DELTA software sources on the internet
The following is an annotated list of software resources related to DELTA of which I am aware.
- DeltaAccess itself is distributed primarily from http:// www.bgbm.fu-berlin.de /Projects /DeltaAccess/. Minor updates will be announced through that site. Only major updates will be announced through the email lists as well.
- DELTA mailing list: An email list is available called "DELTA Software Discussion List". This is currently the preferred forum for discussions and requests for support of DELTA programs, including DeltaAccess. A list server is a utility, which distributes all incoming messages to all members of the mailing list. Thus, when you ask a question, all members of the list will receive an email with your message. Conversely, you will receive regularly messages from other members. To subscribe to the mailing list DELTA-L, send the message: "SUBSCRIBE DELTA-L your-first-name your-last-name" by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Under http:// listserv.surfnet.nl/ archives/ delta-l.html you can join or leave the list using a web browser, and browse or search old list postings.
- DELTA Newsletter: http:// www.calm.wa.gov.au/ science/delta/news/ index.html. Several back volumes are available online, unfortunately only in Adobe PDF format. They can be read using a special program from Adobe, which is free, but a huge download.
- DELTA: CONFOR, DELFOR, INTKEY, etc. (Mike Dallwitz, email@example.com): http:// www.biodiversity.uno.edu /delta/. This is the "DELTA home page". Mike Dallwitz originally invented and developed DELTA. The most complete and probably most widely used package, but very difficult to use (command line / batch file oriented). The package is accompanied by a very extensive and helpful documentation. The programs are continually updated. The base programs (Confor, Delfor, Intkey etc.) are shareware. They can be freely redistributed, but you must pay a license fee (ca. 400 US$) if you use them. Generous exceptions are granted to school use or use by Ph.D. students. The Intkey package for interactive identification must be licensed when redistributed. Intkey itself is a Windows 3.x program. Thus, although you have to deal with a difficult user interface yourself, you can pass a program with a Windows user interface to end-users for computer assisted identifications. The other programs are available in versions compiled for Windows as well. They use extended memory, which allows larger data sets, but the user interface is currently identical with the DOS versions (command line / batch file oriented). New versions with a true Windows user interface are expected in the summer of 1998. They will be based on a significantly changed (and, unfortunately, largely incompatible) DELTA language. This new version will no longer provided structured data compatible with databases, see the discussion in Concepts of structured data storage.
- Two menu-oriented shells are available to run the command line oriented DELTA programs under Microsoft Windows: DIANA, by Mauro J. Cavalcanti (firstname.lastname@example.org), http:// www.biodiversity.uno.edu /delta /diana and Delta Menu System, DMS by Nicholas S. Lander (nlander @calm.wa.gov.au), http:// www.biodiversity.uno.edu /delta /dms. These shells run the normal DELTA programs (Confor, Delfor, etc.) and integrate an editor for text and batch files, or create common batch files themselves.
- PANKEY (Richard Pankhurst, email@example.com): http:// www.rbge.org.uk /pankey.html. Extensive set of tools, comparable or exceeding Dallwitz's Confor/Delfor/Intkey program suite in scope. PANKEY uses DELTA version 3. It creates natural language descriptions (allowing user defined output) and dichotomous keys (in automatic or semiautomatic mode). Also includes the interactive identification program ONLINE and a simple DELTA editor DEDIT. DEDIT has a deep menu structure which makes it difficult to edit characters or character states. The basic DELTA directives can be edited, but some features (like character dependency, character headings, deleting characters, changing the sequence of characters) remain "not implemented". PANKEY (including DEDIT) is only available for DOS. Except for the DEDIT editor it is available only commercially from Exeter publishing.
- MacPANKEY: 4 programs of PANKEY were ported to the Macintosh operating system by Brian Duff, see http://wiredsoc.ml.org/~pankey/. The user interface is limited to open/save file dialogs to process command batch files.
- PANDORA (Richard Pankhurst, compare PANKEY): http:// www.rbge.org.uk /research /pandora.home. Pandora is a complete database for managing taxonomic and descriptive biodiversity information. It includes bibliographic information and a collection subsystem sufficient for printing and managing label information. It is the only application besides DeltaAccess which integrates DELTA files into a database. The application is based on a Advanced Revelation (AREV) database (proprietary mixed hierarchical/relational database model called "post relational"; uses multivalued fields; some functionality comparable to PICK). The PANKEY programs can be called from within PANDORA. Currently still only available for DOS, although a Windows version is planned. Since May 1999 it is free and can be downloaded from http://metalab.unc.edu /pub /academic /biology /ecology+evolution /software /pandora.
- TAXASOFT (Eric Gouda, firstname.lastname@example.org): http:// www.ruu.nl.botgard /taxasoft.htm and http:// biodiversity.uno.edu /pub/delta /taxasoft. The program is distributed as shareware, i.e., you must pay a license fee to use them. Includes a DOS editor with a decent user interface, which maintains the consistency of characters, character states, and items during editing, inserting or deleting. Other tools generate natural language descriptions and printed keys. This is not a shell to Dallwitz's suite of DELTA programs (Confor, etc.), but an independent implementation! TAXASOFT sometimes uses DELTA in non-standard ways, which is unfortunately not very well documented.
