A standard sample holder and vial for cryocooled macromolecular crystals has been defined for use with robotic sample changers. This SPINE standard sample holder is a modified version, with added features and specifications, of sample holders in common use. In particular, the SPINE standard meets the precision required for automatic sample exchange and includes a cap that is identified by a two-dimensional datamatrix code as well as an optional vial. At the ESRF, the sample holder standard is in use with the EMBL/ESRF/BM14 robotic sample changer (SC3) which is installed on eight beamlines. The SC3 can hold up to 50 crystals stored in five baskets. A datamatrix reader in the SC3 ensures safe management of the sample flow and facilitates fully automatic screening and characterization of samples. Tools for handling and transporting 50 samples in a dry shipping dewar have been developed. In addition to the SC3, the SPINE sample holder is currently compatible with a number of other robotic sample changers.