The Beilstein NetFire System

Stephen R. Heller

USDA, ARS,Beltsville, MD 20702 USA

A new and valuable literature based database and search system, called NetFire , has recently been made available on the Internet by Beilstein Information Systems. It is the first attempt by Beilstein to provide chemical information outside of their main area of extracted and evaluated data. The existing Beilstein system , provided via their CrossFire system, is an in-house system which has received wide acceptance since it was introduced about two years ago. NetFire is a very new and different system, and for readers of TrAC, a nice Internet resource. It is yet another example of the innovation of new and modern electronic products which have characterized Beilstein in the few years since the organization is no longer being funded, in part, by the German Government, but rather must stand on its own.

NetFire, which is now available at no cost on a six month trial basis from December 1996 - June 1997, is a prototype version of the Beilstein bibliographic file of publications in organic chemistry, soon to be integrated into the in-house CrossFire system environment. NetFire allows one to search for titles and source references from over 140 chemistry journals in the organic chemical literature back to 1980. One can formulate a query as seen below. NetFire will return a list of relevant literature references in the format :

and (optionally) a list of the compounds described in the publication.

While the NetFire system will not replace Chemical Abstracts as a source for one to search the chemical literature, it does appear that the system has the possibility to become the first place to search, as it is now free, and will be made available at a low cost in the future. NetFire covers only the organic chemistry literature, which is another reason it will not replace Chemical Abstracts. NetFire represents another example of the free or low cost resources which are being made available via the Internet with the hopes of generating usage from a larger community than currently uses fee-based services, such as DIALOG , Questel-Orbit and the CAS STN system.

After performing the two searches shown below I went to the Chemical Abstracts database on DIALOG (File 313) to compare the output between the two database producers (Beilstein and CAS). What I found was that the CAS record (using format 5 in the DIALOG system) produced more information, primarily the CAS Registry Number for all the compounds in each article. The CAS record also had the author address (in the location field) which is not included in the Beilstein NetFire database. CAS also had additional descriptors from their extensive indexing capabilities. While the DIALOG version of the database still does not have the abstract, the STN CAplus version of this record did have the exact same abstract as the Beilstein record. What the Beilstein record had (and what cannot be seen the print version of this paper, but only in the Internet version) is that the words (author name and keywords) used for searching are nicely highlighted in red.

To show how the system works I have chosen two simple search queries. I have used Netscape 3.0 for my searches. Using older versions of Netscape and other WWW browsers have been found to cause some problems when a long abstract overflows the HTML frame it is located in and some of the text is lost. To start the first thing one does is enter an author, title, or word from the abstract of the journal article to begin a search. Instructions on how to enter these terms is found in the Search Advisor module and gives the details on how to search and use the available Boolean logic of AND, OR, NOT, and NEAR. As the search capabilities are quite powerful, I have provided some examples below. One nice feature of NetFire is that the term (keyword or author name) which causes the reference to appear as an answer is highlighted.

One can search for different words or phrases in the database. Available for searching are the author, title and the abstract fields. You can enter a single word or a phrase. In order to obtain a full search you can also try synonyms and variations of words or, even better, truncate you words. The best start is to look in the Index for different occurrences of words and phrases. NetFire supports two wildcards for truncation: The asterisk "*" (anything) and the question mark "?" (one letter). This follows the usual conventions in this respect. Both wildcards may be used in left, right or middle truncation. The following details of how to formulate a search are taken directly from the Internet NetFire instructions.

  polari?ation          could find polarization and polarisation

  *calorimet*           could find calorimeter, calorimetric,

  spectr??              could find spectral as well as spectrum

Author names should be entered in the form Surname comma blank Initial blank Initial. However, sometimes the author names do not have that fomat, possible variation from Vollhardt, K. P. C. are:

Vollhardt, K. Peter

Vollhardt, K. Peter C.

Vollhardt, Peter C.

In order to find all articles from this author you should search for:

Vollhardt, K.* or Vollhard, Peter*

Further hints on variation of author names could be received by clicking on the INDEX button.

