Dr M has already posted on a couple of online aids to tree ID: the SAPS key to trees and shrubs and the Natural History Museum (NHM) urban tree survey key. These two keys are tools to help the beginner ID common species covering around 90 species each.
To help ID a wider range of species the NHM website also provides a link to a more detailed interactive key (part of the EU funded Key to Nature project) which includes 465 species of woody plants: trees, shrubs and woody climbers found in the wild in the UK, both native and introduced.
This is potentially a very useful online tool for the more advanced botanist. The key focuses on leaf characters because these are the easiest parts of the plant to see and describe (except for deciduous trees in winter when this key will only work for conifers and other evergreens).
There are two keys provided:
1. The dichotomous key, where every time you will have to decide between two options (e.g. leaves simple or leaves compound).
2. The multi-criteria query interface, where you can specify more characters at the same time.
Dr M plans to test this key out with his MSc students and will report on results in due course.
Meanwhile, the gallery below shows the steps to keying out one the 3 native conifers in the UK, Pinus sylvestris (Scots Pine) using the dichotomous key. Click on the images to see more clearly and note that at each step the key states how many taxa (species) are left so you can track your progress from the total of 494 species to your, hopefully correct, identification!