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The following section contains subjective comments about the system that represent our editor's opinions, and should not be viewed as fact. Editor's opinions include positive and negative judgments about the product written in consideration of wider context, including related products and the industry at large. Further subjective information is presented in clearly labeled "Editor's Notes" throughout the report.
STN® is operated jointly by CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service) and FIZ Karlsruhe worldwide and is represented in Japan by JAICI. With these three scientific organizations in the U.S., Europe and Japan, STN provides an international service for the scientific community as well as information professionals. Using a command language interface rather than a graphical one (in STN Express and STN on the Web), the user is able to access CAS databases as well as a wide variety of patent and non-patent literature databases through the STN network. Since its start more than 20 years ago STN has become a prominent information network for science, technology, and patent information.
The STN Network can be accessed through any of three different interfaces:
STN Express is the original STN interface. It uses desktop software installed on users' computers. An advanced text command language is used to perform searches and manipulate results. In the more recent versions of the software, various "wizards" are available that help the user to perform common tasks without necessarily needing to know the text command.
STN on the Web is a full-featured web interface version of STN. The same text-based command language is used as in STN Express, but it appears in a frame within a web browser window rather than a standalone software application. STN on the Web features a variety of “assistants” that help users perform common tasks, without necessarily needing to know the text command.
STN Easy is aimed at casual or occasional searchers and provides a web-based simplified “point-and-click” interface in place of the text-based command language. STN Easy is intended for users who may not be comfortable with or not have time to learn the command language required in STN Express and STN on the Web. STN Easy does not contain all of the features of the other two interfaces, nor does it contain access to all of the data files that are accessible through STN Express and STN on the Web.
Searching using STN can be relatively expensive when compared to other patent and non-patent literature search systems. For this reason, STN is often considered a secondary or premium search tool, and not a “go to” primary tool.
Many of STN’s features are on par with the competition, including live-support, secure connection options, as well as analysis and visualization tools. The broad array of databases including some that are subject-specific within STN remains one of the key advantages of the system.
In a significant weakness, STN offers no direct PDF document delivery feature. STN users wishing to download complete PDF documents are sent to an external web page to purchase them. The high-cost and high complexity of the STN search system are its main drawbacks, while its coverage and advanced search features are the primary advantages.