If you like TreeForm and like video games, consider buying my Android game “Red Wolf”, a re-imagining of “Little Red Riding Hood” from a farmer’s point of view, and in the style of a “choose your own adventure”.

TreeForm is a cross-platform syntax tree drawing software written in Java. TreeForm has been freely available as an open-source project since February 2006, and updated to its current form in 2010. To download, please go to the TreeForm site on

If you use TreeForm in a publication, please cite it

Derrick, D. and Archambault, D. (2010). TreeForm: Explaining and exploring grammar through syntax trees. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 25(1):53-66. doi: 10.1093/llc/fqp031.

You can also watch the TreeForm tutorial video below:

With TreeForm, you can create and reorder syntax trees with Unicode fonts, add features, case, associations and movement lines in black and white or color, and save the results for future editing or print to pdf for use in word processing or Latex documents. TreeForm itself has been used extensively by researchers all over the world.  Special thanks to all those who have helped make TreeForm a successful project, to my many users, and to the 162,000+ who have tried TreeForm since I first published it.

As of July 2019, I have begun to revise and edit TreeForm to modernize it.  The news feed below will keep you up-to-date on my changes.

51 thoughts on “TreeForm

  1. a. syed

    Hi! I’m trying to run Treeform on Windows 10 and can’t seem to run the .bat file. The window opens up for a second and then disappears. Any suggestions?

    1. Donald Derrick Post author

      You do not have a Java Runtime (JRE) installed. Download it from Oracle, and install it. The program should work. (It does on my Windows 10 machine)

        1. Donald Derrick Post author

          You will need to run the .bat file from you command prompt, and then copy/paste the resulting error message. There’s no hope of me being able to address your issue without that error message. Thanks!

          1. Phi V.

            Hi! I had a similar problem to the user above.
            This is the error message I received from the command prompt:

            Exception in thread “main” java.lang.NoClassDefFoundError: sun.misc.Launcher
            at userInterface.Start.(

            I have used TreeForm before, and have only encountered this issue with recent windows updates.

          2. Donald Derrick Post author

            Can you tell me which version of JAVA you are using? This one I am not sure about at all 🙁

          3. Phi V.

            I wanted to add on to my last comment that there is also a Java Virtual Machine Launcher error that occurs if I try to run the app through Java.

            I am running Windows 10 x64

    2. Kevin C.


      This issue is also commented on more recently, further down, but I thought I’d reply here with my solution for visibility — as I didn’t realize comments were sorted by order posted at first.

      Like Matt all the way at the bottom I’m not super adept with this stuff but was able to get the program open on Windows with the installation of the second-to-last JRE file found here:

      (Worth noting I did have to make an Oracle account –though free– to access the download.)

      I don’t know if this is some workaround solution, but it got things working for me — so I thought I’d share it here for anyone having the same issue who might check the comments (like I did) for a fix.

  2. David A. Pabon


    I have two questions:

    First, can I use this program with Windows?

    And second, how can I open the program from the files package which I downloaded ?

    Please. I need it

    Thank you for the help

    1. Donald Derrick Post author

      Yes, you can, using the .bat file in Windows.

      You have to have a JRE (Java Runtime) installed.

  3. Masahiro Kato

    Dear Prof. Derrick,

    I am a linguist teaching pragmatics and functional grammar at universities in Japan.
    I would like to use TreeForm on my Mac (OS X: 10.11.6, El Capitan) and downloaded the file.
    Unfortunately, after unzipping it, and tried to open the treeform file, there appeared a message “this file is damaged and cannot be open.” I have tried downloading it several times from different sites but I got the same message.

    I would like to ask you how to download TreeForm safely to my Mac.
    Thank you very much in advance.

    Masahiro Kato
    Tokyo, Japan

    1. Donald Derrick Post author

      This should work:

      Have it fail
      Apple (top left) > System Preferences > Security & Privacy
      Bottom half – approve the program.

      If that does not work, you need to install the JRE (Java Runtime) first.

      If that does not work, send me another post.

      1. Anne

        I have the same problem than Masahiro Kato. I tried both of you solutions, but it doen’t work, it’s still written “this file is damaged and cannot be open.”

        What can I do more?

        Thank you


  4. Paul

    Hello Dr Derrick
    I am studying Syntax at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia and would gratefully appreciate the opportunity to utilise your software. However, like others, I am receiving the same error message upon attempting to install.

    System Info: MacOS 10.12.6
    JRE version installed: jre-8u201-macosx-x64
    Error message: “TreeForm” is damaged and can’t be opened. You should move it to the Trash.

