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Some productivity tips (2)

In my previous post I wrote about the use of Copying in RSpace to generate new content from old content. In this and subsequent posts, I’ll cover Forms, Templates and Snippets. All of these have their uses, but it’s not always obvious when to use each approach. So, let’s start with Forms.

Forms define  the structure and organisation of a set of fields from which documents will be created. You can think of a field as individual item of content. For example, the standard Experiment form has several text fields for Method, Results, Conclusion. From this single form, you can create a limitless number of documents, that will all have the same basic  structure.

You don’t have to stick with Text fields – you can also define Number, Date, Time, and Choice fields (for example a list of items such antibodies or primers).

Creating a form isn’t something you’ll do every day – you might create a new form before performing a new set of experiments, in order to record the experiments in a standardized format. You might also want to create a form that everyone in the lab can use, so that similar experiments can be written up in  a standardized way across the lab.

To create a new Form, go to MyRSpace and then click on ‘Create Form’ button. A form editor will appear, and you can create, name,  set default content, and order fields as you see fit for your purposes. You can save the form and come back to it later if you want to. You can also just delete it and start over if you’re not happy with it. Giving it an icon is a good idea, as you will be able to recognize documents created from that form in your workspace.

When you’re happy with the Form (which up to now is completely private to you) you can publish it. Publishing it has the following effects:

  • You can share it with your group(s) or all RSpace users (or just keep it to yourself)
  • You can create new documents derived from this form.

Once published and saved, you will now be able to select the form in the Form List and ‘Add it to Create Menu’. This means that if you click Create..Other Document then your new form will appear in that form listing and you can create a new document from it.

In the Form List, you’ll probably also see other peoples’ forms. If you see one that’s useful to you, you can copy it ( select its checkbox, then click Copy). The Copy of the form will be your own independent copy belonging to you, and you can adjust it and edit it just as if you had created it from scratch.

If you’re working in a group, then a suggestion is to discuss amongst yourselves what Forms would be useful to the group and how fine-grained you want them to be. For example, you might be content with fairly generic forms (‘Experiment’, ‘Protocol’, ‘Resource’) or you might want to develop forms for particular experiment types (RT-PCR, PCR, RNA-i, Western blot, etc). There’s no single right way – but coming to a mutual agreement within a group that everyone can work with is a good first step.

So to conclude, Forms are useful when

  • you want to create a set of documents with a defined and consistent structure.
  • you want to ensure that you add specific data to documents, by having a field dedicated to that data.
  • you will be performing many experiments of a similar type and want to makes sure you record them in similar way.
  • different people in the lab are doing  the same types of work, which should be recorded consistently.

Creating specific forms may not be worthwhile if

  • you just want to record unrelated ad-hoc notes.
  • your lab environment is anarchic, or people prefer not to collaborate with each other.

One other benefit of Forms is that they have their own Search category in the ‘Search’ dropdown menu, so you can search for all documents that were created using that Form.

To learn more about Forms, please go to the Forms documentation page or watch our video.

In my next post, I’ll write about Templates, another useful productivity feature in RSpace.

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