Visualizing Large Information Structures using Focus+Context Techniques

John Lamping and Ramana Rao, Xerox Parc,

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University March 10, 1995


In the last few years, Information Visualization research at PARC and elsewhere has explored the application of interactive graphics and animation technology to visualizing and making sense of larger information sets than would otherwise be practical. A common strategy of this research has been the use of Focus+Context (or Fisheye) techniques, in which detailed views of particular parts of an information set are blended in some way with a view of the overall structure of the set and operations for dynamic manipulation are provided. In this talk, we will present an account of focus+context techniques and then spend more time on two particular visualizations for dealing with large tables and hierarchies respectively: the Table Lens and the Hyperbolic Tree Browser.


Ramana Rao has worked at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) since 1986. His research has focused primarily on user interfaces for information access and visualization, paper user interfaces and document imaging, object-oriented programming and window systems. He is one of the principle designers of the Common Lisp Interface Manager, a user interface programming interface standard for Common Lisp. Prior to joining PARC, Ramana worked at a startup company that developed presentation graphics applications for the IBM PC and a consulting company that designed and built a fault-tolerant file server for a major minicomputer company. Ramana received his BS and MS degrees in computer science and engineering from MIT.

John Lamping has been working at PARC since he received his PhD from Stanford in 1987 (supervised by Terry Winograd). He works on separating out various issues that are typically entangled in computer science. His dissertation was about allowing first class objects to retain some free parameters without operations on the objects having to be aware of that fact. He's worked on substitution without copying, closures without a commitment to implementation, methods without a commitment to classes, natural language semantics without a commitment to syntax, and graphics without a commitment to Euclidean space.


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