    According to MacOS help as linked via the ‘?’ on the error message I can open an app by overriding security settings. To follow the help link’s information I should:

    “In the Finder, locate the app you want to open.
    Most apps can be found in the Applications folder.
    Control-click the app icon, then choose Open from the shortcut menu.
    Click Open.
    The app is saved as an exception to your security settings, and you can open it in the future by double-clicking it, just as you can any authorized app.”

    However, as the app is not installed it is not yet in the Applications folder, therefore I attempted to ‘Control click’ the executable file and select open but with the same result.
    Next, I attempt to change security settings and try again, and with the same negative result.

    Is it possible that the files stored on sourceforge are actually corrupted? That would explain why everyone is experiencing the same result.

    Awaiting your response, kind sir,
    Paul Davies.

    1. Donald Derrick Post author

      Hi Paul Davies,

      All of these problems are occurring because of Apple’s “gatekeeper” software. What I snarkily refer to as Apple’s war on open-source.

      As I remember it, the easiest solution is to:
      Download Treeform
      Try to open it by clicking on the app (it should fail)
      open system preferences > security and privacy
      Find the app listed where you can allow it to run.

      If that doesn’t work, you can go to apple’s terminal and run:

      sudo spctl –master-disable

      Then go to “security and privacy” and allow apps downloaded from anywhere to run.

      Run TreeForm – if you have Java installed it will run.

      Once TreeForm opens, if you want gatekeeper back, go to the terminal and type:

      sudo spctl –master-enable

      That should do it.

  5. Paul Davies

    Update! It will work if you run it off the .jar file!

    Anyone using a MAC, update JRE from oracle website and then try the .jar file.

    Regards, Paul

  6. Felix

    Hi Donald,

    Thanks for making this software!
    I’m studying syntax at the University of Western Australia where we are using TreeForm almost every day, and it is very useful.

    However as a keen programmer and tinkerer I’d also like to make a few tweaks myself, and was happy to see that it’s licensed under GPL.
    I’ve managed to pull the source code from the CVS on SourceForge although it seems like it’s not the same code used to build the latest version (1.0.3). Would you happen to have the latest version of the code published somewhere?

    Cheers, Felix

    1. Donald Derrick Post author

      It has been a LONG time since I edited this program. I’ll send you the code directly to your email address once we do an initial email “handshake”

  7. Imanol

    Hello Prof. Derrick,

    I am using TreeForm for my dissertation, and I was wondering what the best way to cite this software in the reference list would be. Thanks a lot!


    1. Donald Derrick Post author

      Derrick, D. and Archambault, D. (2010). Treeform: Explaining and exploring grammar through syntax trees. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 25(1):53-66. doi: 10.1093/llc/fqp031.

  8. Ian

    Hello Dr. Derrick,

    I am trying to download TreeForm onto my new iMac and I when I try to run the app I get the following message:

    “TreeForm” is damaged and can’t be opened. You should move it to the Trash.”

    Do you have any idea what I should do in this case? Thanks a lot!


    1. Ian

      Never mind, just noticed other users had the same issue; I followed their instructions and it now works, Thanks a lot for this tool!

      1. Donald Derrick Post author

        I’m glad others were able to solve this and it worked for you. WIth the latest Mac OS, my own recommendations do not even work for me. Hence the push to put out a few new versions over the next little while. I’ll also be putting the new source code up on github in the next few weeks because CVS is well and truly deprecated.

        1. Donald Derrick Post author

          I have now updated TreeForm on SourceForge. it is considerably easier to install on Mac and easier to run on Windows and Linux as it uses Java 8 and incorporates all the graphics into the JAR file.

    2. Donald Derrick Post author

      Apple has done everything in its power to break open-source projects lately. I have decided I will do something about the situation now.
      I have a new version of TreeForm for the first time in 12 years, currently running on my machine. I hope to compile it for windows and mac today and put it on sourceforge. I decided to get rid of the old “look and feel” for now. There will likely be a few other simple updates in the next few months.

  9. Craig Blacklock

    This is a really nice application and runs fairly smootly once Java is installed.

    One question: I can only get a yellow highlight, black text as default, and red as a secondary option as the selection arrows beside buttons do not work.
    Is this a function you are working on?
    Or do I need to install an additional product like was needed for fonts (DoulosSIL)?

    Still, without this function it is an entirely usable piece of software and copy nicely into word.

    1. Donald Derrick Post author

      You need DoulosSIL for the default fonts. The colors should work through the menu, but on windows machines only if you preserve the downloaded file structure. If you move the java file from the structure, the menus don’t all work properly. On a Mac, I was able to pack the files into an App, and that App works properly based on its own internal file structure.

