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Why Bioscientists Should All Buy Macs

Why Bioscientists Should All Buy Macs

Macs are great and there are a lot of reasons I recommend them to anyone who asks my opinion on which computer they should buy. But for bioscientists, perhaps the best reason to buy a Mac is summed up by one word:


Mekentosj is dedicated to producing fantastic software that addresses the needs of bioscientists. And they do know the needs of bioscientists, because the company was spawned from efforts by founders Alexander Griekspoor and Tom Groothuis to build software that would make their own lives as PhD students easier. Now 8 years later, Mejentosj is Mekentosj Inc. and they have an array of software that you will doubtless find useful, much of it for free.

That’s the good news. But the (possibly) bad news is that it’s all for Macs.

So what do they have that’s so great?…

4 peaks (freeware):  This was my first introduction to Mekentosj. 4 peaks is a very slick, robust and easy-to-use DNA sequence viewer. If you are using something else to view your sequences I have no doubt that 4 peaks is better…. try it.

EnzymeX (freeware): A very, very nice DNA sequence editor. Import your sequences manually or directly from NCBI, cut them up in silico with any of the 580 commercial restriction enzymes in the EnzymeX database, easily choose which buffer to use for a double digest, make restriction maps, search for motifs, calculate stuff with the whole bunch of built in. You get the idea. In the words of the creators “Finally a powerful DNA sequence editor that doesn’t look like it comes straight from the 1980’s.”

Target Scanner (freeware + open source): An easy-to-use graphical interface for identifying microRNA target genes using the UNIX Target Scan application developed by Lewis et al Cell 2003 vol.115 pp.787-798 .

Lab Assistant (freeware): Organise yourself in the lab. Create to do lists, track your experiments, manage multiple timers.  Nice.  Doesn’t make coffee though, unfortunately.

iRNAi (freeware): A feature-packed program for designing RNAi knock-down experiments.

Papers ($42; student discounts available): When it comes to organising your literature, Papers is the Daddy. It’s creators call it “ITunes for Papers” which sums it up very well. Try it for free and see how it could simplify your life.

Papers for IPhone: Now you can view your papers library on the go with the Papers IPhone App.

Solutions for IPhone: This App allows you to calculate chemical solutions in the from your phone. Make sure you don’t have your gloves on though. Solutions is also available as a dashboard widget.

These pieces of software all target specific and common problems that have been identified by real bioscientists on the ground. It is this mindset that makes Mekentosj special. The company seems to be going from strength to strength under now-CEO Alexander Griekspoor.

But I’d guess that now, since they are concentrating fully on software development, their challenge will be to maintain that grounded approach and make sure that their solutions address the most pertinant day-to-day problems faced in the lab. Let’s hope they can because I’d love to see a lot more stuff from them.

Would you buy a Mac just to run Mekentosj programs?

Related articles:

Free Mac Software for Molecular Biologists

Free PC Software for Molecular Biologists

Bio-related Apps for IPhones


  1. Serenity on July 22, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    I can’t live without OneNote for my digital lab notebook, so PC it is :). Besides, you can find free PC software that does most if not all of those things listed above anyway. I will have to say that most of my lab uses Macs, so I’m kind of the black sheep of the group, heh.

    As for reference management, I use the cross-platform Zotero, which is a great Firefox extension and is, in my opinion, on par with Papers (in fact, I like it even more because you can access your reference library from any computer).

  2. Peter Blazso on July 22, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    I do not like to depend on a for-profit company (like Apple). Vast amount of other, cross-platform open source software alternatives exist so you don’t have to stick yourself to a specific platform. I think in biology or science interoperability is as important as productivity.

  3. Johannes on July 22, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    If I would list the reasons why scientists should run linux (in the end OsX is a flavor of unix as well, which most users are not aware of) I would not be done within the next hours. For Macs you always pay for the design….which is slick nevertheless, but really powerful bioinformatics (*all freeware*) you will only find on linux and that runs on every machine…..

  4. David on July 22, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Great article. Personally I despise macs as I find they take 10 times as long to use as a PC (but I’ve also grown up on a PC….so bias anyone?)

    Regardless this article sparked me to search for a suitable windows platform. I’m currently doing my MSc, so this program is going to be a huge help to me. Check out: http://www.mendeley.com/ and perhaps it’ll help you too. It’s a great program for keeping track of your papers and managing citations. It was easy to install, easy to add papers and it’s free.

    I haven’t got to play with all the features yet, but I figured I’d share just in case anyone else was looking for something different.

  5. Dinesh on July 26, 2009 at 2:10 am

    Aaah… Thats why I run both Mac OS X and Ubuntu. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages but I love them both.

    What I feel is that with a Mac you can get things done more quickly and easily. The software you have for the Mac is generally of very high quality.

    With Linux, sometimes you need to tinker a bit for it to work.

    @Nick Yea. It would be great if there were articles on the Linux. I can help but have absolutely no time. If I do find some will let you know.

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