All TutorialsArrowArrow

Empowering Teams: New Collaboration Features in BioRender

Description: In this webinar with Polly Zhang (Product Manager, BioRender), you’ll learn how to collaborate seamlessly with new BioRender features such as comments, real-time editing, and more!

This webinar was recorded at VISUALIZE 2021, a virtual BioRender event dedicated to advancing communication in science.

Join the BioRender Community


Next presenter, whom I'm really excited about personally because I believe strongly in the power of collaboration and completing any knowledge work, as I think we would all agree, collaboration is at the core of science from publications to presentations to novel drug discoveries. Nothing great is made alone. Polly Zhang is a product manager here at BioRender working on editor features like cropping and brushes. Her immense knowledge of BioRender means she is the go-to for many product questions internally and is just an overall really hard-working champion here on the team.

Polly's here today to demonstrate the amazing new collaboration features the BioRender team has been tirelessly working on. Polly, really excited for this one. Take it away!

Thanks for that awesome intro, Jeff. Really excited to talk about the entire suite of collaboration features that we just released. Before we get started into the meat of the presentation, I wanted to do a quick intro about myself. As Jeff mentioned, I am a product manager here at BioRender and I work on all of the amazing editor features that you all interact with day to day. Things like putting icons on your canvas, cropping different things. A little bit about my background: I got a Bachelor's of Science degree in Biochemistry at Queen's University. I'm really excited to get back into the science space. Outside of work, I love to eat all types of noodle soup and I love listening to podcasts. So if you guys have any recommendations for me, please pop them in the chat.

A little fun tidbit: while I was at Queens, I did a whole research project on antifreeze on Ice binding proteins. There are a lot of proteins that bind to ice and make sure that the water doesn't freeze at freezing temperature.

Before I get started in the demonstration, I want to talk about why collaboration was so important to us at BioRender. So, I'm going to paint you a picture. Tell me if this sounds like something you've experienced before. Imagine you're starting a project. You're working on a new figure, a series of figures, or even a presentation for an upcoming meeting conference. You're collaborating with some lab mates, some teammates, or scientists from other organizations, and throughout the process, you also want to get feedback from your PI or your manager to make sure you're on the right track.

In order to facilitate all of this feedback and collaboration, you're constantly sending emails back and forth with updated versions of your figure. So, your inbox has dozens of email chains that look something like this, and as a result, your desktop is cluttered with so many different iterations of the same file that sometimes it's hard to remember which one is the true final version.

Sometimes your colleagues, your manager, or your PI even like to print out the figure, use a sharpie, and mark it up with contextual feedback. Things like "move the cell here," "this arrow should go this way." Maybe they scan it and email it back to you, or they kind of just hand you the paper. So now you have dozens of email chains, a bunch of different final versions on your desktop, and some loose leaf papers in the mix as well.

For those of you who have been using BioRender for a while, you'd know that trying to collaborate on different projects with different groups was a pain. Previously, we only allowed you to really collaborate on one project with one team.

This scenario sounds a little too familiar and a little bit painful to relive. You're not alone. At BioRender, we're constantly talking to scientists like you who use our platform to really try to understand what problems you're facing and how we can make your day-to-day easier. This painful experience about collaborating on figures and presentations was one of the most frequently mentioned problems that you all face. So we knew that we needed to focus on making collaboration very easy and seamless so that you could just better focus on your science without dozens of email chains and dozens of final versions.

Let's get into how we're making collaboration easier and more seamless. With the new features we released, you can now work on the same file with your colleagues at the same time. So, for example, during the meeting, you all can hop on to BioRender and make changes to the figures while you're brainstorming.

But we also know that you have very busy schedules, so we've made sure that collaborators can make changes at different times, and the illustration will stay continuously updated.

We've added a commenting feature so everyone can leave contextual feedback right on the canvas. You can start threads within comments and resolve comments that have already been addressed. No more Sharpie on pieces of paper.

You can also share files with collaborators and give them view-only permissions for people where you don't want to worry about them accidentally messing up your figure or anything like that.

Lastly, it's now super easy to create and share different folders with different teams. Let's go through a demonstration of all these features. I want to show you just how easy it is to get collaborating in BioRender.

So I have this figure here that I whipped up really quickly a couple of minutes ago in BioRender. The project I'm working on, where I'm ranking how tasty different fruits are, has gotten to a point where I'm ready to start getting feedback from my collaborator Nainesh and my manager Peter. So, what I can do to share with them is I can go to the top right-hand corner of the screen. Click Share and enter their emails. Here, in this case, I've already shared it with them, but I'll enter somebody else's email just to demonstrate what it looks like, and here you can choose whether or not you want this person to have edit permissions or view-only permissions. I'll go ahead and add their name and send the invitation.

