Category: LabKey Server

Stay up to date with the latest news about LabKey Server, our open source software platform for data management, scientific workflows, and research data sharing.

31 Jan 2018

Two Key Things Your Spreadsheet-Based Research Data Management Strategy is Lacking

High-throughput analysis techniques are incredibly powerful and provide teams with more data than ever. While that depth of data often holds the key to scientific insights, organizing such large quantities of data in a consistent and discoverable way has become a major challenge for research teams.

Many teams rely on spreadsheet-based systems to organize and manage their data. This approach becomes less-effective as research scales because spreadsheet-based strategies lack two essential characteristics:

1. Consistency

Spreadsheet data management lacks consistencyManual file management relies on the individual contributor’s abilities to consistently create, name, and store data files. This opens the door to a wide range of human errors that will ultimately impact the discoverability and reliability of your data. Common consistency errors that result from manual data management include:

  • Poorly named files
  • Inconsistent locations
  • Duplicate files

2. Discoverability

Spreadsheet data management lacks discoverabilityCollecting data is a giant hurdle in research, but in reality, it is just the first of many. Researchers need to be able to locate datasets of interest in order to conduct analysis. In a file based environment, discoverability of files is dependent on the consistency with which they are maintained. Were they saved in the correct location? Have they been named according to an agreed upon convention? Is there a clear authoritative file or are there duplicates?

A hitch in any one of these areas can severely hinder the discoverability of your data and make it significantly more difficult to:

  • Track what research data has already been collected
  • Find the data you are looking for when it comes time to analyze

Biology-Aware Data Management with LabKey Server

Scientific data management systems like LabKey Server, help increase the consistency and discoverability of your research data. LabKey Server increases the consistency of data management by providing structured data grids for storing various type of research data. Each data grid type also captures relevant metadata, specific to that data type, in order to help make data more discoverable.

Research-Centric Data Structures

Unlike spreadsheets that treat all types of data the same, LabKey Server provides four primary data structures with unique features to better support common types of research data.*

LabKey Assays – Assay data grids capture data generated from individual experiment runs. Assay data is automatically structured in a batch-run-results hierarchy when data files are added. LabKey Server supports data a variety of common assay designs out of the box, but teams can also design their own assay data structure using LabKey’s General Purpose Assay Design.

LabKey Datasets – Datasets track patient/subject measurements over time. LabKey datasets are automatically aligned and joined together, making it easy to query the integrated data and to create visualizations from multiple datasets.

LabKey Specimens – Specimen repositories track the status of each specimen and vial in your inventory. Built-in reports provide a birds-eye view of specimen information, and advanced search capabilities allow for easy location of specimens.

LabKey Lists – LabKey lists provide general purpose, online, interactive grids for any tabular data. Data stored as a LabKey list can be sorted, filtered, and visualized using built-in tools.

Storing data in a consistent, structured manner is the key for teams that hope to achieve maximum efficiency in operations and maximum value from their data. Not only is it much simpler to find data when it is stored in an expected location, but the centralization and integration makes it possible to query data to more quickly locate information of interest.

Interested in learning more about how LabKey Server can increase consistency and discoverability of your research? Contact the LabKey team for more information or request a demo!

*To learn how to add data to LabKey Server, read documentation >

21 Nov 2017

What’s New in LabKey Server v17.3

We are excited to announce the release of LabKey Server v17.3! This release marks the launch of our newly redesigned user interface and includes a wide variety of other key feature and security enhancements.

Feature Highlights of Version 17.3

User Interface Update

The 17.3 release includes big improvements to the LabKey Server user interface. Enhancements include:

  • Project Navigation – Project and folder navigation has been redesigned as a single-column scrollable list, which also works well on tablets and other small windows. (docs)
  • Frameless Web Parts – You now have the option to render cleaner looking pages using “frameless” web parts, which removes the web part title, the surrounding border, and the top banner. (docs)
  • Grid Interface – Improvements include: (1) new graphics and buttons, (2) filters and sorts are automatically included when saving a custom view, and (3) when saved views exceed 10 items, a text-based filtering box makes it easier to locate the relevant views. (docs)

Electronic Signatures
Electronically sign a data grid snapshot, and specify a reason for signing. Signed documents and associated metadata, such as the signatory, the date of signing, etc. are extensively logged for auditing purposes. (docs)

REDCap Improvements
REDCap integration has been updated and enhanced, including a new graphical user interface which replaces the XML-based configuration interface, making it easier to configure connections and data export from REDCap servers. (docs)

For details on all the new features, read the release notes on the LabKey Support Portal, or download the latest version of LabKey Server.

19 Sep 2017

Before & After: A Side-by-Side Look at the New LabKey Server UI

The upcoming redesign of the LabKey Server user interface includes a variety of updates; some of which are focused on look and feel, some on interface behavior, and some technical stability. All of these changes and enhancements were carefully selected because of the contribution they will make to the overall usability of the platform. Prior to the release of the new UI as part of LabKey Server v17.3, we wanted to give users a side-by-side look at some of the key updates and how they will differ from the current UI.

Landing Page

Many of the key changes to the LabKey Server UI can be seen upon your arrival on the LabKey Server landing pages. The new interface features an updated header style with a more compact navigation and reorganized menus, the addition of a new “frameless” webpart style, and updated logic that will hide the tab bar on home projects if there is only one tab present.

Page Administration

In order to reduce the visual noise and present a cleaner UI for administrators, we have introduced a “page admin mode.” Options like “add web part” and tab editing will no longer be presented at all times and will instead only be visible when the user turns on page admin mode. Page admin mode can be easily turned on when edits to a page are needed and turned off when edits are complete.

Data Grids

Several changes have been made to the LabKey data grids in order to declutter the grid navigation and increase readability. The most notable changes include the introduction of a more icon-driven button bar with tooltips for each action available on hover, a simplified “edit” link presentation, and the addition of row highlighting.

Grid Customization

The customizing grids of data has been simplified in the new LabKey Server UI. With this update, filters and sorts added to a grid are always carried with view and no longer require an opt-in. Additionally, filters can be quickly edited using one click to reopen the filter pane or removed with by clicking the newly added [x] icon next to each filter definition.


Updates to the LabKey Server menu are both visual and technical in nature. A major shift included as part of the redesign is the transition to menus written in Bootstrap instead of Ext, that take advantage of Bootstrap’s consistent styling and built-in behavior for multiple form factors. Sub-menu behavior has also been updated so that sub-menus now replace the menu content (with a back to menu option) instead of appearing next to the primary menu. This change makes the navigating to 2nd level sub menus a much cleaner experience, as users navigate within one menu frame instead of 3. Finally, type-to-filter functionality has been added to the menus with greater than 10 values. This can initially be seen in the “More Modules” list as well as the “Grid Views” list.

12 Sep 2017

Key Steps for a Successful UI Transition

Whether you’re implementing a brand new software solution or updating an existing solution, changes that affect the workflow of team members are often a major pain point for organizations. Taking steps to manage and communicate these changes and their benefits to your users can greatly reduce the friction faced during implementation and, in turn, increase adoption by users. As you prepare to transition to the new LabKey Server UI (being released as part of LabKey Server v17.3), we encourage you to take the following steps to help manage this change and help make the UI transition a success.

Test the Redesigned Interface

Test the new interface extensively in your staging and/or test environments. As part of the 17.2 release of LabKey Server, we included the “Core UI Migration” experimental feature that allows administrators to turn on the new UI. While the interface is still in active development and certain elements may shift slightly, the bulk of the navigation changes are represented, and we encourage administrators to explore the new UI and test for:

Changes to your primary user workflows (editors, readers, administrators, etc.)
Go through the workflows of your primary users; click through the available buttons and navigate through the interface as your user would, checking for changes to their standard workflows.

Broken customizations
Check to see that customizations you have made to the interface are still functioning as expected. As part of the UI redesign, we have refactored a good portion of our own CSS in order to make it easier to maintain the platform in the long run. As a result customizations made to your server’s CSS may need updating.

UI bugs that should be reported to LabKey
Reporting bugs that you encounter during testing is an important part of the redesign process. Your feedback helps us identify and prioritize fixes that need to be made to the interface.

Identifying updates that need to be made to your server customizations and changes to your user workflows early will give you the opportunity to make adjustments and prepare for any new-interface training that might need to be done with users.

Set a Go Live Date

Decide on a date that you will make the transition to the new UI. Make sure you account for adequate time to test the new version, communicate upcoming changes and your transition plan, and train users on the new UI.

Communicate Upcoming Changes and Transition Plan

Communicating upcoming changes and their implications for your users early and often is crucial to a smooth interface transition. When communicating details about the interface transition to users, make sure to include information about:

  • Transition timeline
  • Key benefits of the transition
  • Key changes/potential areas of frustration
  • How users can ask questions
  • How users can provide feedback

Provide User Training

Some of the changes being made to the LabKey Server interface during this redesign will affect how users perform certain tasks. If you discover through testing the interface in the context of your team’s key workflows that core tasks are affected by navigation changes, then providing training on how to accomplish this work in the new interface will help avoid frustration. For smaller changes, simply documenting the new process may be sufficient training, but in cases where a user’s workflow is significantly changed a training session may be more appropriate.

