Chemical drawings in Wikipedia

29 January 2013 - Quality control

azilsartan medoxomil.PNGWikipedia has a great layout and comes with lots of tools (table making, mathematical equations) to help out with layouts. The layout for many thousands of Wikipedia articles is standardized.

This wonderful system breaks down when it comes to chemical drawings on the organic chemistry pages. No page looks the same and techniques used vary. For example the aldol reaction page containes plain .gif images in basic gif quality, the Buchwald-Hartwig amination has .png images and the aryne page adopts a tif format. In Nicolaou Taxol total synthesis it is .svg.

A vector based format such as svg would help a lot but although you can upload a svg the image is still rendered as an .svg.png. Same goes for the .tiff format. Even if you agree on a style guideline, for example that of the ACS or IUPAC the look will not yet be consistent. First of all there is the level of anti-aliasing (removing the stair-step appearance) applied to the export image by the graphical editor. And then there is image size. A trick to improve perceived image quality is to upload a very large image have it rendered at reduced size. But what size?.

A review of chemical editors can be found at gunda.hu. In it Gunda notes that anti-aliasing is a novel feature in many editors. Good news. As it happens one of them, ChemSketch, is also available as freeware so we can put it to the test. Yes there is an anti-aliasing option but curiously only within the editor. In all exports (to tif, gif, png) it is lacking. Luckily Gunda offers a work-around: use a screen-capture such as the simple Windows 7 image snapping tool.
In other aspects ChemSketch is great. Example novel synthesis Azilsartan medoxomil (DOI)