Example Key |  Back |  Bee Mites Home |  UMMZ Acari

Visual Key

     Visual Key is a cross-platform, interactive, rich-graphic web application for identification of organisms. It has been written as an alternative to similar web and standalone platform-dependent applications. The major difference between such programs and Visual Key, that the latter uses character maps that allow acquiring and describing characters directly from the image of an organism. Since the goal of the project was to create a program that does not assume any previous knowledge of a user about data or principles of interactive idenifications, some other features are not implemented.

     Visual Key is a client-side program that uses objects and the language already predefined in major browsers, and therefore it is small, relatively fast, and cross-platform. Once downloaded it will work even without internet connection.

     The program handles data matrices in the Nexus format and supports inapplicable, missing, multistate, and polymorphic characters. Visual Key can generate descriptions of given taxa at any time during identification.

     System Requirements

     Visual Key will potentially work in any World Wide Web Consortium recommendations compliant browser on any platform. Java script and cascading style sheets (CSS) must be enabled (Edit-Preferences-Advanced). We tested the program in Netscape Navigator 7.0 (Mac OS 9.2, OS X, Win XP), Mozilla, Firefox (OS X, Win XP), MS Internet Explorer ver. 5.x (Mac OS 9.2, OS X), and ver. 6.0 (Win XP). None of these browsers are fully compatible with the above recommendations, but Netscape Navigator 7.0 is the best because it behaves in the same way across different platforms. The only supported non-W3 compliant browser is Netscape Navigator 4.7 for Macintosh.

     To test if the program will work in your browser, click here. NB: the test won't work properly, if you use one of the small browsers that fake their identity. The test will also fail to distinguish between Netscape Navigator 6 and 7 that both have the same built-in version (5). Do not use Netscape Navigator 6 because it has numerous bugs. If your browser is not compatible with the program, download the latest version of

     1024x768 screen resolution is desirable for keys with images on 14'-15' monitors.


     To begin an identification of a specimen, choose a character and character state from the corresponding boxes. Likewise, a character may be selected directly from the image map (top left corner). After selecting a character, images of the specific character states will appear. To include that charter state press "Yes" button. To exclude that character state press "No" button. An abbreviated taxa list will appear, including any those taxa that posses the chosen character state and those in that the state is predefined as unknown. Continue this procedure until only one taxon remains. Click on any taxa in taxa list and the program will show autogenerated description.

     Data Format

     All data matrices must be in the Nexus format. Click here to view conventions for formatting character state list.

Collection of Interactive keys in old format



B. OConnor and P. Klimov ©
Created: March 18, 2004
Last modified: