Scribl: An HTML5 Canvas-based graphics library for visualizing genomic data over the web

Department of Biology, Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Ave., Chestnut Hill, MA 02467.
Bioinformatics (Impact Factor: 4.98). 11/2012; 29(3). DOI: 10.1093/bioinformatics/bts677
Source: PubMed


High-throughput biological research requires simultaneous visualization as well as analysis of genomic data, e.g. read alignments, variant calls and genomic annotations. Traditionally, such integrative analysis required desktop applications operating on locally stored data. Many current terabyte-size datasets generated by large public consortia projects, however, are already only feasibly stored at specialist genome analysis centers. As even small laboratories can afford very large datasets, local storage and analysis are becoming increasingly limiting, and it is likely that most such datasets will soon be stored remotely, e.g. in the cloud. These developments will require web-based tools that enable users to access, analyze and view vast remotely stored data with a level of sophistication and interactivity that approximates desktop applications. As rapidly dropping cost enables researchers to collect data intended to answer questions in very specialized contexts, developers must also provide software libraries that empower users to implement customized data analyses and data views for their particular application. Such specialized, yet lightweight, applications would empower scientists to better answer specific biological questions than possible with general-purpose genome browsers currently available.

Using recent advances in core web technologies (HTML5), we developed Scribl, a flexible genomic visualization library specifically targeting coordinate-based data such as genomic features, DNA sequence and genetic variants. Scribl simplifies the development of sophisticated web-based graphical tools that approach the dynamism and interactivity of desktop applications.

Availability and implementation:
Software is freely available online at and is implemented in JavaScript with all modern browsers supported.

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Available from: Michelle Meyer, Oct 16, 2015
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