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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Summer 2009

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Electronic Resources Reviews


Norah Xiao
Science and Engineering Librarian
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California

Copyright 2009, Norah Xiao. Used with permission.


Launched by Elsevier in January 2009, Reaxys is a web-based chemistry information search suite, aiming to provide users with easy-to-use, comprehensive, and in-depth information search capabilities within one universal platform.


Reaxys includes three chemistry information databases: Beilstein, Gmelin, and Patent Chemistry Database (see Table 1).

Table 1. Content Information of Reaxys




Patent Chemistry Database (PCD)


Beilstein Handbook of Organic Chemistry

Gmelin Handbook of Inorganic and Organometallic Chemistry

USPTO and esp@cenet

Subject scope

organic chemistry

inorganic and organometallic chemistry

organic chemistry and life science

Time span

journals since 1771, and
patent publications from1869-1980

journals from 1772 to 1995

US patents from 1976, and World and European patents from 1978

Special notes

limited to ~200 organic synthesis journals

Limited to ~100 inorganic journals;
wwnership belongs to Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker e.V. (GDCh)

Created by Elsevier to expand patent coverage of Beilstein with the same literature selection and extraction criteria

Reaxys is currently updated monthly, and will be on a bi-weekly schedule soon.

Before Reaxys was developed, these databases were available via several search suites. For instance, CrossFire Commander is one of most popular suites within academic institutions. However, CrossFire Commander requires software installation, and its complex search interface has limited acceptance by users. With that in mind, Elsevier decided to create an easier to use web-based interface for these three important chemical databases. It is the expectation that researchers can streamline their information searching from this web-version interface, and have better search capabilities to find and retrieve relevant information for their specific research topics.

This review attempts to provide an overview of Reaxys’s functions and special features. It will not cover the comprehensive details of its contents or search capabilities.

Search Interface

The most noticeable improvement of Reaxys is its search interface, which is intuitive, easy to use, and offers powerful search functions (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Reaxys Default Open Page

With its web-based interface, Reaxys does not require any software installation. It runs on a PC or Mac through Internet Explorer (6.0 or higher), Firefox (1.5 or higher), or Safari (2 or higher). The Java plug-in (1.5 or higher) is a prerequisite. With a subscription, users have unlimited access with their corporate/institution’s IP authentication.

Users can register for personal accounts in the database (Figure 1). More personalized services such as "Modify application setting" and "Save search queries or results" are available in personal accounts. Normally when a database changes its interface, the biggest fear for users is how soon they can find their needed search functions. Elsevier has made easier the transition for users. In "Modify application setting" of a personal account, users can choose their preferred structure editor from four structure editors provided by Reaxys (Figure 2). CrossFire Commander’s 'loyal' users can choose CrossFire Commander’s structure editor as their structure search editor in Reaxys. The "Modify application setting" feature gives users familiarity in the new interface, and shortens the learning curve.

Figure 2. "My Setting" of Reaxys

The top layer tabs provide options for the search process (Figure 1), which includes "Query," "Results," "History," and "Synthesis Plan." Users can select any of these tabs as needed during a search session.

The default opening page of Reaxys is Query, including "Reaction Search," "Substance and Properties Search," and "Text, Authors and More." For most users, the structure search for reactions and substances is a search strategy used frequently.

A general search can be conducted as follows:

  1. Launch an external editor by double-clicking the structure search window
  2. Draw the structure/reaction query; upload or modify saved structure queries
  3. Transfer the drawn query into structure search window
  4. Search, and
  5. Refine results by filters if necessary

Within "Reaction" and "Substance" searches, there are more search options:

Figure 3. Generate Structure search from Reaxys

Figure 4a. Form-Based Reaction Search with Reaxys

Figure 4b. Form-Based Substance Search with Reaxys