RightField is an open-source tool for adding ontology term selection to Excel spreadsheets. RightField uses a 'Template Creator' to create semantically aware Excel spreadsheet templates. These Excel templates are then reused by scientists to collect and annotate their data, without any need to understand, or even be aware of, RightField or the ontologies used. The project’s slogan is “Semantic data annotation by stealth.”


The University of Manchester and H-ITS (Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies) gGmbH

Licensing and cost

Free - BSD-Clause 3 LICENSE - https://github.com/myGrid/RightField/blob/master/LICENSE

Development Activity

Development activity has been low for the last couple of years, but expected to increase in the final quarter of 2016 and first quarter of 2017 due to additional resourcing from FAIRDOM and the use of internal development as part of a student project. At the time of writing (October 2016), the most recent release was that of 24th March 2014.

Platform and interoperability

RightField runs on any platform that supports Java. A dedicated packaged download is available for Mac OS X, as well as a compressed package for other platforms.

Functional notes

For each annotation field, RightField specifies a range of permitted terms from a chosen ontology (subclasses, individuals or combinations). The resulting spreadsheet presents these terms to the users via a simple drop-down list. This reduces the adoption barrier for using community ontologies, and raises metadata quality, since the annotation is made by the scientist generating the data rather than a third party, and annotations are collected at the time of data collection.
The collected information, together with the provenance of the annotations, can be extracted from the populated template using through RightField or its libraries.

Documentation and user support

Documentation is available at http://rightfield.org.uk/guide, and support is available via a dedicated mailing list at http://rightfield.org.uk/contact_us


The interface is straightforward and easy to use for both the ontology creator and the data creator.

Expertise required

Low, although some knowledge and understanding of ontologies and Excel is required, for the ontology creator and the data creator respectively.

Standards compliance

RightField is built upon the standards of RDF and OWL, and Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet file format. It supports both XLS and the Office Open XLSX formats through the Apache POI open source library.

RightField itself is designed to encourage the use of standards for annotation within spreadsheets, by allowing standard vocabularies to be embedded within the templates it creates.

Influence and take-up

RightField has no particular dependency on discipline. Although originally developed for Biology, it has also been used in Archaeology, Computer Science and Psychology. In particular it is used in the FAIRDOM project (http://fair-dom.org) as part of a data collection workflow, and is also used in conjunction with the SEEK software (http://seek4science.org).

There have been approximately 250 downloads of the RightField templates since 2013, as well as 60 (non-mandatory) user registrations.

Last reviewed: 
3 October, 2016