Noel M. O’Boyle, Tim Vandermeersch, Christopher J. Flynn, Anita R. Maguire, Geoffrey R. Hutchison. “Confab: Systematic generation of diverse low-energy conformers” J. Cheminf. 2011 3:8. DOI

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Many computational chemistry analyses require the generation of conformers, either on-the-fly, or in advance. We present Confab, an open source command-line application for the systematic generation of low-energy conformers according to a diversity criterion.


Confab generates conformations using the ‘torsion driving approach’ which involves iterating systematically through a set of allowed torsion angles for each rotatable bond. Energy is assessed using the MMFF94 forcefield. Diversity is measured using the heavy-atom root-mean-square deviation (RMSD) relative to conformers already stored. We investigated the recovery of crystal structures for a dataset of 1000 ligands from the Protein Data Bank with fewer than 1 million conformations. Confab can recover 97% of the molecules to within 1.5 Å at a diversity level of 1.5 Å and an energy cutoff of 50 kcal/mol.


Confab is available from

Note: Confab is now integrated directly into Open Babel v2.4 and later