We live and die by our spreadsheets in the lab, don’t we? They are a common and familiar tool in most labs.
As labs transition away from lab notebooks and gel photos, Excel spreadsheets become the new standard. But today, ELN and LIMS functionalities have made the simple spreadsheet obsolete.
One of the most common requests we’ve received from customers in the last few years is this: make key functions operate in a more “spreadsheet-like” manner. In the recently released LabVantage 8.8, we updated the Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) to do just that.
Seems like a small change, right? But it has enormous implications for lab efficiency. Since nearly everyone in the lab space is already familiar with popular spreadsheet applications, making it spreadsheet-user-friendly simplifies usability while streamlining adoption and familiarization with the interface.
Users can quickly transition from learning to use the system to focusing on effectively capturing and cataloging critical data.
Spreadsheet Control Makes ELN More Efficient
By updating ELN spreadsheet control, LabVantage now provides more out-of-the-box functionality, including features and benefits like these:
- The spreadsheet control toolbar has been updated to function in a manner similar to other familiar applications, leveraging skillsets most lab workers already have.
- ELN spreadsheets can now display comments and formulas.
- Additional keyboard shortcuts have been added to speed data entry and calculation.
- The interface now includes a defined render area for publishing, allowing the user to select exactly what should be included in a published report instead of duplicating the entire spreadsheet.
- Users have the option to display all tabs of spreadsheet, improving organization and access to key information.
- You can now show and hide rows or columns, and display data with or without gridlines.
- All spreadsheet content is automatically indexed for global search functionality, enabling researchers to search not only for data in the spreadsheet itself, but for specific worksheet tab names, comments, and even individual cells.
These and other capabilities provide end users with an ELN platform that is smarter and easier to use. Improved spreadsheet control eliminates the need to document or perform data analysis outside of the ELN, saving time and reducing the possibility for errors when information is transferred.
In addition, spreadsheet functionality is particularly valuable when working in the field using a cloud-based ELN. Spreadsheet-style data can be entered or captured virtually anywhere, eliminating manual transcription while enabling remote work — all while ensuring that all data is securely backed up and accessible to any colleague with access to the platform.
Integration and Versatility
Since all of these new features are now available directly within the ELN, all spreadsheet data becomes fully integrated across a single platform, including LIMS, ELN, LES, SDMS and analytics functions. It’s no longer necessary to store spreadsheets from a third-party application as attachments to ELN worksheets. Now, once spreadsheet information is entered or captured inside LabVantage ELN, the user can choose to further manipulate the data or feed it directly into an analytics engine such as LabVantage Analytics.
And speaking of attachments, LabVantage not only allows you to add attachments related to a particular spreadsheet for reference within the ELN, it also enables certain types of attachment information to be opened and captured directly within the worksheet itself — making attachment information significantly more accessible than in most other ELNs.
Taking ELN to the Next Level
ELN plays a vital role in any fully integrated laboratory informatics solution. By enabling more robust spreadsheet control, LabVantage 8.8 streamlines data entry and information extraction, speeds onboarding of new staff members, and reduces the time and cost necessary to take full advantage of spreadsheet functions.