Answer Questions

Even with thorough testing, communication, and training, questions from your users are still inevitable. Develop and communicate how users can ask questions as they are are adjusting to the redesigned interface. Depending on the size of your team, that may mean communicating who the contact person is for questions, you may create a message board for questions and discussion, or you may host a handful of Q&A workshop sessions post-implementation. Whatever the method, making sure a user knows how they can have their questions answered will help prevent frustration when they encounter a change to their workflow.

Provide Feedback

Communicating feedback to the LabKey team is an essential part of the redesign process, and we are committed to making sure that you and your users have the best possible experience using LabKey Server. As you explore the redesigned interface in your test environment as an experimental feature, you can provide feedback using the “Give Feedback” button in the top right corner of the interface. You can also provide feedback directly to your LabKey account manager.

Related Resources

01 Aug 2017

FAQs: LabKey Server Redesign

In the 17.2 release of LabKey Server, we included an experimental feature that allows teams to explore the beta version of the redesigned LabKey Server UI (scheduled for full release as part of v17.3). The key priorities for this redesign are to transition the platform to using modern technologies that will increase its stability and ease of use, and to respond to user feedback about areas of the platform that needed to be reworked to better support today’s users.

As you explore the new UI, we encourage you to provide feedback about the design and any technical bugs you come across. This will help us make adjustments during the next few months of active development before the initial release. Below are the answers to some common questions you may have when testing the new UI on your LabKey Server. We will continue to add to this list as we receive additional feedback.

Do we have to transition to the new interface or can I keep using the old one?

In 17.2, you’ll have the option to turn on the new look and feel by going to the experimental features listed under the Admin Console and enabling “Core UI Migration.” This will be opt-in, but we recommend you take a look now and provide feedback!

Since this turns the new interface on for all users, and this is still undergoing significant development, we recommend that you turn this on first on your test and/or staging server(s) and not yet on production.

With the 17.3 release, all installs will be moved to the new interface and the old UI will no longer be available for use.

What will happen to my custom CSS when we switch to the new UI?

To support the redesigned UI we are utilizing the standard Bootstrap framework and refactoring a good portion of our own CSS in order to make it easier to maintain the platform in the long run. It is likely that your custom CSS will need updating as a result of these changes.

We recommend that you move your staging server over to the new UI as soon as possible in order to evaluate and update any custom CSS that does not render correctly in the interface. If you are a Premium Edition client, contact your LabKey account manager if you need support making these changes.

Why does my site logo look broken?

By default, the 17.2 release uses the Seattle theme, which has a dark blue bar at the top of the header. Logos that use transparency may look wrong if they were previously on a white background. To fix this, you either upload an alternate version of your logo that will render well on dark background or you can switch to the Seattle Light theme which has a white top bar by going to Admin Console and adjusting your Look and Feel Settings.

Can I change the colors used in the interface?

In the beta release of the interface with v17.2, there are two default theme options to choose from: Seattle and Seattle Light. With 17.3, we expect to have the full suite of themes available for use, with a light and dark version of each. Additionally, you will still have the option of writing custom CSS.

We plan to introduce additional customization options as part of future releases that will allow you to more easily change change specific variables without writing your own CSS.

How do I add webparts to my pages in the new UI?

In order to streamline our page controls, we decided to make those that are used less often only show up conditionally. Most of our administrative controls are now available only when you go into admin editing mode. To turn this on, you can go to the admin dropdown and select “Page Admin Mode” (provided you have administrator permissions):

LabKey Server Page Admin ModeWhile this editing mode is on, you have the ability to add, move, or remove webparts and adjust page tabs just as you did in the previous versions. You can exit this mode by clicking on “Exit admin mode” in the header or in the admin dropdown.

LabKey Server Exit Admin Mode

I found a bug with the new UI. How do I report it?

You can report bugs using the “Give Feedback” link in the top right corner of the new UI. This link will redirect you to a feedback form on the LabKey Support Portal where you can report issues as well as general feedback. Please provide clear steps on how to reproduce bugs you encounter so that we can appropriately investigate and prioritize changes to be implemented in the 17.3 release and beyond.

I use ExtJS 4.x in my applications, why does my view not show up in the new UI?

With the introduction of the new UI we were able to move away from ExtJS 4.x for rendering menus. This was the last “site-wide” dependency we had on ExtJS, however, we still continue to use it throughout the product in different views, reports, and dialogs. To manage these usages we use our dependency framework to ensure the correct resources are on the page. The framework provides a variety of mechanisms for module-based views, JavaServer Pages, and Java.

