Peter Young
Visualisation Research Group


Select the above image to enter the 3D visualisation
or you can view the full size image shown above.

About Planes

The planes visualisation is a simple concept which concentrates on providing a structural overview of a software system, effectively producing a map or terrain from it. Planes does not attempt to visualise any detail of the software, the aim is simply to endow the software with a visual form thus allowing the viewer to engage more natural skills in navigating and orientating themselves within it. The aim is to visualise the software over a number of levels, detailing how the components in each level are decomposed into sub-components and how they are related to higher levels.

The initial planes visualisation is a simple construct of nested planes. The vertical position of each plane represents the level or scope of the component it represents. All sub-components of that plane are positioned one level higher. Additionally, the surface area of each plane is such that all sub-components are positioned above itís surface thus denoting inclusion. The planes visualisation, as shown in the screenshot above, highlights four main program levels. The bottom level represents the program itself above which resides all the modules or source files within this program, in this case there is only one. Above each module resides all the functions belonging to that module, seven of which are shown in this example. Finally, the control structure of each of these functions is shown with increasing height representing deeper nesting and scope.

About the demo

This demo visualisation (as above) integrates two sources of information using available WWW technology. In order to view this demonstration you will require a frames compatible browser with Superscape's Viscape VR plug-in installed. It would also be an advantage to have a high color display configured.

The demo presents two frames each containing a different source of information. The left frame shows the coloured source code of a trivial program, the right frame shows the Planes representation of the same program. The source code is coloured to match the corresponding items within the visualisation. For example the true section of a condition is coloured green in both source code and visualisation. Additionally the right hand frame, containing the Planes visualisation is linked to the left frame containing the source code. Selecting an item in the visualisation will lead to the source code window moving to the corresponding line in the source code. Additionally, some browsers such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer 3 will display information about an item in the visualisation as you move the mouse pointer over it.

Navigation through the 3D environment can be facilitated simply by using the directional control icons at the bottom of the frame. Alternatively, a more efficient though trickier control method can be activated by selecting the 3D frame then pressing the space bar. This produces a white box called the dead zone. Moving the mouse out of this box will result in movement through the 3D world. Various methods of movement can be facilitated by using the left and right mouse buttons in conjunction with moving the pointer. The left mouse button allows rotation control over pitch and yaw (i.e. turning on the spot) and the right mouse button allows translation horizontally and vertically (moving left/right, up/down while facing the same direction).

This page is maintained by Peter Young, please send any comments, jokes, insults or general abuse to (

Last updated: Tuesday 13 May, 1997.