LINGUIST List 6.686

Sun 14 May 1995

Review: Arboreal for Windows, Cascadilla Press

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  1. Daniel Seely, Arboreal for Windows, Cascadilla Press

Message 1: Arboreal for Windows, Cascadilla Press

Date: Thu, 11 May 1995 11:02:07 Arboreal for Windows, Cascadilla Press
From: Daniel Seely <>
Subject: Arboreal for Windows, Cascadilla Press

Review of: Arboreal for Windows, Cascadilla Press.
By Michael C. Beard (email:

Overview and Strengths:

 ArborWin is a tree-building font which works in Windows
3.1 and is compatible with any Windows-compatible word
processing package. As a font-based tool, ArborWin is
extremely easy to use from the keyboard, so the drawing
aspect of building syntactic trees is quite simple. Indeed,
the entire concept of ArborWin seems to be based upon
simplicity from installation to usage.
 ArborWin gives the linguist branching nodes from the head
XP to the terminal element, including triangle branches for
non-analyzed constituents. The fonts work most easily with
binary branching, though ArborWin includes tertiary branches
and vertical lines to extend the medial branch. Extending the
binary (or outer branches on a tertiary tree) branches is
accomplished through leftward and rightward branch extensions.
 ArborWin did not overlook the need for tracing move-alpha
within trees. Horizontal lines, vertical lines, angles, and
arrows are included with the font, as well as symbols which
cross-out horizontal or vertical lines to indicate where
movement does not or cannot occur.
 Using ArborWin is best done according to their
documentation: enter the text for the nodes in their
approximate position (using the tab key or spacebar); double
space between the nodes; then move your cursor between the
nodes, choose the ArborWin font, and insert the appropriate
symbol (make sure you re-select your original font after
inserting the ArborWin character). After placing these basic
elements, you need to go back and space the node text and tree
symbols appropriately in order to line them up.


 For all of ArborWin's ease of use, it becomes quite a
task to build a large and/or complicated tree. There is no
easy way to do it. You need to place the node text as
carefully as possible, then select the ArborWin sections of
the tree you need and try to arrange them nicely. The most
difficult part is when you have a long branch which
necessitates using several connecting branches. Since
ArborWin is a font, each branch takes up a font's worth of
vertical space between lines. In order to connect the
connecting branches, for example, along the left side of your
tree, you need to adjust the line height between each segment
of line. This creates a problem, however, if you have node
text descending down the right side of your tree. The easiest
way to solve this problem is to forget about actually
connecting the lines in the document until you've printed it,
then use a sharp pencil and a ruler to fill in the gaps.

 Another problem inherent with ArborWin as a font package
is being forced to use the spacebar to line up all elements
(node text as well as branches and lines) of your trees. I
tried switching to all center tabs, but that only helped with
text; the ArborWin branching node segments do not center on
the apex of the node; rather, the insertion point of the
branching node is the terminal point of its left leg.
Likewise, the insertion point of a left-hand and descending
branch is its far left end, which is the bottom of the branch.
The insertion point of a right-hand descending branch is also
its far left end, which in this case is the top of the branch.
This is easy enough to get used to once you've seen it work a
few times, but it makes it a little difficult to guess the
position of terminal nodes. This is probably why ArborWin
says always remember to check the printed output--it can vary
from the screen display.

 Coupled with the previous problem is the problem of
changing base fonts and/or point size. Since you cannot use
tabs to line up node text and branches, if you find that you
have to change typeface or point size, your entire tree is
thrown out of alignment.

 Although I was hoping for a tree-building package that
would simplify building larger trees, I do find ArborWin worth
the little effort it takes to build smaller, less complicated
trees. It is quite easy to use, especially if you're used to
working with proportional spaced fonts and you are well aware
of the dangers of using the spacebar to line things up by
eyeballing it. For larger, more complicated trees, you have
to be willing to make some irrevocable decisions about the
typeface and point size of your tree, unless you don't mind
re-aligning everything after making a change.
 I recommend ArborWin for those looking for a quick and
easy way to produce good-looking, simple syntactic trees. For
detailed, complex, multi-leveled trees, ArborWin can still
fill the bill if you're willing to spend a little time and
effort. The results can be quite professional looking.

Michael C. Beard
MA, Hellenistic Greek (1982)
MA, Linguistics (1/96)
Former College Instructor in PC Computing
Currently: Corporate PC Trainer, W.B. Doner & Company;
Research Assistant, Wayne State University;
Part-Time Instructor in Linguistics, Wayne State University
Detroit, Michigan
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