OTSoft:  Optimality Theory Software

Bruce Hayes

Version 2.3.3

16 January 2014

Download current version 2.3.3


OTSoft is a Windows program meant to facilitate analysis in Optimality Theory* by using algorithms to do tasks that are too large or complex to be done reliably by hand.  It is also meant to save time and effort, particularly in word-processing.  The following functions are supported (new item for 2.3.3 in red):

OTSoft was programmed primarily by Bruce Hayes, with contributions by Bruce Tesar and Kie Zuraw.


How to Download and Install OTSoft

Click here to download OTSoft 2.3.3

Put it in some folder where you can find it.  The file you are downloading is called OTSoft2.3.3.zip.

The remaining steps are to unpack, then to install.  Some Web browsers will do this more or less automatically; just follow screen directions carefully.  To unpack and install manually, follow these directions:

To unpack:  

Most computers come with an unzipping program.  Find on the web if yours does not (Google "free unzip program").  Next, go to the folder where you put your downloaded file.   Once you're there, use your unzipping software.  It may take a second for all the newly unpacked files to make their appearance in the Downloads folder; be patient.

To install:  

One of the files you just unpacked will be called Setup.exe.  Click on it, and it will do a regular Windows installation.  You will end up with a new folder called c:\Program Files\otsoft (unless you asked for a different location during installation). In the new forms of Windows, it will go into the separate Program Files folder designated for older programs. This folder has everything in it, uncompressed.  In particular, it contains the manual.  I strongly suggest you read the manual, or at least the first few pages; it has the information you need to take it from there.

You will also want to set up a new folder where you keep your active OTSoft files as you use the program.  You can obtain sample files to get you started here:  [  Excel format  plain text format ] (these files also come with the installation package.

For best performance, link up OTSoft to other Windows programs, such as your spreadsheet or word processor.  To do this, go into the program folder and edit the self-explanatory file OTSoftAuxiliarySoftwareLocations.txt.


Microsoft unfortunately uses a system in which most computer programs, OTSoft included, must be supplemented by other files.  This system, which dates from the days of floppy disks, can cause installation problems.  If the installation packages above aren't working for you, the following sometimes works:  simply take the OTSoft program, put it in a folder, and see if it runs.  If you want to try this here are the simple files for version 2.1, version 2.3, 2.3.1, and the current version 2.3.2.



OTSoft will produce draft printed output without any additional software.  To produce high-quality printed output, two additional things are needed:

To get the SILDoulosIPA font, see the next section. 

The process is slightly complicated, and is fully explained in the manual.  In brief, you copy a macro from a ".dot" file included in the software into your copy of Word.  This macro is then used to convert text files created by OTSoft into .doc files, with prettily formatted tableaux, etc.

It would probably not be hard to translate the macro into versions for other word processors; ask for advice if you're interested.


Why OTSoft?

Click here for a brief, somewhat out-of-date essay discussing the benefits and drawbacks of using this software.


The SILDoulosIPA93 Font

This is the font which OTSoft uses for phonetic symbols. SILDoulosIPA93 is a True Type phonetic font in the style of Times Roman. The Summer Institute of Linguistics courteously makes this font available for free. Download SILDoulosIPA93 from the Summer Institute of Linguistics Website, and follow the instructions they give for installation.


Papers describing the algorithms


Update history

If you want to know if it's worth downloading and installing the latest version (or just want to know what's newly available), you can download this pdf document:




If you make public an analysis that you worked out and/or checked with OTSoft, you may cite the software as follows:


Source Code

If you are interested in seeing/modifying the source code for OTSoft, please contact me at bhayes@humnet.ucla.edu.  



2.1 / 2.3.1 / 2.3.2



Optimality Theory (OT) is a wide-employed theoretical framework used in contemporary linguistics.  The original reference for OT is Prince and Smolensky (1993); good textbooks have been written by René Kager and John McCarthy.


Last modified January 16, 2014

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