  10. Matthew Burner

    Good afternoon Dr. Derrick:

    I’m not super tech savvy and was hoping you might be able to direct me with what I’m doing wrong. I downloaded the TreeForm software and it didn’t work, so I downloaded Java SE 15.0.1. However, the TreeFrom bat file won’t run and when I try to run TreeForm.jar an error message tells me that a java exception has occurred. I tried to run the bat file in the command window and I get the following error message:

    java -Xmx256m -Xms64m -jar TreeForm.jar
    Exception in thread “main” java.lang.NoClassDefFoundError: sun.misc.Launcher
    at userInterface.Start.(

    Do I have the wronger version of Java or am I doing something wrong?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Donald Derrick Post author

      I assume you are using a version of Windows? I need to know the version to have any hope of helping.

      1. Andrew Birner

        I have the same problem on my wife’s machine. I downloaded TreeFormWindows and installed the latest 64-bit version of Java from Oracle’s site (15.0.1, 2020-10-20); I get the same error.

        However, on my machine, which is running Java version 1.8.0_271, TreeForm works just fine. This appears to be a 32-bit version of Java.

        Is 64-bit Java supported for TreeForm, or does it need a 32-bit version of Java?

  11. Hanna

    Firstly, a heartfelt thank you! Drawing trees on Word was frustrating (I wasn’t able to complete a single one). This is a wonderful tool!

    My question is:
    Is it possible to draw trees on TreeForm without terminal lines? I.e. nothing being between, say, V° and the main verb thus being directly under it? See this link for a photo of what I mean (random example):

    Many thanks!

    1. Donald Derrick Post author

      You can always build a tree however you want through node up and down. You can also always have a label and text under it without any lines simply by using the “feature” option.

  12. Merlín

    The program runs and works fine. But the color options are not available – just black and red. Can you help me with solving this problem, please? I would like to work with various colors. Thanks for your reply.

    1. Donald Derrick Post author

      I cannot replicate this issue on my Mac. You need to tell me your OS and then I will be able to try once lockdown ends (in 1-2 weeks)

  13. Barbara R.

    Hello! I would like to use TreeForm in my MacBook, but it’s running Big Sur and when I try to run the .app file it says “this app needs to be updated to work with this version of macOS”. Is there any chance it will be updated? Or is there a workaround to make it run? Thanks in advance for any tips/advice!

    1. Donald Derrick Post author

      If I remember correctly, you have to go to the system preferences -> security and privacy. Look to the bottom and allow the program to be opened.
      This is assuming you downloaded the latest version from SourceForge.

      Let me know if this works for you.

  14. Scott

    Hi, started using this recently for my own study. Great program overall!

    However, trying to use the dropdown buttons for colors, as well as trying to access properties, causes a NullPointerException, seemingly at the same top-level function (javax.swing.plaf.basic.BasicColorChooserUI$Handler.propertyChange).

    As for platform, I’m on Windows 10.

    1. Donald Derrick Post author

      With windows, the java program needs to be kept in the same directory structure as you unzipped. Otherwise it cannot find the path to the menu images.

      Hope that helps!

  15. Matthew

    Hey, it is such a shame that the process of getting java onto a Chromebook requires installing Linux, for most people don’t have the technical know-how in order to do that. Could there be a future work-around or update that would enable support for this excellent program without Java/for Chromebook? Thanks

    1. Donald Derrick Post author

      If you know people who want to try to port TreeForm into something like HTML5 and JavaScript, that would be amazing, but it will also take that person several months to complete. I myself have not worked on TreeFrom since I last tried to update it for Windows and Mac (succeeded with Mac, but ran into problems with lack of support for internationalization in more recent versions of Java for Windows…)

  16. Patrick Kinchsular

    Hi Professor Derrick,

    Thanks a ton for making this program! This really helps a syntax student like me! I wanted to ask if the program has any way of representing ‘do-support’ with its current capability. I’m in a second-year syntax course right now and currently we’re modelling ‘do-support’ essentially as movement that comes from nowhere else in the tree and lands in either T or C. As far as I can tell however, to add movement the program requires that you select a starting node in the tree for where the movement comes from. Is there any way to work around this or something that I’m missing?

    Thanks for your help!

    1. Donald Derrick Post author

      Alas, when I wrote this program, I never imagined a scenario where I would have to model a movement from outside the tree. I am unsure how I would even add such a thing to my software design, and for that I apologize.

  17. Siyi

    This software is very nice!

    However, I have a question: how to align all the texts on the bottom finally, which makes the pictures look more beautiful?

    1. Donald Derrick Post author

      This question is hard to interpret. Email me at donald.derrick at
      Attach an image from the file so that I can know what you are referring to.


  18. John Jordan

    I have had TreeForm working for years on Xubuntu, but when I tried to get it working on a new laptop with Xubuntu 21.10 there were two packages that were missing from the repositories: oracle-java8-installer and oracle java8set-default. It took a lot of poking round the net but I finally found a PPA that you can add to your sources.list, do an update, and then they will be available to install:
    Hope that helps.


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