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Why do chemists care about symmetry and point groups?

Symmetry helps us understand molecular structure, some chemical properties, and characteristics of physical properties (spectroscopy).

This tutorial is set up to quickly guide you through learning to:

  • "see" the symmetry of molecules,
  • chracterize symmetry elements, and
  • determine point groups.

How to use the tutorial?

1. Java Applets
  • If you do not see the applets, please install Java applet from
  • Click your mouse in the applet area. First get familiar with the applets, how they work. Then rotate clockwise, counter-clockwise, or any other direction you want.
    • Rotate the molecule by holding down the left mouse button and dragging the mouse
    • Rotate about the axis perpendicular to the screen by holding down the control key while dragging as described above.
    • Scale the model by holding down the alt key while dragging.
    • Translate the model by holding down the shift key while dragging
  • Keyboard Controls
    b - Ball & Stick style
    l - Line style
    s - Space-filled style
    h - toggle hydrogen atoms (if any)
    r- reset orientation and drawing style

2. Flash images
  • If you do not have Flash Player, please download it from Macromedia Flash Player Download Center.
  • Most flash images are mouse overs. To compare different versions of the images, we provided different orientations of the image. Do a mouse over on the image when it is asked.
3. Quiz
  • The quiz part of the tutorial is to help you gain expertise in symmetry elements and point groups. You can try as many times as you want.

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