At this point, whoever you shared it with is going to get an email notification in their inbox letting them know that I've shared a file with them, and they'll have a link that they can go and open this file directly. You can also share with people who do not have BioRender accounts, but when they try to access that illustration link, they're going to be prompted to sign up. So, at this point, only users who already have BioRender accounts can interact with your figure.

As I can see now on my screen, Nainesh is active and moving some things around on my figure. He's readjusted the size of some things, and while he's editing different icons, it's going to tell me that I am not able to edit what someone else is editing. This is just to prevent you from kind of ending up in a tug of war situation where you're making changes, somebody else reverts your changes. We want to make sure that only one person is touching a specific object on your canvas at once.

Now I see that somebody has left a comment on my canvas. New comments are indicated by this little red button. This tells me that I have not seen the comment yet, and I can go ahead and open this canvas and see what this is all about. So, now Nainesh just told me I resize the fruit so they are size relative to each other. I think that's a great idea. We want to make sure that strawberries are not the same size as an apple because that's not how it is in real life. So, I'll go ahead and say thanks and resolve this comment.

Sometimes people will come onto your figure and make edits while you're not at your computer. You could be in a meeting, walking your dog, on the subway, etc., and you come back and you see that your figure has changed a little bit. You don't have to worry about people making changes that you are not aware of or you can't revert. A lot of people don't know this, but we actually have a very nifty version history feature that you can access at the top left here. We'll tell you when the last time your figure was edited, and when you click this, you can see every single time this figure has been edited going back to when the figure was first created.

So, at 1:06 PM, I see that my strawberry and grapes are kind of small, but if I go back to 12:48 today, I will see that the strawberry and grapes are in a different position and they're a little bit bigger. If I wanted to, I can make a copy of this specific version and get started from that point. So, you never have to worry about losing any progress that you've made on your figure.

Over here, I see another comment has been made. This one is from Peter, and he says that he disagrees with where I put olives on this scale. For subjective feedback like this, sometimes you want to have a conversation about it, have a little discussion, so you can start a conversation right in this thread, and the beauty of it is that it's placed right near the thing that you're discussing. So, in this case, I'm going to ask Peter where he thinks it should be placed.

I'm going to post it and I won't resolve this figure for now because I'm waiting for Peter to get back to me.

Okay, so that was a silly little example, but I'm going to show you all how it looks when we're working on a more scientific figure. I have something here that shows cancer cell metabolism in two different scenarios. Once again, you can see that Peter and Nainesh already have access to this, but I'll repeat again: if you want to share it with somebody new, you can go to the top share button on the side, click it, and enter their email address. So maybe in this scenario, I will actually share this with another collaborator of mine, Cindy, but I only want to give review-only permissions. So I can do that, add, and send

I saw somebody in the comment section ask whether or not a collaborator who has view-only permissions can leave comments. At the moment, they cannot. So if you want somebody to leave comments, please make sure to give them edit permissions. And again, you can always look at the version history, go back to a previous version if you are worried about somebody making changes that you don't necessarily approve of.

Now I see my figure again, he's going around making some changes. It's kind of really cool when you are all working on a figure together and you see something that you've put so much work into come to life, and everybody's just collaborating. It almost looks like your figure has a life of its own.

I see a comment being left here from Nainesh: "I made this cancer cell bigger and fixed the typo in the label." Then, "Thanks so much for fixing up my figure," and I will close that up. The beauty of it is that every time there is a comment, I can see it pop up on my screen directly.

I'll take a look at this, Peter said, "Can we change this to a different color? It's hard to tell that there are different states because they're both red."

Now, sometimes you're going to be making changes to figures that you're not quite sure about if this is the direction you want to go. It's more like trial and error. You can use version histories to go back to previous versions, but when you're kind of trying out different methods of presenting your figure, a nifty little trick that I want to show everyone here is using slides to have different versions of your figure that you can easily flip back and forth.

I see another comment here, Peter said, "We should label these A and B so we can easily reference them." That's a great idea. So at this point, I'm not entirely sure that I want to have two different colors on my figure. I don't know if I don't like that. So what I'm actually going to do is make a duplicate of this figure that I have here.

In the slides panel, I'll click duplicate slide, and now I have two different slides with the exact same figure. I'm going to rename this to version two different colors.

And I can make the changes that Peter suggested in this specific version. So he said he wants to see this blue, instead I'm going to go here and make everything blue. He also suggested that I should label the top and the bottom, so I'm going to go ahead and do that like this, nice, big, and bolded so that the label is really easy to see. There we go.