Further possible strategies are given below:

Vollhardt*              all surnames Vollhardt

V???hardt*              all surnames such as Vollhardt or Volkhardt)

Vollhardt* and Bunz*    all articles with the two authors Vollhardt
and Bunz

All individual words (also truncated words) are searched for their occurrence anywhere in the stipulated field area (title, abstract, authors), irrespective of their position. However, searching for phrases puts more restriction on the search by requiring that two words are found in proximity to each other. At the moment only one case is realized, whereby the two words must stand next to each other and no word is between them.


acetyl* near indole*        could find acetylated indoles as well as 
                             acetyl indole
*acetyl near *azole         could find monoacetyl carbazole as well
                             diacetyl imidazole
Beckmann and rearrangement  could find rearrangement in the Beckmann
                             as well as Beckmann rearrangement

sigmatropic and methyl and *terpen*  (could find the sigmatropic
                                      of methyl groups in many
                                      of terpenoids were detected
                                      pyrolysis in the gas phase  

When you first go to the Beilstein NetFire search engine system you see a screen (shown below) with places for three search terms, the ability to search all journals or select the one you are most interested in, and also the capability to either search for articles from the entire database from 1980 to 1996 or just select the time period in years between 1980 and 1996.

NetFire Search Engine:

Please make sure that you have read our Search Notes on the possible search strategies !

Publication Years: through

We will be very pleased to hear your comments. Just use our fill-out form or mail directly to the Web-Administrator

Beilstein Homepage (graphic version) (text-only) ~ What's Hot ~ Press Releases ~ CrossFire

For the first typical search I chose to find all references to Jack Baldwin's research involving the Diels-Alder reaction. The first hit of the results is shown below:

You received 3 hits
Your search strategy was: Authors: baldwin, jack* and Title or Abstract: diels and Title or Abstract: alder

Only the first 10 are displayed, if you would like to see more then just jump to the next page:

If you would like to do another go search back to our search form.

1 out of 3

Author: Baldwin, Jack E.; Chesworth, Richard; Parker, Jeremy S.; Russell, Andrew T.
Reference: Journal, TELEAY, Tetrahedron Lett., EN, 36, 52, 1995, 9551-9554
Title: Studies Towards a Postulated Biomimetic Diels-Alder Reaction for the Synthesis of Himgravine
Abstract: The possible role of an iminium ion mediated Diels-Alder reaction on the biosynthetic pathway to himgravine is discussed.The results of a preliminary investigation of a related oxycarbenium ion mediated Diels-Alder reaction are reported and are in accord with the stereochemistry of the natural product.
CNR: 5996649

Copyright Beilstein Informationssysteme GmbH, CD&S GmbH

For the second example I chose to search for literature citations using chromatography to study odor or flavor (and truncated so as to retrieve both singular and plural). Only the 13th hit of the 561 hits is shown below:

You received 561 hits
Your search strategy was: Title or Abstract: odor or Title or Abstract: flavor* or Title or Abstract: chromatograph*

Only the first 10 are displayed, if you would like to see more then just jump to the next page:
[ Prev] 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 [ Next]

If you would like to do another go search back to our search form.

13 out of 561

Author: Awano, Ken-ichi; Yanai, Tetsuya; Watanabe, Ichiro; Takagi, Yoshikazu; Kitahara, Takeshi; Mori, Kenji
Reference: Journal, BBBIEJ, Biosci.Biotechnol.Biochem., EN, 59, 7, 1995, 1251-1254
Title: Synthesis of All Four Possible Stereoisomers of 1-Phenyl-2,3-butanediol and Both Enantiomers of 3-Hydroxy-4-phenyl-2-butanone to Determine the Absolute Configuration of the Natural Constituents
Abstract: Enantioselective syntheses of all the possible stereoisomers of 1-phenyl-2,3-butanediol (erythro isomer 1 and threo isomer 2) and of 3-hydroxy-4-phenyl-2-butanone 3, the odor components of wisteria flowers, was accomplished via Sharpless asymmetric epoxydation.The absolute configurations of 1-3 were determined by an HPLC analysis of the corresponding MTPA esters of synthetic samples.
CNR: 5998391

Only the first 10 are displayed, if you would like to see more then just jump to the next page:
[ Prev] 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 [ Next]

If you would like to do another search go back to our search form.

Copyright Beilstein Informationssysteme GmbH, CD&S GmbH

We would be very glad to hear your comments. Just use our fill-out formor mail directly to the NetFire-Administrator

Links: Beilstein Homepage (graphic version) (text-only)~ What's Hot~ Press Releases~ CrossFire

In summary what this paper has hoped to show is a new and (now free, but soon to be a low cost) valuable source of organic chemistry literature references which is the first such system available on the Internet. It is a resource that all chemists should test and decide for themselves as to its value in their everyday work. In particular I would expect that NetFire would be an extremely useful tool for undergraduate and graduate chemistry classes throughout the world.


1. The Beilstein WWW site ( has additional information on their other products.