PresentaBALL - a Powerful Package for Presentations and Lessons in Structural Biology

Stefan Nickels, Daniel Sțckel, Sabine C. Mueller, Hans-Peter Lenhof, Andreas Hildebrandt, Anna Katharina Dehof

Structural biology is based on an important observation: the function of a biomolecule is determined by its three-dimensional structure and its physico-chemical properties. Hence, visualization, modeling, and simulation of molecular structures and of their properties are crucial tools of the field. Typically, the graphical interfaces to molecular modeling packages are aimed at domain experts with significant experience and require an extensive learning period. But in many scenarios, such as teaching, presentations, and demonstrations, it would be highly preferable to have an intuitive environment for showcasing molecular functionality. Ideally, it should support simple preparation of the presentations as well as their convenient display. To keep the user interface simple and focused, the environment should be particularly adapted to the processing of molecular structures. Here, we present such a presentation framework, called PresentaBALL, which uses established web technology standards to provide a freely configurable browser-based interface into the extensive modeling and visualization capabilities of the Biochemical Algorithms Library (BALL). The web interface is embedded into BALL's graphical frontend BALLView, and provides complete, interactive access to the loaded molecular data. PresentaBALL enables researchers in biology with basic knowledge in HTML, JavaScript, or Python to easily setup academic tutorials, demonstrations, or scientific presentations and lectures with 3D structure content and interactive workflows. Owing to its flexible design, other modern forms of teaching and presentation, such as massive open online courses (MOOC) can also use PresentaBALL as their core component. PresentaBALL is licensed under the GNU Public License (GPL) and will be made available in BALL/BALLView, starting with the upcoming release (1.5).