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The Delta System: installation guide

22 February 2016

M. J. Dallwitz, T. A. Paine, and E. J. Zurcher


This guide is for the DELTA programs written for Microsoft Windows by the CSIRO Division of Entomology. Some of the programs have been ported by The Atlas of Living Australia to run under Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X. Both suites of programs and various data sets are available via the DELTA Home Page:

The DELTA format (DEscription Language for TAxonomy) is a flexible method for encoding taxonomic descriptions for computer processing. DELTA-format data can be used to produce natural-language descriptions, conventional and interactive keys, and cladistic and phenetic classifications.

The DELTA System is a suite of programs originally developed at CSIRO Entomology. It comprises: Intkey, a program for interactive identification and information retrieval; the DELTA Editor, a program for creating and editing DELTA data; Confor, a program for translating DELTA data into other formats; various other programs; documentation, including ‘User’s Guide to the DELTA Editor’ and ‘User’s Guide to the DELTA System’; and sample data files.

System requirements

When installed, Intkey requires about 2MB of disk space, and the full DELTA System about 8MB.

All the programs run under Windows 98, ME, NT 4.0, 32-bit XP, Vista, 7 and 8, and 10. The programs Confor, Delfor, Key, Dist, Nsim, and Pclass will not run under 64-bit versions of Windows.

Running some of the programs under Windows Vista or later may require some of the following settings. (1) ‘Run as Administrator’. (2) Turn off ‘Data Execution Prevention’ (DEP). (3) Turn off ‘User Account Control’ (UAC).

For 64-bit Windows, and for Macintosh and Linux systems, we recommend using the ALA versions of the programs (see next paragraph), or installing 32-bit Windows XP in a VirtualBox virtual machine.

The Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) has rewritten some of the programs so that they will run under Windows or Mac OS X – see ‘Open DELTA’ home page. These programs require installation of the Java Runtime Environment (JRE).

Obtaining the programs

Intkey is in the installation file intk32.exe, and the full DELTA System (including Intkey) is in the installation file delt32.exe. Save the distribution file in any folder. (We recommend using a folder ‘\delta’ — create it if necessary.)

Installing the programs and running Intkey

For information on installing and using the programs on networks, see Appendix.

To install, find the downloaded distribution file (intk32.exe or delt32.exe) in Windows Explorer, and double click on it. Then follow the on-screen instructions.

To run Intkey, press the ‘Start’ button, select ‘Programs’, select ‘Delta’, and select ‘Intkey’.

Using the full DELTA System

The programs Delta (the DELTA Editor), Intkey, Intimate, Confor, Delfor, Dist, Key, and are Windows applications, and can be run from the ‘Programs’ menu or from an MS-DOS window. All the other programs are MS-DOS applications, and can be run from an MS-DOS window.

Alternatively, you can run the programs Confor, Intkey, Dist, and Key from within the DELTA Editor.


After installation, the documentation is in the ‘doc’ subfolder of the DELTA folder. It consists of text files with extension .txt, and MS Word 2000 files with extension .doc. The text files can be viewed and printed with any text editor (for example, Notepad). The Word files can be viewed and printed with MS Word 2000 or later, or with MS Word 97/2000 Viewer. The latter is available free of charge at Click on ‘Downloads’, search for ‘Word Viewer’, and click on ‘Word 97/2000 Viewer’. (Alternatively, you can use WordPad, which is supplied with Windows, but this displays some of the formatting incorrectly.)

The User’s Guide to the DELTA Editor (delta.doc) is recommended as an introduction to using the system. It also contains the full documentation of the Editor.

The User’s Guide to the DELTA System (uguide.doc) contains the documentation of most of the other programs.

The DELTA Primer (primer.doc) is now largely obsolete. If you do want to work through the examples in it, you must work in an MS-DOS window.

Test versions

Test versions of the programs, containing bug fixes and enhancements, may be available. Before using them, it is essential to install the current release of the DELTA System or Intkey, as described above.

The test versions are in the form of self-extracting zip files, or ordinary zip files. They must be expanded in the folder (usually \delta) in which the current release was installed.


Development of the programs has been supported by grants from the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, and the National Science Foundation of the United States of America (Award Number 9631047).

We are grateful to the following authors for permission to use and distribute their programs: J. R. Elvira and A. G.-Valdecasas (Transnt), and J. M. Borden (To).

We thank J. Humphries for providing space on the Biodiversity and Biological Collections Web Server (

Appendix. Installing and using the programs on networks

Because the installation procedure attempts to write uninstall information to a system folder, the program should preferably be installed by the system administrator. However, the installation procedure will usually succeed without administrator privileges, and give a warning message.

Intkey normally places its data-sets index file in the same folder as the program. If the user does not have write permission for this folder, another folder must be specified by placing the parameter ‘-G=index-file-name’ in the shortcut target line. For details, see ‘Data-Sets Index and Startup Parameters’ in the Intkey ‘User’s Guide’ or online help.

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