Behaviour 2019
A comparison of common behavioral observation software applications and recommendations for use
Claire L. O'Connell, Annemarie van der Marel, Sanjay Prasher, Chelsea Carminito, Xavier Francis, Elizabeth A. Hobson. University of Cincinnati , Cincinnati, OH, United States

Standardized methods to observe animal behavior were established nearly 50 years ago. While the protocols are similar, technology has changed. Data collection often involves entering data directly into electronic formats using a software application customized for various kinds of animal behavior. Many different platforms are available but choosing the most appropriate platform for a particular study question, research design, budget, and initial preparatory time can be challenging. We review six software applications for handheld computers that are available for real-time entry of behavioral observations: Animal Behaviour Pro, Animal Observer, BORIS, CyberTracker, Prim8, and ZooMonitor. We first discuss the preliminary decisions that must be made about the study design and then assess the six applications by reviewing 1) which behavioral sampling methods are possible per platform, 2) setup and data collection routines, 3) data output format, and 4) customizing certain platforms that work more effectively for study aims or sampling methods. Our goal is to help researchers make calculated decisions about what behavioral observation platform is best for a study system and question.