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ELN - an Electronic Lab Notebook


ELN is an Electronic Lab Notebook for scientists of all stripes. ELN is great for:

  • Taking notes during experiments since it automatically saves your input every 10 seconds so that your notes will never be lost;

  • Keeping track of data analysis results since screen shots and other graphics can be added to a notebook page by drag-and-drop or copy-and-paste;

  • Recording your lit searches, since it will automatically download papers from PubMed and archive them with your notebook;

  • Recording your thought processes, since it will never get in the way of your typing with arbitrary constraints on input formatting.

ELN is fairly mature and used daily in our lab. ELN has never caused anyone to lose any data or notes. To the contrary, since most people type faster than they can write by hand, ELN has helped people take more detailed notes than they would otherwise have.

ELN is free and open source and is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Please visit its web page for download details.

Development continues, and your suggestions, bug reports, and contributions are welcome.


On Ubuntu Linux, Windows 7/10, and Mac OS X, you should be able to install the executables available from

Installation from source on Linux

On most Linux distributions, compilation from source should be straightforward:

  • Make sure you have the required dependencies. Most importantly, you should have the complete Qt development system installed, version 5.6.1 or above. Packages vary widely across distributions.

    On Ubuntu, you would do:

      sudo apt install git qtmultimedia5-dev \
           libqt5webkit5-dev libqt5svg5-dev asciidoc

    On OpenSUSE, you would do:

      sudo zypper install --no-recommends git libqt5-qtbase-common-devel \
           libqt5-qtmultimedia-devel libQt5WebKitWidgets-devel \
           libqt5-qtsvg-devel libqt5-qttools-devel \
           libQt5PrintSupport-devel asciidoc

    (I would be happy to include your instructions for other distributions. Please drop me a line.)

  • Clone the ELN code from github:

      git clone
  • Enter the eln directory:

      cd eln
  • Compile the code:

  • Test the result:

  • Once you are happy, install ELN to a system location:

      sudo make install

    (This installs the binaries in /usr/local/bin and some extra files in /usr/local/share. If you prefer other locations, please edit lines 10 and 11 of the Makefile.)

Please let me know if you have trouble. I will gladly try to help.

Installation from source on Mac OS X

Building from source on Mac is only slightly more involved.

  • You need to get the Qt development system and Apple's XCode development tools.

  • After that, the same git clone / cd eln / make steps should compile the code:

      git clone
      cd eln
  • You can then simply run ELN from within the build tree, or—more conveniently—build a package:

      make macdmg

    That should generate a file called "eln.dmg" that you can install in the usual way.

Installation from source on Windows

In my experience, this tends to be somewhat tricky.

  • You need to get the Qt development system.

  • If you want to build an installation package, you will need Inno Setup.

  • Use the Qt Creator to build and compile "eln" and "webgrab" in "Release" mode.

  • Test the resulting executable.

  • To properly install:

    • Open a bash shell (from git or cygwin) in the ELN root directory and type


      If you get errors, you will need to edit that script to correct paths to Qt and other essential components.

    • Open eln-x86.iss in Inno Setup; compile and run.

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