During Summer 2013, one of our interns, Myles Gurule, tackled redesigning and updating the MultiTree website. This massive undertaking has now reached the beta stage of its development. The new MultiTree has a great new look, as well as having new dynamic functions and features that are very easy to use. I’m going to talk about some of those new features now.
Some general new features
For every tree, there is a comments section at the bottom of the page, using Disqus. You can also share the discussion via Facebook or Twitter. This is to promote discussion in the community of linguists who use MultiTree. If you have any questions or comments about a specific tree, now there is a place for you to voice them.
Another important change made is to the general design and layout of the website. One aspect of that is just making it easier to navigate that website and find the information that you’re looking for. There are now quick links along the top of the web page that directs to you to the browse, search, or help menu.
Also, within the trees themselves, there are multiple color schemes for the tree nodes that you can choose from, as well as “Turn off the Lights” function. Is the white background too hard on your eyes? No problem! You just click on the “Colors” drop-down menu, and click “Turn off the Lights”, which changes the background to a subdued gray. You can also adjust the font size or the orientation of the tree, which I describe below.
Navigation features within a tree
When you are exploring a tree on MultiTree, there are a number of actions that you can take with our improved navigation buttons:
1) The Highlight Button
If you want to see the path from the top parent node of the family, you can click on the language name or subgroup, and then click, “Highlight Node.” This will highlight the branch from the parent node to the node of your choice in red for easy visual reference of the language relationships.
You can do this with as many nodes as you want. Want to see how far two distantly languages diverged in a language hypothesis? You can highlight both nodes. If you don’t want to use the highlights anymore, just click “Clear Highlights” on the top right of the page. That way, you don’t have to go to every single node to remove the highlights.
Also, if you’re looking at multiple languages within a tree and you want to switch back and forth between them, you can click the “Pin-It” button in the language information column to the left.
It will save the language as a tab in the language description column, and you don’t have to go scrolling through the tree searching for it again. As you can see, you can have multiple tabs.
Click on that tab, then click the “Center Node” button, and it will take straight to that node. This cuts down a lot of search time scrolling through the interface.
2) The Search Bar
In the Search Bar, you can search by languages names or codes. When you search for a language or subgroup, it will automatically highlight the path to that node, as you can see in the picture below.
3) Orienting the Tree
The drop-down “View” menu allows you to change the view of the tree. This is really handy, because depending on the size of the tree and the number of children languages. You have a number of choices, from horizontal (side-to-side view), vertical (top-to-bottom view), and radial (a spider-web view). You also have the option to open all the nodes in the tree at once, and if this is too overwhelming, close all the nodes so only the parent node is visible.
The “Radial” view is really useful with smaller tree, while the “Horizontal” view is better for those large Ethnologue or Composite trees. Below is an example of how the radial and horizontal views look:
Also, if you lose your place while changing the view of the tree, all you have to do is click “Center Node” to find your place again, or click “Center”, which will bring you back to the parent of the tree. You can also change the font size of the node names, making the font bigger or smaller depending on the zoom setting and tree orientation.
4) Link to the Language Profile Pages
If you look to the left in the language description area, you will see that the language code has a hyperlink. This links you directly to the MultiTree language profile pages. On this profile page, you can link to any tree that uses that code in MultiTree, as well as other general information about the language, subgroup, or dialect itself, such as where the language is spoken and if it has any descendants.
If you’re having trouble finding your way around the tree, just click on the question mark, and it will explain the general functions of the tree, as well as link you to the “Help” page.
Reasons for Redesigning MultiTree
Another purpose behind redesigning the MultiTree website was that there were many features that the current MultiTree website had that nobody knew existed, solely because nobody could find them. In the beta website, MultiTree’s features are more transparent and easy to find.
The new website has many new features that the current website does not, a few of which we already talked about; however, one feature that the new MultiTree will not have is the “Compare” function, where you can have two trees open in the same window. While the new site does not have this feature, the new MultiTree allows you to open multiple trees in multiple windows or tabs in the same browser, something you cannot do with the current MultiTree.
Please keep in mind that the new MultiTree site is still under development and we still haven’t worked out all the kinks yet. However, you can explore and play with the new site and tell us what you think. Here is the temporary link to the new site. We would love to hear any feedback, comments or problems that you may have. You can send your comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.