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An electronic logbook is a software application that allows a user to generate a log of activities and related data. Electronic logbooks can be used to keep track of experiments, generate logs for aircraft and ships or in other settings. Software companies make some freeware and shareware releases of such programs readily available online. In other cases, it might be necessary for the software to be purchased or custom coded for a specific application.
Logbooks might be required by law for some activities; pilots, for example, must keep detailed information on their flight activities for safety reasons. In other cases, logbooks are strongly recommended or can be highly useful. In the case of an electronic logbook that must meet legal reporting requirements, there might be some special concerns in the software design. The software must provide adequate information and security so that officials who might ask to inspect the logbook will be satisfied.
An electronic logbook might be capable of filling in some data — such as date, time and location — automatically. It can interface with systems to dump data in without any action on the part of the user and might be programmed to autofill things such as the make and model of an aircraft unless directed otherwise. This can make things easier for the operator and might reduce the risk of errors.
One advantage of an electronic logbook is searchability. It is possible to look up older entries quickly with the use of a search function, rather than having to flip through pages by hand to find something. It also can automatically back up and store information. This reduces the risk of losses caused by theft, accidents and other events, such as leaving a logbook under the seat of a borrowed aircraft by mistake. The speed and convenience of entry also might be beneficial, especially for detailed logs that require substantial information on each entry.
If an electronic logbook is an option for a given activity, whether it is a scientific experiment or a sailing trip around the world, there usually are a number of programs from which to choose. Some are customizable and can be adapted to the needs of a specific project. For very unique needs, a programmer can create a custom program. Such programs are expensive, but they are tailored to the specifications of the user and might save time and money in the long term for a large or complex project.