Introducing Chemistry Add-in for Word

Every discipline has its own language. The ability to communicate and collaborate in a discipline-specific language is essential to scientific research, especially in an environment characterized by staggering volumes of data.   


In chemistry, not only is there a specific language, but also specific symbols. Empowering those symbols by enabling them to communicate across technologies and formats, as well as simplifying authoring and semantic annotation, is at the heart of the Chemistry Add-in for Word. Informally called Chem4Word, this free tool is being unveiled today during the American Chemical Society’s Spring 2010 National Meeting & Exposition.


Chem4Word makes it easier for students, chemists and researchers to insert and modify chemical information, such as labels, formulas and 2-D depictions, from within Microsoft Office Word. Designed for and tested on both Word 2007 and Word 2010, it harnesses the power of Chemical Markup Language (XML for chemistry), making it possible not only to author chemical content in Word, but also to include the data behind those structures.  Chem4Word and Chemical Markup Language make chemistry documents open, readable and easily accessible, not just to other humans, but also to other technologies.


In the image below, the name and 2D views of the same chemical are shown in the document, along with the Chemistry Navigator, which displays all of the chemistry zones within the current document.




In addition to authoring functionality, Chem4Word enables user denotation of inline “chemical zones,” the rendering of high-quality and print-ready visual depictions of chemical structures and the ability to store and expose semantic-rich chemical information across the global chemistry community.


The product of an ongoing collaboration between Microsoft Research and Dr. Peter Murray-Rust, Dr. Joe Townsend, and Jim Downing from the Unilever Centre for Molecular Science Informatics at the University of Cambridge, the Chem4Word project took inspiration from the mathematic-equation authoring capabilities in Word 2007.  We also have taken advantage of user-interface extensibility and XML features already included in Office 2007 and Office 2010, and we hope this provides a demonstration of the power of Microsoft Office as a platform.  Microsoft Research worked closely with key individuals in the field of chemistry to develop this tool, but Microsoft Office provides the tools and resources to enable other domains to develop on top of Office applications.


Further guiding the development of the Chem4Word project was the Microsoft External Research team’s commitment to supporting the scholarly communications lifecycle, which calls for software and related services that enable the coordinated, seamless exchange of data and information, from authoring through publication to long-term preservation.   


The beta release of the Chemistry Add-in for Word is available for free download. Later this year, it will be released as an open-source project under an Apache license via CodePlex.


Alex Wade, director for Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research

Comments (24)
  1. Jonathan says:

    Great tool.  Is there a site with cml files to increase the number of molecules?  This looks very useful, but I only found 6 chemicals to use with this.

  2. onaim says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    This is certainly in our plans, but do not currently have a site available. Once we release the CodePlex version of this project later this year, the idea is to create a community around it, where the community shares information that can benefit everyone and make the product better. Sharing molecules defined in CML fits very nicely in this model.

    Hope this helps!



  3. This is a fantastic innovation from Microsoft..I know that XML has rich set of features. It is interesting to know that XML can be customized as CML

  4. Joel Morton says:

    This looks like an amazing tool! I teach introductory high-school chemistry and I think this will be a great addition to Word and the rest of the Office Suite for teachers and students. It looks like this will make it much easier and quicker to create documents for students.

  5. Ute Simon says:

    I installed and tested this add-in with Office 2010 Beta. It displays small 2D-structures like water and ethanol fine, but distorts larger ones like testosterone, so that they look like a pile of lines. I am using the German versions of Windows 7 and Office 2010 Beta (both 32 bit) – might that be the reason for these problems? I understand that this add-in is in early beta stage and will test it again, if it is in a later stage. But for the moment it is not usable for me.

    And a wish for a later stage: Make the add-in available for PowerPoint, too. Including the edit feature. Many scientists not only publish their findings as a document, but also want to present them on slides.

  6. Kjemikeren says:

    Great idea. I think. Because I cannot get it to work. Win7, Office2007, all updated. If I convert a word og formula to chemistry zone, it seems to convert it to a formula (math) instead. If I click it, it gives me the formula edit ribbon. If I try to insert from chemistry gallery, it gives an error message (indata string invalid format), and inserts at big blank image placeholder.


  7. James Ianni says:

    Can this addin work in Excel? This would be major boom for the users of the Kintecus chemical software simulation code.

  8. Martin Brändle says:

    I saw the demo at the ACS National Meeting, and it was impressing.


    – especially in organic chemistry where this add-in will be useful, Apple Macintosh computers are widespread (e.g. about one third of the computers in the organic chemistry institute of ETH Zürich are Macs). If this add-in shall be adopted by the community and be successful, Microsoft has to release a version for Word for Mac.

