DELTA home

Hints on using Intkey with Watson & Dallwitz datasets

5 August 2016

L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz

The toolbars

To get help for a toolbar button, first click the Help button at the right of the main toolbar, then click on the button for which you need help.


Important. When the program starts, the settings in some datasets are appropriate for information retrieval (see below); this will be indicated by a warning screen when the dataset is opened. In that case, you must click the Identification (Identification) button before carrying out identifications.

With the identification settings, the top-left pane is headed ‘Best Characters’. Your identification will usually be quicker and more accurate if you use characters near the top of the list. However, if you want to see the characters in their natural order, you can click the 'Natural order' (Natural order) button without affecting the other identification settings.

  1. In the top-left pane, click on a character that you feel confident you can use.
  2. The program displays a list of character states, or a box for entering values such as lengths. If there is an illustration for the character, it will be displayed automatically. Click on the state, or enter the value, that applies to your specimen, and click ‘OK’. If you aren’t sure, don’t guess a single state or value. Instead, click on more than one state, enter a range of values, or click ‘Cancel’ and try another character. To deselect a previously selected state, click on it again.
  3. The ‘Taxa Remaining’ (top-right) pane shows the taxa that match the information that you have entered. The ‘Taxa Eliminated’ (bottom-right) pane shows the taxa that do not match, with the number of mismatches in parentheses. Repeat from step 1 until ‘Identification complete’ or some other message is displayed in the top-left pane. A ‘Help’ button is also displayed; click this to obtain information on how to proceed (for example, how to confirm the identification).

If, at any stage, you think you’ve made a mistake and want to correct it, click on the appropriate character in the ‘Used Characters’ (bottom-left) pane. The program again displays the box for selecting character states or entering values, and you can change the information you previously entered. You can remove the character from the identification by clearing all the information.

Information retrieval

First, click on the Queries (Queries) button. This sets parameters suitable for finding taxa for which specified attributes (character states) are recorded. Also, it causes the characters to be displayed in the order in which they appear in conventional taxon descriptions, and allows operations to be carried out on all the ‘taxa’, including, in some datasets, ‘Unidentified images’, a repository for any images that have not yet been identified with known taxa. Queries are conducted in the same way as identifications, but in queries, taxa for which a specified character is not recorded are eliminated, whereas in identifications they are retained. For further information on this, and other options, select ‘File > Advanced Mode’ and display the help for the ‘Set Match’ command or button.

To view a description, diagnosis, and illustrations of a particular taxon, select the taxon in one of the ‘Taxa’ (right-hand) panes, and click the Information button (Information about taxa). The ‘Taxon information’ dialog is displayed. Select the required descriptions and/or images, and click ‘Display’.

In some datasets, proper diagnostic descriptions may not be obtained with the ‘query’ settings, because of the inclusion of oddments such as sensu lato versions of some taxa, taxa that lack adequate data, or an ‘Unidentified images’ item. To exclude these items, while retaining the other ‘query’ settings, click the 'Taxon subset' button (Use a subset of the taxa), and select ‘identification’. The ‘identification’ subset comprises mutually exclusive taxa for which comparative data are provided. (If there is no ‘identification’ keyword, the dataset does not contain ‘oddment’ taxa, and all taxa are automatically included in both ‘identification’ and ‘query’ modes.)

You can also select more than one taxon (by using Ctrl+click) before clicking the Information button. Then you can browse within these taxa in the ‘Taxon information’ dialog. If no taxa are selected, all of the ‘remaining’ taxa are used.

To obtain a list of taxa exhibiting a particular character state, locate the requisite character in the character list in the left-hand pane, and click on it. Before selecting a state or states in the window, which then appears, you should view any images and character notes that are offered there. Note that character states can be selected directly from the image windows.

Searching for taxon names

Taxon names may be stored and searched in several places.

1. The accepted names of the taxa, at the level at which the data are recorded in the package. They are visible in the ‘taxa’ panes at the right of the screen. These names can be searched by using the 'Search taxon names' button (Find text in taxon names) in the ‘taxa’ toolbar.

2. Synonyms, at the level at which the data are recorded in the package. They can be searched, together with the names in (1), by using the 'Search taxon names' button, and checking ‘Search synonyms’ in the dialog that is displayed.

Some datasets include:

3. Common names. They can be searched by using the 'Search common names' button.

4. Scientific names of lower taxa (genera or species) belonging to the taxa for which the data are recorded. They can be searched by using the 'Search generic names' or 'Search species names' button.

The 'Search taxon names' button causes the taxa in which the text occurs to be selected in the taxon panes. The 'Search common names', 'Search generic names', and 'Search species names' buttons cause the taxa in which the text does not occur to be moved to the ‘Eliminated taxa’ pane. In either case, click the Information button (Information about taxa) to display information about the taxon or taxa that satisfied the search criterion.

Displaying illustrations of taxa

To view illustrations of taxa, select a taxon or taxa in one of the ‘Taxa’ (right-hand) panes, and click the Information button (Information about taxa). The ‘Taxon information’ dialog is displayed. Select the required images, and click ‘Display’.

If you select more than one image, their windows will be tiled. Click the Maximize button (Maximize) on an image window to display it using the whole screen; then click the Restore button (Restore) or the Close button (Close) to reveal the other images again.

If an image window contains a ‘Notes’ button, clicking it will display further information about the image, such as a legend or acknowledgement.

By default, Intkey scales images to fit the window, but in most datasets we have changed the default to ‘unscaled’. You can change this setting by means of the 'Image scaling' button (Set scaling of images on or off). You can also change the setting for an individual image by clicking on ‘Scaled’ in the ‘Window’ menu of the image window.

Learning more about Intkey

The program is initially in ‘Normal Mode’, which is suitable for most purposes. For more options, select ‘Advanced Mode’ from the ‘File’ menu.

Help for all the Intkey options is available in Advanced Mode.

Worked examples using Intkey for identification and information retrieval are available at under ‘Overview of the DELTA System’.