It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention. In the world of bioinformatics, the need to examine and manipulate large volumes of sequence data begat specialized computer software to handle these tasks. These programs vary in terms of ease-of-use, power, and functionality. Yet they can each perform some or all of the following functions: DNA and protein sequence entry, editing, annotation, analysis, and alignment; primer identification; map making; contig assembly; "in silico" cloning; and gel prediction.

Some sequence analysis programs include a broad range of these functions, whereas others include individual, task- specific modules; smaller labs with specialized needs may find that purchasing particular modules better fits their budgets. Researchers install most programs locally, on a desktop computer, but some packages are Web-accessible. Most are also Web-enabled, allowing users to download data from remote databases. Recently, companies have worked to make these programs user-friendly enough for anyone...

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