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Felix Grant puts the latest statistical packages to the test

Origin and OriginPro 9.0 O

rigin and OriginPro (hereafter, just ‘Origin’ with indication where something is only available

in the Pro version) both went 64-bit in their previous release (8.6) and it was a welcome advance, but this is the update in which the effects start to show off. On the most intensively demanding graphing tasks, you don’t need a benchmark test to show their speed gain; it’s visible as you work. One complex 3D operation that used to allow me time for a swig of coffee is now complete before I lift my finger from the mouse click that triggered it. During the period of review, I worked

with researchers who were using release 8.6 as part of a workflow pipeline for text analysis (see Text Analysis feature on page 18). Replicating some parts of their technique at home it was clear that, even in this untypical mixed role, things ran faster in the new version,

EndNote X6

While there are several developments in X6, the big news has to be that EndNote has completed its development of a viable cloud integration. There are a number of benefits, but the two big ones are geographic access and platform independence. Like many users, I work from wherever I happen to be, using whatever machine is most appropriate; I like to keep and manage my core bibliographic databases on a single master computer at my base, but want to access and update those in use from anywhere in the world on any device – including a smartphone. The online EndNote Web tool has been available, and becoming progressively stronger, for some time, but until now the link between it and

the desktop was less than transparent. That problem has now been addressed. From within EndNote X6 on the desktop you set preferences for automatic synchronisation between local and web versions of your bibliographic database, then forget it. Every change you make on your desktop is reflected in your web image and vice versa. Storage limit is now 50,000 records and five gigabytes, which ought to satisfy most users. There are a couple of caveats that need to be mentioned, but since (in my opinion) they reduce neither the value of the development nor the incentive to upgrade, details of which can be found in my full review online.

While EndNote is designed as an individual tool, it’s always been easy enough to share references with


others; it did involve some organisation, however. Synchronisation with a web image now makes collaboration much smoother, with options to allocate view, read and write permissions to groups of records. Records (or attached PDFs) can also be directly emailed from the database listing. As I’ve recently seen demonstrated (see Text Analysis feature on page 18), it’s also possible to link these collaboration methods directly to external utilities as part of an analytic or other workflow.

As is invariably the case with any upgrade, there are a lot of developments in detail that can’t be listed, but that make a great collective difference to usability and productivity. Examples are new tracking tools, global or local text transforms, variant

even on a slower machine. Exactly how much of this is a result of refined 64-bit utilisation and how much is down to default OpenGL graphics for 3D work I can’t say, but the net result is startling and impressive.

Putting aside the speed issue, my personal favourite picks were additions that make work flow more smoothly and, therefore, render data exploration and interpretation more transparent. One of these is the addition of an

Excel-like data filter. Though there are slight differences in its look and feel, anyone who has used Excel’s column filters will feel at home with Origin’s implementation. As a practical example, I had a dataset in which I had to analyse data only for those respondents who were aged over 18 and had answered ‘yes’ to a particular question. A couple of clicks hid the rows that were not required and, in an improvement over the usual spreadsheet approach, asked me if I wanted to include the hidden rows in subsequent analyses. This could, of course, have been done in previous versions; it could also be done in other ways, but not with so little effort or fuss. Making Excel users feel at home is a long-term aim of most worksheet- based software tools, and Origin is no exception. Also in 9.0 is an unremarked but significant adjustment in its approach to workspaces: a relaxing of the page-based paradigm. It comes

in the form of floating plots which can be placed, as in many spreadsheets, within the worksheet itself rather than a separate child window. There are many other welcome little touches scattered throughout, which seem minor but can make a disproportionate contribution to productivity and/or usability. The option to choose whether copy actions in the Data Info tool embrace the whole window (as previously) or just the chosen cell is one example (but make sure that you have the latest service release, as this was not available initially). There were at least three individual

features of this release that I would, even individually, see as self-funding justifications for upgrade. Taken together, for anyone depending on software of this type for their work, I’d say that the case is clear-cut.

To read the full reviews, please visit

format handling, response to PubMed changes, XML capture, and so on. All in all, X6 again pulls the difficult trick of providing enhancement and added value within its specialised area of work, while also responding effectively to the continuing shift of working practices from fixed locations to platform independent mobility. Endnote X6 is available from Adept Scientific: products/refman/endnote

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