With Seurat

If you are an RStudio user and have a Seurat object, you can convert it to html directly without going to the Unix command line with the ExportToCellbrowser() R function. Users of large servers may prefer to import a Seurat rds file with the Unix command line tool cbImportSeurat. If you have an expression matrix and no knowledge of Seurat, you can use our default Seurat pipeline cbSeurat to create a Cell Browser.

Convert a Seurat2 .rds file

You can use the program cbImportSeurat2 to convert a rds file to a Cell Browser. You can create an .rds file in R as described in the Seurat tutorial:

saveRDS(pbmc, "pbmc3k_small.rds")

Then, on the Unix command line, you specify the input .rds file and the output directory (the name in the cell browser defaults to the output directory name, but you can change this with -n):

cbImportSeurat2 -i pbmc3k_small.rds -o pbmc3kImport

Then go into the directory pbmc3kImport and run cbBuild to create the Cell Browser html files:

cd pbmc3kImport
cbBuild -o ~/public_html/cb

Convert a Seurat object from R

The function ExportToCellbrowser() is already part of Seurat 3. You can install pre-release Seurat3 like this:

devtools::install_github("satijalab/seurat", ref = "release/3.0")

For Seurat 2, you have to load the function with this command:


You can then write a Seurat object to a directory from which you can run cbBuild:

ExportToCellbrowser(pbmc_small, dir="pbmcSmall", dataset.name="pbmcSmall")

Or immediately convert the files to html files in the directory htdocs and serve the result on port 8080 via http and open a web browser from R:

ExportToCellbrowser(pbmc_small, dir="pbmcSmall", cb.dir="htdocs", dataset.name="pbmcSmall", port=8080)

Writing the expression matrix is somewhat slow. If you have already exported into the same output directory before and just updated a part of the cell annotation data (e.g. clustering), you can use the argument skip.matrix=TRUE to save some time:

ExportToCellbrowser(pbmc_small, dir=”pbmcSmall”, dataset.name=”pbmcSmall”, skip-matrix=TRUE)

Run a basic Seurat pipeline

If you have never used Seurat before and just want to process an expression matrix as quickly as possible, this section is for you.

If you do not have R installed yet, we recommend that you install it via conda. Follow these instructions to install the miniconda installer: https://conda.io/projects/conda/en/latest/user-guide/install/index.html#regular-installation

When conda is installed, install R:

conda install r

Then, again using conda, install Seurat:

conda install -c bioconda r-seurat

To process an example dataset now, download the 10X pbmc3k expression matrix:

rsync -Lavzp genome-test.gi.ucsc.edu::cells/datasets/pbmc3k/ ./pbmc3k/ --progress

Create a default file seurat.conf:

cbSeurat --init

You can modify seurat.conf but the default values are good for this dataset. Now run the expression matrix filtered_gene_bc_matrices/hg19/matrix.mtx through Seurat like this:

cbSeurat -e filtered_gene_bc_matrices/hg19 --name pbmc3kSeurat -o seuratOut

This will create a script seuratOut/runSeurat.R, run it through Rscript and will fill the directory seuratOut/ with everything needed to create a cell browser. Now you can build your cell browser from the Seurat output:

cd seuratOut
cbBuild -o ~/public_html/cells

You can modify the file seurat.conf and rerun the cbSeurat command above.