Thankfully, my days of using chemistry in school are well behind me but I easily recall the frustrations of trying to type up a chemical formula or draw a compound. Once again proving that later generations have it easier than I did, Microsoft Research in partnership with Cambridge University have released an add-in for Microsoft Word that specializes in displaying chemistry-related objects. Chem4Word, currently in beta, allows you to enter formulas, terms, editable images of compounds, and other entities.
The Chem4Word add-in is a small download found on the Chem4Word Microsoft Research page. The install is quick and painless but requires Visual Studio Tools for the Office system 3.0 Runtime as a prerequisite, which it helps you download and install as part of the setup.
Upon first running Microsoft Word 2007 after installing the add-in, you’ll be greeted with the following prompt. If you trust it, you should click the Install button.
After you allow the add-in to install, a Chemistry tab will be added to the ribbon to allow you to interact with the objects you want to designate as Chemistry Objects. Let’s say you had your chemistry homework typed up and you wanted to make use of this add-in. You would highlight the chemical name, formula, or anything else that falls into this category and then hit the ‘Mark as Chemistry’ button. You could alternatively right-click on the selection and choose Mark as Chemistry from there. After that, you can use the View button to change from a formula to name or 2-d representative diagram.
From the ribbon, you can also insert diagrams from the Chemistry Gallery for easy access to some examples of compound’s diagrams.
If you select a diagram that you’ve inserted into your document and hit the Edit button, it will bring up a special editor that allows you to change the bond angle and length. Other properties of the compound can also be changed easily and neatly.
I (and probably my chemistry teachers) wish this tool was available when I was in class. If it’s not too late for you, check out the useful Chem4Word from Microsoft Research.