Before becoming Product Manager for ChemDraw®, Pierre Morieux was working as a Field Application Scientist and conducted countless training sessions for numerous customers across the globe.
As part of his daily routine, Pierre draws several molecules for breakfast to stay in shape. Before becoming the ChemDraw Wizard, he was a postdoc publishing his research with ChemDraw and before that he was a Ph.D. student writing his dissertation with ChemDraw. What he found was that when asking users about their interest in knowing more about the application, the absolute most common answer was:
“I’ve been using ChemDraw for *“Insert a number > 5”* years, I know how to use it”.
There has, to this date, not been a single instance of a user who did not revisit their statement after one of those training sessions. Mainly because there are so many tips & tricks available in ChemDraw that it is indeed difficult to know everything. As new, powerful capabilities have come out with every recent release, numerous features and tricks have gone out unnoticed, and yet still manage to raise eyebrows in an audience or even get a loud “Oh that’s nice!” when demonstrated.
After many years and trainings, here’s Pierre’s list of users’ favorites, according to whom could have helped save so much time over the years had they known about them.
Ctrl, Shift, and Clicking (More Windows/Mac general shortcuts)
It is a first and favorite question when delivering a training: “How do you make copies of molecules?” “Please raise your hand if you are guilty of using Ctrl+c/Ctrl+v” (Cmd on Mac). In general, most of the audience is guilty of inefficiency. Holding the Ctrl key and clicking and dragging over any objects clones them in a far more efficient manner than the famous copy/paste shortcut.
What’s even better is when combining Ctrl and Shift, you will create aligned copies of your molecules or reactions. This is one of the beauties of the application: plenty of functions can be readily accessed by combining resting keys (Ctrl, Shift, Alt) with the different tools used.
Time saved: Adding your reagents to the flask
Reaction Auto-numbering (since ChemDraw 15.1)
“I really wish I didn’t have to number all my molecules by hand”. Who hasn’t said that already? Believe it or not, there is a Reaction Autonumbering function in ChemDraw. You can select multiple reactions in your document and go to the Structure menu > Autonumber Reaction. That will add a numbering scheme underneath all the different unique structures, so you don’t have to remember if you already drew it somewhere else. Naturally if you modify a structure so that it becomes unique
What’s even better is that you can customize the formatting in the Document Settings > Reaction Display.
Time saved: One overnight reaction
Expanding and Contracting Labels (since probably, like, ChemDraw 8?)
You have already used ChemDraw and used the Molecular Weight calculator, mainly because that’s one of the neat things you have to do with ChemDraw when you start using it. And you will also have noticed, of course, that when you type labels of common protecting groups (Cbz, Boc, TBDMS) the molecular weight gets calculated automatically AND accurately. That’s because ChemDraw knows to which structures those labels correspond.
What you may not know: you can actually select a label, or an entire molecule containing multiple labels, and go to Structure > Expand Label or click on the corresponding icon in the Structure toolbar and POOF! a fully drawn structure magically appears! This also works to expand peptide residues from their letter representation to their full structure.
Time saved: Running 2 or 3 TLCs
Clean-up operations (since ChemDraw 10 or 13)
There are so many shortcuts available in ChemDraw that it has become difficult to create new ones because the key combinations are already taken! One where our users never fail to impress me is the structure clean-up: “Ctrl+Shift+K”. Not the most straightforward to memorize, and despite that fact a very well-known shortcut, which speaks to its usefulness: adjusting the bond lengths and angles of the molecule neatly to have your molecule ready for prom night (or your presentation, whichever).
A new one was introduced with ChemDraw 13: “Ctrl+Shift+X” to clean up entire reactions, which, combined with the quick reaction selection (double-click on reaction arrow) is always a big hit for users.
Time saved: Working-up your overnight reaction
Joining two molecules together (Again, since ChemDraw 8?)
We could have started this list with the joining shortcut, as it ranks very high in the ability to make a crowd of users go “Wow”, but we can also save the best for last. Very simply, you select two atoms by holding down the Shift key and clicking on each of them. Then you press “Ctrl + j”. “J” like “joining”, and your two molecules become one, nice and easy. No more dragging one atom over the other and then grabbing the rest of the molecule and carrying it over to position it in a way that doesn’t look TOO bad.
One question always comes up: “What if I want the other atom to remain” for example in the case of acid plus amine gives an amide. Simply press “o” to switch it to the ester. Another rule for this shortcut is: the first atom/bond you select stays put and the second will come to it.
Time saved: Packing and running a chromatography column
In the end it is all in the little time-saving things and the attention to detail, which, when combined together, create the best user experience there is for a chemist and make ChemDraw an application a chemist “cannot live without”. Those are not my words, I’m just paraphrasing the users I talk to. But to be honest, as a Chemist, neither can I.