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 Tech of the Week
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 Tech of the Week

Treemaps, Charts, and Other Specialized Data Visualization Tools Available from Microsoft

Microsoft

Large, complex data sets from finance, medicine, geography, sports, and even computer file systems are difficult to comprehend when represented in tabular form. In fact, some data may not be presentable in tabular form at all. Microsoft has developed or advanced several data visualization techniques that can make use of the human ability to compare shapes, sizes, colors, and brightness. These include the treemap, a rendering of hierarchical data as a set of nested boxes; a bubble chart, which is a set of points displayed as bubbles in an x-y coordinate system; a piano roll, a spreadsheet-like display in which each cell is displayed in a variety of graphical formats; a spire chart (histogram), that has a column for each week in a specified year; a thread tree, which is a hierarchy of nodes; and a time series chart that displays multiple time series.

Tree map

Because humans are visual animals, we easily extract information from visually presented data rather than tabular data. Also, data of multi-dimensional and hierarchical complexity is not easily reduced to tabular display. These data visualization tools developed by Microsoft offer alternative ways to present such complex data sets.

Recent work in treemaps has yielded not only improvements in the layout and partitioning algorithms but also ways to embed more information in the visualization through color, texture, and motion within the basic framework of nested boxes. Microsoft has demonstrated the capabilities of the treemap with posting data from Usenet. In the Microsoft treemaps of Usenet, the sizes of the boxes reflect the number of messages that were posted in each newsgroup.

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