- ALICE (R. Allkin, P. J. Winfield, http:// dspace.dial.pipex.com /alice/): A large software package based on a relational database model. It seems to be centered on nomenclatorial features, but provides support for bibliographic and descriptive data as well. DELTA is supported only as an export format. Available only for DOS, commercial product, expensive.
- BG-Base (http:// rbge-sun1.rbge.org.uk /BG-BASE): A collection database primarily aimed at managing information in botanical garden living collections. The status of DELTA support is not entirely clear, as of July 98 (.../modules.htm, 'Descriptor module') it was marked as 'under development', while other documents seemed to assume it had been finished. DELTA seems to be is supported only as an export format. BG-Base uses the same database software as PANDORA (see above). Available only for DOS, commercial product, pricing information could not be found on the website.
- Nexus Data Editor, NDE (Roderick Page, http:// taxonomy.zoology.gla.ac.uk /rod/NDE /nde.html) is primarily aimed at editing NEXUS files, but it can read and write the categorical characters (OM/UM) from a DELTA coded text file, and can save the data matrix from a NEXUS file as a DELTA file. According to the author himself NDE is in a very early stage of development (version 0.1.1, crashes frequently). Despite the early development stage a very promising tool for the future. Freely available for Windows 95, NT 4.0 or later.
- CABIKey (CAB International, author: I. White, http:// www.cabi.org /catalog /cabikey /cabikey.htm): CABIKey consists of a player and an editing module. The latter is able to import and export part of the information contained in a DELTA file (separately for Pankey- and Confor-compatible DELTA files). Neither the player nor the editor can, to my knowledge, be purchased directly. Only finished identification packages for the various groups are sold by CAB. Available for DOS and Windows. The program must be paid with each (quite expensive …) identification package.
- LucID (Cooperative Research Centre for Tropical Pest Management): http:// www.ctpm.uq.edu.au /Software /Lucid.html. An interactive "key player" for interactive identification and a builder for these keys. Commercial program. The builder can import part of the information contained in a standard DELTA version 3 file. Export to DELTA files does not seem possible. Warning: Before settling on this program, check how many character states it supports. The analyzed version seemed to be limited to 20 character states per character, and a complete redesign of the non-normalized data structure would be necessary to circumvent this limitation.
NaviKey (Version 2,0 has now been released!) is an internet application for identification purposes. It is a Java applet/servlet. It was written by Michael Bartley (email@example.com) and Noel Cross, see http:// www.herbaria.harvard.edu /computerlab /web_keys /navikey. It is free, unsupported software.
DeltaAccess Perl is a perl/CGI script interfacing to DeltaAccess style tables for interactive identification over the web. It was written by Noel Cross, see http:// www.herbaria.harvard.edu /computerlab /web_keys /delta_access_perl.html. It is no longer maintained because of the creation of the more sophisticated NaviKey (see above). The advantage of DeltaAccess Perl over NaviKey is that is does not require Java, thus running on older browsers and working much better over slow internet connections. A version ('DAP') with some minor updates, capable of running with the current version of DeltaAccess, has been created by Dr. A. Findling and is available (together with a documentation in German) under http://www.lrz-muenchen.de/~findling/programs/dap.
DeltaAccess Web Interface DAWI (Leibniz Rechenzentrum München, Dr. A. Findling): Developed for information retrieval using Windows NT 4.0 and Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) or Personal Web Server (PWS). Freely available (but documentation available only in German), see http://www.lrz-muenchen.de/~findling/programs/dawi.
PollyClave (University of Toronto: Libraries and Department of Botany; Royal Ontario Museum): http:// prod.library.utoronto.ca/ polyclave. This is a web based, multiple-entry interactive identification key. It is a CGI web interface provided as ANSI C source code, which you can compile for your own operating system. It reads DELTA files directly. Freely available for research and academic use.
WebDelta (Istituto di Scienze Biochimiche, Univ. Parma). A combination of PERL and Java code to provide simple web identifications and access to an image gallery. Reads Delta files directly (only character list, character type, and item description directives). Freely available for non-commercial purposes. See WebDelta (http:// irisbioc.bio.unipr.it /webdelta /webdelta.html) and TuberKey (http:// irisbioc.bio.unipr.it /tuber /tuberkey_english).
Other useful resources related to databases of descriptive information
The DELTA home page (http:// www.biodiversity.uno.edu /delta/) is identical with the distribution site for Confor and Intkey mentioned previously. It also hosts much interesting general information regarding DELTA, including extensive literature references.
Mauro J. Cavalcanti compiles the Digital Taxonomy home page (http:// www.geocities.com/ RainForest/ Vines/ 8695/). Amongst other things, it contains an overview of DELTA software (http:// www.geocities.com/ RainForest/ Vines/ 8695/ software.html) and a list of data sets (http:// www.geocities.com/ RainForest/ Vines/8695/ data.html). Note though that most data sets are encoded in the proprietary Intkey format, which has nothing to do with DELTA, except that DELTA data sets can be compiled into the Intkey format. The data sets are therefore essentially read-protected.
Two very useful lists of interactive identification programs (whether they support DELTA or not) are maintained by Mike Dallwitz (http:// www.keil.ukans.edu /delta/www/idprogs.htm) and Marco Bleeker (http:// www.euronet.nl/ users/ mbleeker/ prog/ swtaxlst.html).
The current TDWG standards are listed on http://www.tdwg.org/standrds.html.
See also the Internet directory for botany: Software (http:// www.helsinki.fi/ kmus/ botsoft.html).
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