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Chemistry add-in for Word goes open-source

Microsoft is now offering an add-in that lets Word users view and work on chemical structures to the open-source community. The tool was originally a beta project between Microsoft and the University of Cambridge.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
Putting together chemical structures in Microsoft Word with the Chem4Word add-in. Microsoft

Microsoft today announced that its chemistry add-in for Word is now freely available for download and tweaking by the open-source community.

The tool, which was released in beta form in March of last year and has since been downloaded 250,000 times, lets users create and modify chemical information inside of Word 2007 and 2010. This includes chemical formulas, labels, and 2D structures that can more easily be worked on than with Word's standard formatting tools.

Also known as Chem4Word, the add-in was developed through a partnership between Microsoft Research and three professors at the University of Cambridge. As part of the move to a v1 release, Microsoft has handed over the project to The Outercurve Foundation, which is putting it in its Research Accelerators Gallery where open-source community members can make changes to it.

"By shifting the project to the Foundation, we are encouraging scientists around the globe to engage, contribute, enhance, and support the original authors on this project," Outercurve's executive director Paula Hunter said in a blog post on the group's site. "They have done some heavy lifting, but I am sure will welcome new collaborators," she said.

Since the move to Outercurve's gallery, project collaborators are already planning to bring 3D functionality to the tool, along with vector graphics rendering, and improved performance.

Users who want to grab the add-in can find it here.