Skip to Main Content

Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs): Features of ELNs

A guide to picking and using an electronic lab notebook

Electronic Lab Notebooks

Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs) facilitate data storage and organization and, compared to print lab notebooks, provide advanced features that allow for data storage, searchability, data integration, data analysis, and the ability to share among collaborators. 

Pictured below: Examples of two ELN interfaces (Benchling, left; Labfolder, right).

Benefits of using ELNs:

  • searchability
  • remote access 
  • ability to easily share with collaborators
  • easy to decipher
  • allows for capture and incorporation of high-quality images
  • provides a timestamp for future patent protection
  • ability to import / export data files
  • allows for long-term storage and preservation 
  • easy to copy and paste entries to adapt future experiments instead of rewriting the same material

Downsides of ELNs:

  • Potential costs (e.g., when data storage or number of users exceed limits)
  • Reliance on network connections and stability of the company
  • Time and effort to figure out what best suites your research