LINGUIST List 6.925

Tue Jul 4 1995

Review: Arboreal for Windows

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Matt Crocker, Review of Arboreal for Windows

Message 1: Review of Arboreal for Windows

Date: Thu, 29 Jun 1995 15:23:56 Review of Arboreal for Windows
From: Matt Crocker <>
Subject: Review of Arboreal for Windows

Review of: Arboreal for Windows, Cascadilla Press.
By Dr. Matthew Crocker (
Centre for Cognitive Science, University of Edinburgh.

Arboreal for Windows (henceforth, Arborwin) is a package
designed to facilitate drawing trees within Microsoft(tm)
Windows(tm) applications. Arborwin consists simply of a
TrueType(tm) font in which keys are mapped to tree component
shaped characters rather than standard keyboard symbols. The
advantage of drawing trees in this way is that Arborwin is
very portable, and can be used in any WYSIWYG Windows(tm)
application which allows you to select specific fonts (i.e.
most). The disadvantage, broadly, is that `type-setting' or
layout of the trees is left to the user. The `characters' of
Arborwin include left, right, vertical, and `triangle'
branches -- each of several widths (but all the same height).
The font is also fully scalable.

In general, I found that Arborwin behaved as intended, given
that it is simply a font-based package. Its most basic
limitation is that there is a relatively small selection of
branch sizes (i.e. how narrow or wide a branch is). In
practice, the most common problem I encountered was that
`triangle' branches (eg, for phrase without internal
structure) couldn't be made wide enough ... given that one
often wants to put fairly long phrases under these. The only
way to increase the width was to increase the point size for
the branch; but this also increases the height of the
particular branch, and makes trees look disproportionate and

Being font-based, however, also means it cannot attain the
flexibility of alternative packages (eg, the `tree' package
for LaTeX). The 'tree' package, for example, takes as input
a declarative tree specification (as a bracketed list) and
then automatically typesets the tree, and also permits
crossing branches, and upside-down trees. Since typesetting
is automatic, the tree formatting is consistent, and tailored
to the size/length of terminals (including the triangle

Overall the package is simple to use and quite effective if
your requirements (in terms of both sophistication, and
layout quality) are not too demanding. If greater
flexibility, consistency, and quality is required, then I
believe there is still no substitute for LaTeX and its
associated packages.

Dr. Matthew Crocker, ESRC Research Fellow
Centre for Cognitive Science
University of Edinburgh
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