Biota: The Biodiversity Database Manager

Biota Support

The Biota User's Manual

Biota support starts with the Biota Manual, which was deliberately written in much more detail than many manuals, to provide you with full, rapid access to the information you need. You can download the Biota Manual for free.

Biota 3 and the Biota User's Manual: The Biota User's Manual was written for Biota 2, but it applies equally well to Biota 3, with the exception of sections of Images, the Onboard Web Server, and Biota4D (the Client-Server version). These features are not included in Biota 3 due to licensing issues.

"How To" Questions: The Manual is the first place to go to find out if Biota can do something you want done. Use the Table of Contentsor, if necessary, Acrobat's "Search" toosl to see if you can find the answer you need. Often, there is more than one way to do a task with Biota, but usually there is a fast way and a slow way. If some task seems to take longer than you think it should, try looking up the topic in the Table of Contents for alternative approaches.

Questions that can be answered by consulting the Manual will receive the lowest priority for email support.

Support by Email

Technical problems with Biota or problems with the Biota Website . You may request email help with problems you can't solve with the help of the Biota Manual. Please contact Biota's author, Robert Colwell at Users who purchased Biota from Sinauer Associates, before Biota became open source, will be given priority, so please indicate that you were a purchaser if that is the case.

When preparing an email with a request for for support, please be sure to include the following:

  1. The word "Biota" in the message Subject.

  2. Version of Biota. From the File menu in Biota, select "About Biota." Record the Version and Date of the copy of Biota that you are using, and indicate whether it is BiotaApp (the stand-alone version) or Biota4D (running under 4D Server or 4th Dimension). (Note: new installations of Biota4D are no longer possible).

  3. A detailed description of what you want to do, or the problem you have doing it.

Please do not telephone the Author or contact the the former publisher of Biota with technical support questions.

Bug Reporting

Every effort has been made to beta-test Biota thoroughly. In any program this complex (more than 11,000 objects, including nearly 5000 methods and 380 forms), however, users invariably prove that completely bug-free behavior is only a theoretical possibility.

If Biota does something you did not expect, first try consulting the Manual, including the section on "Troubleshooting" in Appendix L, to see if the behavior is normal. If something happens that is clearly not intended, you may have found a bug. If a 4th Dimension error window appears that is not discussed in the Errors section of Appendix L, you have definitely found a bug.

If you believe you have discovered a bug, please email Biota's author, Robert Colwell at

When preparing an email with a bug report, please be sure to include the following:

  1. The word "Biota" in the message Subject.

  2. Version of Biota. From the File menu in Biota, select "About Biota." Record the Version and Date of the copy of Biota that you are using, and indicate whether it is BiotaApp (the stand-alone version) or Biota4D (running under 4D Server or 4th Dimension). If you are not using the latest version, please install it now and see your problem disappears!

  3. A description of the problem. To be most useful the description of the problem should include a full account of the steps that led up to it. If at all possible, try making it happen again until you are sure what steps reliably produce the problem. If the problem cannot be reproduced, it cannot be fixed.

  4. Any data that were involved. If the problem seems to concern a particular data record, please write down exactly what was in the record.

  5. Your computer model and processor.

  6. The operating system and version number you are using.

NOTE: Now that Biota is open-source software, timely support is not guaranteed, but a good-faith effort will always be made to help.

Known Bugs

As the of the date of release (May 16, 2012) there are no known bugs in Biota 3.00

Notes for Mac OS X

Although Biota 2 and 3 run "native" under Mac OS X, there are a few peculiarities to be aware of.

  1. Quitting Biota. Due to limitations in the 4th Dimension development environment used to build Biota, you must Quit Biota in the traditional, pre-OS X way, by selecting Quit Biota from the File menu, not from the OS X Applications menu. You can also quit, as with any Mac program, by pressing Command-Q on the keyboard.

  2. Preferences. The Preferences screen for Biota is in the Special menu, not in the OS X Applications menu.

Notes for Windows

Biota 3.00 for Windows runs under Windows 7 and XP (and possibly other system versions).

Biota 2.04 for Windows runs under Windows 7, Vista, XP, NT4, ME, 2000, or 98.

Version History

The section lists the changes made in each new version, in reverse chronological order, beginning with Version 3.00.

Version 3.00 (released May 16, 2012)

Biota 3.00 is a major update in terms of the 4D Engine (version 12) used to run it. It is also the first free, open-source version of Biota. Because of licensing restrictions, Biota 3.0.0 lacks the following features that were part of Biota 2:

(1) Image tools.

(2) Onboard web server.

(3) A client-server version (Biota4D).

All other features present in Biota 2 are present in Biota 3.

In 4D Version 12, it is now possible to for a field of type Text (which allows very long entries) to be indexed. Thus, several fields in Biota's Core Tables that were formerly limited to 80 characters are now Text fields. The following Fields are nowText fields: [Species]TypeStatus, [Collection]Method, [Collection]Site, [Collection]Source. In addition, [Species]SpeciesCode has been changed from 40 characters to 80 characters.