    – to what extent will the add-in support internationalization? Chemical names are written differently in other languages than English.

  9. onaim says:

    Hi everybody,

    First of all, thank you very much for all your comments. Your feedback is very important to us!

    Let me try to respond to all your questions above one by one (in no particular order):

    1. There is no version of this add-in for Mac at the moment, but the source code will be available in CodePlex soon.

    2. The official supported version of Office 2010 is RC(build 14.0.4536.1000 or later).

    3. In order to convert a particular element to a Chemistry zone, we wrap our context control as a “Math zone”. This is why sometimes you get into the Math zone when you really want to select the Chemistry zone. This is a known issue, but it should not affect any functionality. You could also refer to the “help” section of the add-in, which contains the user’s guide, for additional information.

    4. It would be certainly possible to port this add-in to other Office products such as Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. We are currently evaluating some of these options, but this is something where the community could potentially participate once the code is avaliable in CodePlex.

    5. The current version of the add-in only supports US English. However, it should actually work even if Office is set to another locale. If you have any issues with a particular language, please contact me at and I’ll happy to provide further assistance.

    Thank you very much again for your interest in Chem4Word!



  10. Dayna says:

    I love the add in, however, I am having a problem with an error code. I’ve taken everything apart, but can’t seem to correct it. Error reads as follows:

    error found in Customer UI XML of "Chemistry Add-in for Word":

    line: 7

    Column: 105

    Error Code 0x80004005

    Some properties of built-in controls cannot be modified: CustomGallery5

    I’ve tried the MSDN site as well as several others, but I can’t find anything that applies. Thanks.


  11. onaim says:

    Hi Dayna,

    Could you please contact me directly at and send me the following information so that we can investigate?

    1. OS version.

    2. Office version.

    3. Steps to reproduce this problem.

    4. Screenshots (if applicable).

    Once we complete our investigation, I will publish the results on the blog.



  12. JimChristian says:

    This looks like it will be very useful.  How do I add things to the gallary?  The gallery had just 6 molecules initially.  I found over 200 CML files in C:Program FilesChemistry Add-in for WordSmartTag (not c:Program FilesChem4Worddata as given in the user guide) and a lot more at SourceForge.  I was able to open one file using the From File command, save it, and have it appear in the gallery, but this will be awkward for multiple files.  Does the current version of the add-in support reading a large library of CML files?

  13. onaim says:

    Hi Jim,

    You are absolutely right. After we publish the source code in CodePlex, the next update of Chem4Word should actually address the scenario that you are describing. You could also imagine that molecule definitions in CML could be available in the cloud as a library accessed via a web service.

    A lot of these ideas are currently being worked out and more information will be available once the current version is published in CodePlex shortly.



  14. onaim says:

    Hi all,

    The issue described by Dayna above has been fixed and it will be available when we publish the open source version of the add-in in CodePlex.

    Thanks for your feedback!



  15. onaim says:

    Hi all,

    The source code for Chem4Word is now available at:

    Discussions, issue tracking and future work will now continue on the CodePlex site.



  16. Jay Glasel says:

    Conversion to .CML files via OpenBabel of the very extensive available .XML and .SDF structure files on PubChem does not produce .CML files that are valid inputs to Word4Chem. Rather than worry about producing libraries of .CML files, if you could make this one conversion work, it would save a huge amount of time and effort.

  17. LISpeedyG says:

    Hi All,

    Great download..  But, I am getting the same error as noted in a previous post.  I noted that the error was fixed in a new version of this project that was be posted on CodePlex.  But, no downloads exist..

    Is this project still in existence?  If so, please point me to it/them.



  18. ksemyan says:

    Hi Gus,

    Yes, the project still exists. Can you please send us the error info (or to post it to the list?

    Thank you!

    External Research blog team

  19. <a href="">Chemical Inventory</a> says:

    This looks like a very innovative product. I have to download it and test it.

  20. Phong Huynh says:

    I installed Chem4word but cannot load it. I looked at the add-in tag and found that the chem4word add-in was inactive. How can I enable it ?


  21. ksemyan says:

    Hi Phong Huynh,

    Please pose your question on the project site at Please list your operating system and the version of Word that you are using. That will be a great help in diagnosing the issue. Thank you!  

  22. Andrew says:


    Just wanted to know whether there is a Mac version yet.

    It would be very useful for my Prac work.


  23. ksemyan says:

    Hi Andrew,

    There is not yet a version of Chem4Word that will run on MacOffice, although you can open/view documents that have been created in Word for Windows, and the underlying chemical data is preserved within the .docx file.

  24. Ludivine Moine says:

    Is there a way to have an add-in for OneNote 2007 to allow chemical structure search? Thanks

Comments are closed.