DELTA programs and documentation

DELTA home

22 February 2016

M. J. Dallwitz


DELTA programs originally developed at the CSIRO Division of Entomology

Support and documentation

Other DELTA programs

Other links

DELTA programs originally developed at the CSIRO Division of Entomology

The DELTA format (DEscription Language for TAxonomy) is a flexible method for encoding taxonomic descriptions for computer processing. The programs described in this section were originally written for Microsoft Windows by the CSIRO Division of Entomology, and were ported by The Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) to run under Windows or Mac OS X.

Intkey app for interactive identification and information retrieval

Intkey is included with the complete set of programs, but can be installed separately (CSIRO version), or downloaded and run without installing (either version). Note that the ALA version requires installation of the Java Runtime Environment (JRE).

Installing Intkey (CSIRO version)

Download and run the Intkey installation file. The installation guide contains detailed information about installing Intkey and the other DELTA programs.

Using Intkey without installing (either version)


Download the zipfile containing the CSIRO version (1.4 MB) or the ALA version (4.6 MB) of the app. On your internal hard disk or on an external disk or thumb drive, create a folder ‘intkey’ to hold the app and related files, and unzip the downloaded file into that folder. If using the ALA version, make sure that the JRE is installed.


To run Intkey, double click on the file intkey5(.exe) (CSIRO version) or Intkey(.exe) (ALA version). In the ‘Select data set’ dialog, type or paste the local filename or the URL (Web address) of an Intkey initialization file. (Your Web browser will have an option for copying the URL of a link.)


To test the app, you can use the initialization file ‘sample\’, which is included with the downloaded files, or the URL ‘’. The latter key is designed for exploration of interactive identification, and for use in training courses and workshops. When evaluating interactive-key apps, it’s important to carry out real identifications, rather than pretending to identify familiar organisms, when the answer is known beforehand. This key is suitable for that purpose. The characters don’t require special knowledge, and the illustrations can be used as ‘specimens’ to be identified.

Easier access to initialization files

If you want to be able to run Intkey by double clicking on the name of an initialization file, or by clicking on a link in a Web page (for example, in the datasets at, you need to associate the file type ‘.ink’ with the app file intkey5.exe (CSIRO version) or Intkey.exe (ALA version). For information on how to do this in Windows, see This association is carried out automatically if you install Intkey.

When you exit from a key, you will be given the opportunity to add it to an index file for easier future access.

Complete set of programs

CSIRO version (Windows only)

Intkey and the DELTA Editor will run in 32-bit or 64-bit Windows. The other programs will run only in 32-bit Windows.

Installation guide • conditions of use • revision history

Installation file for the complete set of programs (including Intkey)

Contents page for test versions of the programs

ALA version (Windows and Mac OS X)

These programs require installation of the Java Runtime Environment (JRE).

‘Open DELTA’ home page

Support and documentation

Support and discussion

The DELTA-L mailing list

User’s guides

User’s guide to Intkey: a program for interactive identification and information retrievalPDF version

User’s guide to the DELTA EditorPDF version. This is recommended as an introduction to using the DELTA System.

User’s guide to the DELTA System: a general system for processing taxonomic descriptions PDF version

The Windows installation file for all programs (including Intkey) includes the following.

A primer for the DELTA System.

User’s guide to the DELTA System: a general system for processing taxonomic descriptions (obsolete version).

User’s guide to the DELTA Editor (obsolete version).

User’s guide to Intkey: a program for interactive identification and information retrieval. (Also included in the Windows Intkey installation file.)

Other documentation

DELTA Intkey tutorial (PDF) (Amanda Spooner and Alex Chapman)

DELTA-L mailing list. The mailing-list archive contains many tips and examples.

DELTA StandardPDF version

Intkey example: differencesPDF version (Mike Dallwitz)

Intkey example: identificationPDF version (Mike Dallwitz)

Introdução ao sistema DELTA (PDF) (Mauro Cavalcanti)

Known bugs in the DELTA Editor


Files for generating messages and help used by Intkey. Not needed for normal operation of Intkey.

Ftp access

Other DELTA programs


DELIA. Integrated DELTA database management for MS-Windows. See also ‘Integration of taxonomic descriptive data across multiple database platforms and softwares (Weed Information Network — a case study)’.

DeltaAccess. Storing and processing DELTA data in MS-Access.

DIANA. MS-Windows shell for running DELTA programs.

Free DELTA. An open-source system for processing taxonomic descriptions. Includes C++ classes for manipulating DELTA files.

PANDORA. Database system for taxonomic and biodiversity research projects. See also Internet Archive:

PANKEY. Description writing, key-generation, and identification programs for MS-DOS.

TAXASOFT. Open-source editor for DELTA and DeltaXML.

WebDelta. Perl program for Web entry of DELTA item descriptions. Internet Archive:

Interactive keys

See Programs for Interactive Identification and Information Retrieval.

Other links

DELTA-L. A mailing list for discussion of descriptive databases.

DELTA Newsletter archive

Digital Taxonomy. An information resource on biodiversity data management.

Methodology of interactive keys and descriptive databases

Programs for interactive identification and information retrieval

References. Applications and documentation of the DELTA System.

DELTA home DELTA home page