Visualisation of Software in Cyberspace

Literature Survey

Peter Young
Visualisation Research Group
Centre for Software Maintenance

Department of Computer Science
University of Durham
Durham
DH1 3LE
E-mail : peter.young@durham.ac.uk

June 26, 1996

How to read this document

This literature survey is comprised of five separate, ‘stand alone’ documents. Each document describes a particular field of research, while section 1 of the thesis proposal provides the binding between these fields. Further to this, the documents are provided on-line using HTML as the primary format. These can be viewed using any Web browser though best results will be obtained using a Netscape browser. Postscript and Microsoft Word files are also available, however, the HTML files provide additional links between documents and to other on-line resources. In the case of the information visualisation and virtual reality documents, the HTML files are also slightly more up to date than the other formats.

The following documents collectively constitute the literature survey and proposal of further work:

Thesis Proposal

Section 1 of the thesis proposal provides the binding for the following documents. This section gives an introduction to the fields described below, highlighting how they are related and their bearing on this research.

Program Comprehension

Understanding how a software system has been designed and implemented, in addition to knowledge of it’s operation, is crucial to the task of maintaining the software. The field of program comprehension investigates how software engineers understand or comprehend program structure and operation. Possibly more importantly it also investigates how they form this understanding, typically starting with no prior knowledge of the software. This document provides an overview of the key theories in program comprehension. It describes how these theories are related and highlights any commonalties or contradictions between them.

Software Visualisation

Software visualisation is concerned with the graphical (and other media) representation of software systems. The goal of software visualisation is to aid program comprehension by presenting relevant information in a more intuitive, understandable and accessible format. During program comprehension it is suggested that the software engineer will a form a mental model or representation of a software system, typically constructed from abstract semantic components and the relationships between them. This model constitutes the maintainers’ understanding of the software. It is thought that the graphical and generally more abstract representations presented using software visualisation will aid the process of generating, updating and verifying this mental model. This document describes current research in software visualisation and in particular the rapidly expanding field of 3D software visualisation; the application of 3D and virtual reality techniques to software visualisation.

Three Dimensional Information Visualisation

Information visualisation is concerned with the visualisation and representation of semantic information. This information usually consists of collections of abstract components which have no inherent visual representation, for example the structure and content of a knowledge base. Information visualisation aims to provide a more intuitive interface to such collections, allowing efficient browsing, navigation and interaction with the information. A large area of research is investigating the application of 3D graphics and virtual reality techniques to providing shared visualisations of such information systems. This document reviews the field of 3D information visualisation, highlighting a variety of developed techniques and describing a number of research systems.

Survey of VR and VRML Software Systems

This document provides a review of the current state of virtual reality software. The emphasis here is on the rapidly developing field of VRML (Virtual Reality Modelling Language) which promises to provide a common format for display and interaction with virtual reality environments over the Internet. This document provides a review and attempted evaluation of current systems. The review adopts a personal style, mainly because the evaluations made are based on personal opinion with no empirical tests or comparisons being performed. While not specifically a technical document, this review has received a considerable amount of attention and was received well by the VR and VRML community. Unfortunately, as with all computer technology, the field of VR and VRML changes so rapidly that this information soon becomes obsolete. Many of the software packages described in this report have changed considerably since the time of writing and several new products are now available. The report does still provide a good overview of the scope and popularity of VR systems.

Obtaining the documents

Documents can be obtained on-line in either HTML, Postscript or Microsoft Word formats. The URL for each file is given below. HTML files are best viewed using a Netscape or HTML 3 compatible browser.

Thesis Proposal

HTML version:
thes-prop

Compressed Postscript version:
thes-prop/thesis-p.ps.gz

Compressed MS Word Document:
thes-prop/thesis-p.doc.gz

Program Comprehension

HTML version:
prog-comp

Compressed Postscript version:
prog-comp/prog-comp.ps.gz

Compressed MS Word Document:
prog-comp/prog-comp.doc.gz

Software Visualisation

HTML version:
soft-vis

Compressed Postscript version:
soft-vis/soft-vis.ps.gz

Compressed MS Word Document:
soft-vis/soft-vis.doc.gz

Three Dimensional Information Visualisation

HTML version:
IV-Survey

Compressed Postscript version:
IV-Survey/info-vis.ps.gz

Compressed MS Word Document:
IV-Survey/info-vis.doc.gz

Survey of VR and VRML Software Systems

HTML version:
VR-Survey

Compressed Postscript version:
VR-Survey/VR-Survey.ps.gz

Compressed MS Word Document:
VR-Survey/VR-Survey.doc.gz


This page is maintained by Peter Young, please send any comments, jokes, insults or general abuse to (peter.young@durham.ac.uk).

Last updated: Friday 16th May, 1997.