Scientists use lab notebooks (LNs) to document their hypotheses, experiments and initial analysis or interpretation of experiments. However, while complexity of science has changed dramatically over the last century, LNs have remained essentially unchanged since pre-modern science. In this article, U. Dirnagl and I. Przesdzing describe their experience when recently switching from a paper-based laboratory notebook to an electronic LN (eLN). They provide researchers and their institutions with the background and practical knowledge to select and initiate the implementation of an eLN in their laboratories. (F1000Res. 2016 Jan 4;5:2.)