If your applications do not declare their dependencies, it is likely they will fail to load when they are loaded independently (without other views/apps on the page that might be declare the same dependencies).

14 Jul 2017

What’s New in LabKey Server v17.2

We are excited to announce the release of LabKey Server v17.2! This release includes valuable enhancements to platform features and performance improvements including:

For a complete list of updates and enhancements included in LabKey Server v17.2, check out the release notes.

Download LabKey Server v17.2 >

*Premium feature, please contact your LabKey account manager for additional information and configuration support.

LabKey Server Gets a Refresh

Also included in the LabKey Server v17.2 release is an experimental feature allowing administrators to explore the beta version of the redesigned LabKey Server user interface (scheduled for full release November 2017). We encourage administrators to explore the in-development UI in their dev/test environments and provide feedback prior to the full release.

Learn more about the UI refresh >

13 Jul 2017

LabKey Server Gets a Refresh

At the beginning of the year, we shared that a redesign of the LabKey Server user interface would be one of our development priorities for 2017. The decision to redesign was made based on a variety factors, with two of the key drivers being the need to:

  • Evolve our platform to utilize modern technologies and interaction patterns, ensuring stability and ease of use
  • Respond to user feedback about aspects of the LabKey Server interface that could be reworked to better support the needs of today’s users

As we prepare to release the beta version of the new UI as an experimental feature in LabKey Server v17.2, we wanted to take a few minutes to share about the approach we have taken with this project, our core design principles and priorities, and what to expect in the initial release (and beyond!).

Starting with Our Users

We kicked-off this project by hosting a series of sessions to observe the way our users interacted with the current UI. During this process, we noticed many of our users employing workarounds to accomplish particular goals. Often times these users were not aware that they were using a workaround as opposed to an intentional path, they were just operating in the manner they had discovered to overcome the quirks of the system. This was eye-opening and drew attention to the need for greater clarity in our navigation.

We also learned in talking with users during this initial investigation, that more labs than ever before are using tablets as their primary tool for data entry. This reinforced the need to ensure that LabKey Server works smoothly regardless of the type of device it is being used on.

Core Redesign Principles

When we began to work on developing the new interface, we committed to a set of core principles that would help guide the design:

Focus on the User

Make it as simple as possible for the user to accomplish the common tasks that make up the majority of their interactions with the platform. Employ the 80/20 rule to optimize the small number of interface interactions that make up 80% of our usage.

Design for Consistency

Take a holistic approach to the way we design features to ensure that they follow consistent navigation and design patterns. This helps users more intuitively navigate different features of the the application.

Make Changes that Matter

Be conscious during the redesign to not make changes to how users interact with LabKey Server just for change’s sake. Make sure each change will help improve the overall user experience or increase the ease of accomplishing a specific user scenario.

Optimize for the Modern Lab

Design each component for the smallest screen-size first to ensure that LabKey Server will scale elegantly to the size of the screen on which it is being viewed.

Key Areas of Focus

Knowing that we couldn’t tackle every feature in one release, we had to prioritize what to address in the initial phase of the redesign. Our goal was to focus first on changes that would provide the greatest benefit to our entire user base.

We decided to focus first on reworking the interface navigation, data grids, and administrative pages with the goal of making it easier for users to find the options that apply to them, without a lot of noise from scenarios they may never touch. To address the need for responsiveness, we also transitioned LabKey Server to the popular responsive web interface framework, Bootstrap.

What to Expect

The redesigned UI will make it easier to accomplish common scenarios through prominent placement and easy 1-click access. Less common user scenarios are built-into the interface as secondary actions, but with a clear navigation path to accomplish them.

With such a wide range of use cases for LabKey Server, this will mean that in some cases an action that used to be one click is now two. This might feel counterintuitive when first interacting with the redesigned interface, but by streamlining the interactions that are most integral to general usage, we are able to make the software easier to navigate overall.

Release Timeline

Administrators will be able to explore the in-development UI as an experimental feature in LabKey Server v17.2 (check out the demo below!). We encourage teams to test the UI in their test or dev environments and provide feedback to the LabKey team using the “Give Feedback” link in the product UI.

The initial version of the redesigned UI will be included in the 17.3 release of LabKey Server (scheduled for distribution November 2017). Additional enhancements and updates will be included in subsequent releases.

Stay Up to Date

Over the next few months we will be providing resources and recommendations to help teams prepare for the transition to the redesigned interface. Subscribe to the LabKey Blog to receive emails when new resources are available.

