LINGUIST List 6.925

Tue Jul 4 1995

Review: Arboreal for Windows

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  • 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 inconsistent.

    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 branches).

    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