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Please use the Specify Quick Guide for basic data entry.                                          


New to databases? Check out this primer on how it all fits together!


About Specify 6

Looking for specific workflows?


The Specify database is what NPL uses for managing its collections. When doing data entry, users will fill out fields in one of the various forms. When the user hits 'save' on a record, Specify takes the information and stores it in a data table. Each form has its own data table, and the database program builds associations between fields in different tables. More information on this can be found here.

This information can be queried many different ways, 'bundled' and shared via websites like iDigBio and VertNet, as well as many other research and inventory applications. 

Navigating the Specify Task Bar

Specify organizes tasks into broad categories in the task bar. Each of the icons in the task bar opens a new tab in the main window, and each tab has a side bar listing some of the tasks (specialized forms) that are available. More forms can be made available by clicking on the 'More Forms' option in the side bar. You can have multiple tabs open- the tabs display at the bottom of the main window, and navigation between them is as simple as clicking on the one you need.


Things to know:

Attaching images

Specify Preferences

Getting rid of that confusing 'update available' box





 Navigating the interface

Commonly used categories in the task bar are are the Data tasks, Interactions, Queries and the Reports. In the Data section, he Collection Object form is perhaps the most often used- this is our main form for entering specimen data. The Interactions are for action items- like when you accession a new collection, check out a loan or add permit info. Queries let you ask the database for a variety of information, and the Reports are where you go to generate the labels and paperwork to keep it all straight.




Here's a breakdown of those most commonly used tabs. Click on the header to open a page with detailed explanations, screen shots of the forms and more. Common tasks, broken down by tab, can also be found listed at the bottom of this page.

The Data Tab

  • Access this tab for entering or editing specimen data, add journal publication titles, working with Localities, adding new records for authors, staff, or research fellows and scanning Field Notebooks.
  • Some tables under the Data tab will not be covered in this wiki. Feel free to poke around and see what they have to offer, but please don't add unnecessary records.

Reports & Labels

  • This category is NPL's paperwork generator. Many of the 'nuts and bolts' actions that happen in the Interactions tab have components in this tab. Printing labels, generating loan paperwork, even thank you letters originate from here. 


  • This tab is Specify's legal and logistical end of Collections Management, the 'nuts and bolts' actions that keep the lab running smoothly. Routine tasks like loans, information requests and recording borrowed material start here. 
  • Important legal concepts like Accessioning, Repository agreements, handling gifts and inter-museum 'swaps' are also recorded in tables under this tab.


  • Once records are saved into the database, queries are used to 'call up' specific records and information. Tables listed in the Data tab, and the Interaction tab can be queried. Queries can be structured so that necessary information is shown in the 'results' table, or so that a selection of records can be opened and edited.


Looking for information on Specify's 'Trees'? Here's a bit about the nesting data features.


Shortcuts to:

Collection Object Form



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