Version 2.04 (released January 12, 2007)

Biota 2.04 is a maintenance update. It has no new features. The following bugs from Version 2.03 have been fixed in 2.04:

(1) Display errors sometimes appeared for Degree-Minutes-Seconds and Integer Degrees-Decimal Minutes formats for geographical coordinates (S and W hemisphere only) in the Locality table (Mac OS with Intel processor and certain Windows Intel processors only). This was a display issue only; coordinates are saved in Biota Data Files in Decimal Degrees format. Fixed.

(2) For the Specimen, Species, Collection, and Locality tables, the Record Set Option Screen was not offered when leaving the Record Listing screen if an individual record had first been opened and Canceled. Fixed.

(3) Exporting label text for Locality labels repeated the second label data for all subsequent labels. Fixed.

(4) Host information was not included in printed or exported Locality labels. Fixed.

(5) A non-informative error message appeared when clicking the Remove button in Import and Export Editors but no field had been selected for removal. A message now appears stating that a field must first be selected.

(6) In the New Loan input screen, the Cancel button was previously a default button, so that use of the Return key or a barcode reader to add specimens to a Loan dismissed the form prematurely. The Cancel button on this screen must now be manually clicked, as in other Biota input screens.

(7) In the Notes input tab for Specimen, Species, Collection, Locality, and Loans tables, if you created and saved a New Note, added a second Note or tried to revise a Note in the same parent record, then clicked a different tab on the parent record without first saving the parent record, Note information was sometimes lost. Fixed: it is no longer necessary to save the parent record to save a new Note or revisions to an existing Note, as long as you click the Save Note button.

(8) When determinations of Specimen records were changed using Series-->Find and Identify Specimen Series, the [Specimen]SpcmRecChangedDate and [Specimen]SpcmRecChangedBy fields were not updated. Fixed.

Version 2.03 (released April 27, 2004)

Biota 2.03 is primarily a maintenance update (see Bugs Fixed in Biota 2.03, next section). There are two new features, however:

(1) The Export Specimens Examined tool now handles undetermined specimens, either alone or mixed with determined specimens.

(2) A new Find tool has been added to the Database Client Mode of Biota's onboard Web server: "Localities or Collecting Events for Specimens or Species."   The Command Name for the URL to activate this command is "LCforSpcmSpp."   (See Chapter 32, page 6, of the Biota 2 Manual.)

Bugs Fixed in Biota 2.03 (or earlier)

(1) In early versions, it was not possible to create a new data file in BiotaAppWin from the "Create New Data File" item in the File menu. This was corrected as of Version 2.02.

(2) In Version 2.02, it was not possible to enter a Date Determined value other than today's date. (The next tab was displayed before the entry could be completed.) Fixed in 2.03.

(3) The "Find Orphan Records" tool (in English, but not Spanish) did not display correctly in Version 2.02. Fixed in 2.03.

(4) A bug in the Import Editor in Version 2.02 prevented importing of new References. Fixed in 2.03. (Note: the fix involved changing the Reference Number field from a numeric field to an alpha field. Only digits are allowed in the field, however. The only difference you might experience is that, to sort Reference records by Reference Number, you must use the Add Formula option in the Order by screen, entering "Num([Reference]ReferenceNumber." See Chapter 10, p. 26 in the Biota 2 Manual.)

(4) In some circumstances, the menus disappeared after using the Import Editor in Version 2.03. Fixed.

(5) Under Mac OS 10.3 (Panther), dates were displayed in Biota in US format (MM/DD/YYYY), even if the OS was set to International format (DD/MM/YYYY). Fixed in 2.03; the display format now automatically matches the OS setting, as in all previous Biota versions. (NOTE for Biota4DMac users: This bug fix requires 4D Server 6.8.5.)

(6) Several bugs in Version 2.02 in the Database Client Mode of Biota's onboard Web server have been fixed in 2.03:

(a) The "Specimens or Species for Localities or Collecting Events" tool did not work. Fixed.

(b) In the "Specimens for a Species" tool, the picklist of species names was not alphabetically arranged. Fixed.

(c) When in Database Client Mode, the Web Browser Mode homepage sometimes appeared inexplicably instead. Fixed.

(7) A workaround has been implemented for the cosmetic bug that formerly appeared under 4D/4D Server 6.8.5 for Mac OS. This means that Biota4DMac users are free to switch to 4D Server 6.8.5 from 6.8.4 (or earlier versions). There is no charge from 4D to do so. (BiotaAppMac 2.0.3 uses 4D Engine 6.8.5.)

(8) Not a bug, but a change: As of Version 2.03, the limitation on running Biota with the operating system set to European style numbers (comma as decimal separator) has been eliminated. Instead, a message appears explaining the limitations under this setting. The only important limitation is that manual entry of Latitude and Longitude is not possible. You must change the Number format setting to the International standard, period (full stop) as decimal separator.

©2016 Robert K. Colwell