16 Mar 2017

What’s New in LabKey Server v17.1

We are excited to announce the release of LabKey Server v17.1! This release includes a variety of valuable enhancements to the LabKey Server platform, including:

  • Additional account administration features added to the compliance module expand support for FISMA compliance
  • A new assay request tracker to help facilitate the specimen and sample assay request workflow, tying together all the steps of the process in a single, trackable ticket
  • Added QC options for NAb assays to ensure the quality and reliability of NAb assay results
  • Redesigned column summary statistics UI and the addition of median, median absolute deviation, Quartiles, and interquartile range to simplify access to key statistics

Read the release notes for the full list of functionality additions and enhancements included in the LabKey Server 17.1 release.

Read the 17.1 release notes >

Download the latest version of LabKey Server >

Gradle Transition

In addition to the new functionality and enhancements added to the platform, LabKey Server is transitioning its build framework transition from Ant to Gradle. The official cut-over to the Gradle framework will take place with the 17.2 release later this year, however developers who would like to begin the process of migrating to Gradle early can do so using the Gradle build documentation available on

15 Nov 2016

LabKey Server v16.3 Release

What’s New in LabKey Server v16.3

We are excited to announce the release of LabKey Server v16.3! This release includes a variety of valuable enhancements to the LabKey Server platform, including:


Visualization has been a LabKey development focus throughout 2016, and the 16.3 release was no different.  This release included the addition of a new chart designer featuring drag-and-drop column selection and a range of visualization look and feel customization options. The new chart designer also introduced bar chart and pie chart visualizations, in addition to the scatter and box plots that were previously available. Additional visualization enhancements include improved control over the way the Data Views web part is displayed, binning for large data sets to help improve the readability of scatter plots, and the introduction of new premium column summary statistics including standard deviation and standard error.

System Integration

The 16.3 release of LabKey Server included a variety of updates to the LabKey Server ETL engine including improved PostgreSQL scalability by removing the 100 column limit on PostgreSQL tables that are the target of ETL processes, added ability to use an alternative key as opposed to a target table’s primary key when merging data with an ETL process, and support for ETL transformation using a Java class.

RStudio integration was also introduced as a part of the LabKey Server v16.3 release, allowing users to design R reports in RStudio using data selected in LabKey Server.


Administrators gained new flexibility with the addition of Date and DateTime data types that are more intuitive to use, as well as new folder administration options that allow admins to create folder templates that can be applied across multiple folders simultaneously.

Study Data Management

Several UI enhancements to were made as part of LabKey Server v16.3 to simplify study data management. This includes a new UI for assay scheduling and a new UI for managing vaccine study products and treatments. The study database schema was also redesigned to boost performance and use less storage space.

Natural Language Processing (NLP) & Document Abstraction

A new, more intuitive interface for document abstraction and improved abstraction workflow with options for manual abstraction, automatic abstraction and document review, were added in v16.3 to help streamline the process of abstracting unstructured data.

Assays & Instrument Data

The Signal Data Module was added to LabKey Server as part of the 16.3 release, allowing users to capture data and metadata for HPLC experiments. Updates were also made to better support the handling of Luminex® data; users can now reimport assay data without losing exclusions and bead numbers are no longer included on analytes.

For documentation about the functionality additions and enhancements included in the LabKey Server v16.3 release, read the 16.3 release notes on the LabKey Support Portal.

Download the latest version of LabKey Server >

15 Nov 2016

Feature Demos: LabKey Server v16.3

LabKey Server v16.3 includes new features and enhancements of existing functionality to expand visualization capabilities, accelerate extract-transform-load functions, and ease administration. Learn more about 16.3 features with these demonstrations delivered by LabKey developers.

Need to download the latest version of LabKey Server? Download now > 

Additional Column Summary Statistics

New column summary statistics options have been added to LabKey Server data grids, including standard deviation and standard error.

View Documentation >

Apply Template Across Multiple Folders Simultaneously

Apply a folder archive template to multiple folders simultaneously.

View Documentation > 

New Chart Designer Interface

A new chart designer featuring drag-and-drop column selection and a more intuitive layout of configuration options allows users to easily create a wide range of built-in visualization types.

View Documentation > 

Pie and Bar Charts

Bar charts and pie charts have been added to LabKey Server quick column visualizations menu and chart designer.

View Pie Chart Documentation >
View Bar Chart Documentation >

Resolving Samples in Other Locations

Samples in different containers can now be resolved in a single sample set.

View Documentation >

Retaining Exclusions When Reimporting Luminex Assay Runs

Users can now opt to retain the exclusion of wells, analytes, or titrations when reimporting Luminex assay runs.

View Documentation >