The great thing about having slides as different versions is that now I can very easily flip back and forth between these two different versions and see which one I like more. So I see that Peter did, in fact, give me a really good hint about making these two different colors so it can differentiate them easily. If I wanted to get more feedback, I can keep these two versions here and share this with somebody else and ask them to take a look at version one and version two, let me know which one they like better.

As I was showing you before, every time I created a figure that I wanted to share with collaborators, I had to go to the top right corner and enter their emails every single time. If you are working on a bigger project where there are multiple figures or multiple presentations, it gets a little bit cumbersome to have to share it with the same people over and over again, and that's where shared folders really, really helps.

So let's say, for example, both Figure 1 and Figure 2 were part of a bigger project. I was working on a series of figures that I'm creating for the World Cancer Conference that's happening in 2022. What I can do is create a new folder. I will call this World Cancer Conference 2022. Save. I'll move all of my figures to this folder. I can see they're here, and what I can do is actually share this entire folder with both Peter, who is my manager, and also Nainash, who is my collaborator.

Now they will get email notifications letting them know that I've shared this entire folder with them, and they can access it through that email. What happens now is that any new illustration I create in this folder, Peter and Nainash will have immediate access to, and they can actually create new illustrations in this folder as well that I will automatically have access to.

You can have many different folders with different teams. So if I was working on another project for the Canadian Cancer Research Conference that's happening later in November, I can create another folder. And let's say for this specific conference, I'm not collaborating with Nainesh. I'm collaborating with some other colleagues. I can go ahead and share this folder with different people. So I'll go ahead and share this with Peter because he is my manager, and I'll share this with Cindy.

Now Cindy and Peter will have access to this folder but Nainesh will not be able to see any content in that folder. Awesome! So, I also want to take this opportunity to show you some examples of how we actually use BioRender to collaborate on a lot of the different things that we do internally.

As you know, we have an entire team of extremely talented science illustrators and science designers who work tirelessly to create the beautiful icons and templates we have in our library. Creating these icons and templates is a really collaborative process and we often use BioRender to give feedback along the way as different team members lead different projects.

This is a BioRender file that our creative team used to collaborate on the recent cancer treatment infographic that we released. You can all look at this in more detail, available in our template gallery if you want to browse. As you can see here, the first slide is the final version of this graphic. It obviously looks amazing! Everyone that worked on this is super talented. However, when we scroll down on the right-hand slides panel here, we can see that there are many different drafts that our team worked on to get to this final version. So, they started out with an initial layout and a draft one, and then they went on to a draft two where they sent it out to the entire team for feedback. And you can see that this entire canvas has so many comments on it. In situations like this, it is really great to see all the comments. If you want to really focus on your work and look at the comments later, you can go to this comment panel up here and just very quickly hide the comments and go back to them at a later time. But as you can see, there is lots of great feedback about the way that the figure looks. Sometimes we start threads to upvote other people's comments. And as we get to the third draft, there are fewer comments because people have really iterated on this figure. You can leave positive comments as well, like Emily did here, who said, "Love this change."

The second example I want to show you is how we use BioRender in some of our internal product and engineering processes. So, our product and engineering team plans work on two-week cadences, and at the end of each two weeks, we like to reflect and do a retrospective of what went really well in those two weeks and what we could have done better. We also use this time as a space to give shoutouts or kudos to different team members. So, this is the canvas we use to call out other colleagues that we've worked with that really helped us during those two weeks. Everybody has their own little sticky note with their Biomoji on it, and they can post shoutouts to different people. As you can see, there are so many here, and then we also have these little emojis where other people can upvote and put fire emojis all over the canvas. So, this is a really nice team exercise that we do at BioRender, even though we are a remote-first company, this is really helpful for team culture.

I'll go back here, and before we conclude this talk, I want to give everyone a preview of what's coming next for collaboration. Over the past two days, and even in this specific talk, everyone has shown so much excitement for these new features, but a lot of you have been asking great questions about what else you can do and what new features are coming, so I wanted to give you a preview.

We know that knowing when someone has left feedback or knowing when someone has even made a change on your figures is really important to you if you are not on BioRender 24/7. So notifications are something that we know is important and we will be looking into over the next couple of months.

The second thing is we want to make collaboration and sharing even easier, so we're looking into shareable links. The ability for you to just go right to the top of the URL bar, grab that URL, put it in the email or Microsoft Teams or Slack, and just send it to everyone you want to work with, and they can go on and start accessing it right away. That is something that we are looking into as well.

I see there are a lot of questions in the comments thread, and everyone else from BioRender has been really helpful in helping to answer that. Thank you so much, everyone, for participating in this talk. I hope you learned something new about BioRender and are going to start collaborating in it right away. Yeah, I hope you guys have a good rest of the day.

Due to continuous improvements in BioRender, the application may appear slightly different in some of our videos.
Video idea succesfully submitted