A user survey

I wanted to get an overview of who the users of MolView are and which features they really like, so I created a survey using Google Forms and asked users to fill it out. It’s been over a month now and I got 57 replies. That’s probably not enough for solid stats. However, it was definitely fun to read how much everyone likes MolView! In this post I’ll show a couple of charts from the survey. I’ll also respond to some comments. If your question remains unanswered, please do not hesitate to ask it in the comments or send me an email!

Who uses MolView?

First, users had select to which user category they belonged (high school students, university students, teachers, researchers or enthusiasts), and how often they used MolView on a scale of one (occasionally) to five (often). In the chart below, I added this last number from all users in a specific user category to get an impression of how much each user category uses MolView (so a user who uses MolView often adds five points to his/her user category while a user who uses MolView occasionally only adds one point).

The chart below shows the average experience with similar software, such as ChemDoodle, PyMOL, Jmol and ChemWriter, per user category. Users were again asked to choose a number between 1 (no experience) and 5 (much experience).

  1. 3D tools (like: 3D editing, more color schemes, show/hide hydrogen)
  2. 2D editing tools (like: polymers, fisher projection, copy/paste)
  3. Computational chemistry (like: orbitals, molecular dynamics)
  4. Loading/saving files from MolView (to the cloud)
  5. Search tools (like: sort/filter/search by properties)
  6. Molecular spectra analysis (like: NMR active nuclei, IR characteristics)
  7. Jmol scripting (or exposing more Jmol features)
  8. Rendering images using ray-tracing (QuteMol, POV-Ray)

  • Some users submitted new ideas. These are covered in the comments section below.

How should MolView 3 look?

  • Users were able to pick a number between one (negative) and five (positive). Note that the differences have been magnified for convenience.

What are typical devices and limitations?

  • ChromeOS was included in the form because it is a very important target OS for MolView.

What applications are used together with MolView?

Comments from users

Below are some fragments from user comments in the form that I want to reply to. The form was anonymous so I don’t know who submitted the comments. Feel free to email me if you want me to remove or edit your comment. I slightly edited some comments to remove errors or to detach it from the rest of the comment.

Q. An offline application

A. Good point! I am redesigning the architecture of MolView 3 in such a way that it can be distributed as a Chrome App where a couple of important features can be used offline.

Q. A drawing layer to mark a part of a molecule

A. Great idea! In MolView 3 I will add support for add-on modules. This might just become such an add-on!

Q. Rotate 3D molecules independent of each other (to compare configurations for example)

A. This feature has been requested before. It’s definitely useful, but technically it’s surprisingly difficult. I’ll keep thinking about it!

Q. Ability to draw reactions and isomers with R

A. I’m planning to add a lot of new features to the sketcher of MolView 3. There will be all sorts of new sketching features like functional groups and perhaps also R.

Q. It would be awesome if you continued to provide HTML embed codes because it is one of the killer features in your app which make me use MolView from other apps.

A. I definitely will! I added a deprecation message because the http://molview.org/embed endpoint will no longer be available in MolView 3. However, I silently updated MolView to use http://embed.molview.org/v1/ for embedding. MolView 3 will keep supporting this endpoint including the v1 embedding parameters! You’ll have to update your embed codes to the new endpoint though. By the way, embedding will get even more awesome in MolView 3!

Q. It would be awesome if there were a Google Docs add-on…

A. Absolutely! I have been thinking about a Google Docs add-on too. I also want to provide a so called gadget so you can embed MolView in Google Sites!

Q. To prepare my school course, I search for the molecules I want to show. It would be nice if there is be a possibility to choose the last molecules, even if they are not in a database.

A. In theory the molecule is saved to the URL as soon as you convert it to a 3D model. If there is no database record (which is rare because PubChem has over 50 million compounds), a SMILES string is stored in the URL. A SMILES string can store (almost) any molecular structure. Therefore you can simply copy/paste the URL into your notes.

However, MolView 3 will add a more elegant solution for this issue! It will store all recent searches in your HTML5 local storage (in contrast with cookies, this is 100% client-side). You’ll also be able to save molecules to a file. A third idea I came up with while writing this answer is to not only store recent searches to your local storage, but also the entire edit history. This way you can continue where you left when you re-open MolView!

Q. Let me know if you ever need translational help (German).

A. Thank you for offering! I want to build a community-driven localization platform for MolView 3 and everyone is welcome to join!

Q. I love MolView! I am hoping to use it as a replacement for Spartan software, so I would love to see more as far as calculations (dipole magnitude, energy of formation, etc).

A. MolView is still much simpler than Spartan and is actually not intended to entirely replace software like Spartan. However, making computational chemistry more intuitive is an important purpose of MolView, so there will definitely be more tools over time! And everyone will be able to contribute more tools to MolView by building add-ons!


MolView has gained a lot of users since it was first released on molview.org one year ago. I’ve collected some analytics in the line chart below. There have been over 30.000 sessions in the past year! Traffic has sextupled (…) since July 2014 (it’s not entirely a fair comparison, but let’s forget that for a second) If MolView can maintain this growth there will be 30k sessions per month by July next year! And to think there has barely been any advertisement yet.

I’ve been working on an out of the box design for MolView in the past month. I’ll publish the mockups soon. Stay tuned!