easily enough, but deleting them or undoing them is not at all intuitive. After drawing structures of reactants, I wanted to join them together by dragging one to the other but could not find an easy way to do so. There are some rough edges here, to be sure, and not every reaction can be expected to be in the databases, but WebReactions is a fantastic idea with enormous potential. I think it deserves the benefit of the doubt.

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