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

In the spring of 2007, a comparison of TreeForm along with other methods of drawing syntax trees and a cognitive walkthrough with extensive cyclical editing was published. 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.

25 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!

  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.


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