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The Merck Index 13.2 Online
Dana L. Roth

Dana Roth has a BS in Chemistry from UCLA, an MS in Chemistry from Caltech and an MLS in Library Service from UCLA. Employed at Caltech since 1965, he served as the Head of Science and Engineering Libraries from 1983-1995 and is currently the chemistry librarian. His other interests are politics and history, especially the World War II era.

ONE OF THE NICEST features of an online database is the relative ease of updating. Coupled with the potential for infinite expandability, the promise of reclaiming older material, that was once deleted from print editions for space reasons, is now being realized.

New Version 13.2

The Merck Index online database is currently in Version 13.2. This newer version contains all the data that was published in the 13th edition print volume, plus 100 totally new monographs, and 540 monographs that were retired from the 12th edition print volume, resulting in a total of 10,890 monographs.

For most chemists and chemistry librarians, The Merck Index is an obvious first choice for information on chemicals, drugs, and biological substances (based either on current or historical importance and interest). While the number of compounds and substances obviously does not compare with the Combined Chemical Dictionary (500,000), the level of detail in The Merck Index is virtually unique. For example, the record for Prozac, which is included with its chemical parent, provides an excellent example of the information available for a variety of research activities.

Figure 1: Name Reactions section with literature references.

What’s Included

There are more than 4,000 monographs describing drugs and pharmaceuticals, more than 2,000 organic chemicals and reagents, more than 2,000 natural products and plants, more than 1,000 elements and inorganic chemicals, and more than 1,000 compounds in agriculture and several hundred endogenous substances and biological agents. As an aside, there are nearly 5,000 different cited work references in the Web of Science to The Merck Index accounting for over 10,000 citations since 1945.

In addition to extensive revision and updating of the monographs (there are over 600 literature references dated 2000-2004), some significant new features of the 13th edition include:
  • CAS Registry Numbers are now included in the monographs.
  • Organic Name Reactions have been updated, revised and have standardized schema.

Organic Name Reactions, knowledge of which is essential for success in both undergraduate and graduate level organic chemistry courses, can be either browsed or keyword searched. Name Reaction descriptions are detailed and include both the original and recent literature references, as shown above in Figure 1. There are currently 446 Organic Name Reactions. These are primarily historical in origin, but include the CBS, Evans Aldol and Olefin Metathesis reactions from the 1980s. There are less than 30 literature references from 2000-2004, with 27 coming from 2000.

Figure 2: The interface displayed to the user when performing a compound search.

Quick Access

The Merck Index Online introduction page provides quick access to:
  • Search Compound Monographs (ChemDraw Plugin)
  • Search Compound Monographs (no ChemDraw Plugin)
  • View the Organic Name Reactions
  • View the Additional Tables
  • General Information(including System Requirements and a User’s Guide)


Clicking Compound Search displays the Structure/substructure search window, Figure 2. This feature utilizes the Chem-Draw Plugin and is facilitated by the ChemDraw Manual. The online manual is located at services/documentation/manuals_ desktop.cfm. If you are a beginner with ChemDraw, Chapter 2 of the manual also contains some helpful tutorials on how to get started.

If the ChemDraw tools pallet is accidentally closed and doesn’t display, right click in the structure window, then choose View and Show Main Tools.

The Full Text Search box allows Boolean combinations (NEAR, AND, OR, AND NOT) of terms parsed from the full text of the monographs. Truncated terms must contain (*) and be searched individually. For example: Benzeneprop*.

Search terms in the All Names and CAS Names boxes are assumed to be both left and right truncated. Here, (*) is used as an internal wild card, with (=) defining exact terms (e.g. Benzene will retrieve Acetylbenzene and benzeneacetic, Ben*ide will retrieve Benzyl Chloride and 2-Methoxybenzamide, while =Benzene retrieves Benzene). This will be familiar to those who have used ChemFinder or ChemINDEX.

Formula searching is similar (e.g. C6H6 will retrieve C6H6N2O, =C6H6 will retrieve Benzene,

C6 N1-3 will retrieve C6H6N2O, etc.). Numerical searching tips include: (x-y) for range searching, (x >= y) or (x <= y) for above and below a certain number. Combination searching allows substructures to be combined with molecular weight range and name fragment, for example.

Clicking Help and then Index gives a searchable contents display. Clicking Preferences allows alterations in the default display and search parameters. For example, the display list can be set to show the first 100 records.

Structure and text displays can be easily copied and pasted into Microsoft Word documents, if you are not using the ChemDraw Plugin. Columns of text data from the table view can also be copied or pasted.

“The Merck Index is an obvious first choice for information on chemicals, drugs, and biological substances. ”

System Requirements

In general, for Windows machines the requirements are Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.x or greater, Netscape 6.2.x or Mozilla 1.x or greater. The latest free ChemDraw Net Plugin is also required.


As a faithful user of The Merck Index since its 7th edition in 1960, who will probably continue to use the print version for quick simple lookups, I am very appreciative of The Merck Index online. In addition to the availability of a wide variety of combination searches, no longer having to remind users to check the Name Index will make this librarian’s job much easier. Merck is to be congratulated for its continuing commitment to excellence in the production of The Merck Index. CambridgeSoft deserves appreciation for providing a stable platform and easy-to-use software for the electronic version. I rate this product a 4.9 out of 5.

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