Simpler Data Visualization
Technology Review (06/25/09) Greene, Kate

Stanford University researchers have developed Protovis, a set of tools that simplifies the process of building complex data visualizations.  Although Protovis requires some programming knowledge, it is designed to be easy to use for someone without significant programming experience, says Stanford professor and Protovis creator Jeff Heer.  He says the level of programming needed for Protovis is only slightly higher than HTML, but lower than JavaScript.  A major benefit of Protovis is that it is structured so that people who think in terms of visualizations first and then data should find the tools easy to use, Heer says.  Protovis enables users to create simple building blocks, such as the colors and shapes they need in the visualization, and piece the blocks together to create a complete picture.  Protovis is currently in an alpha release, but has been adopted by the Mozilla foundation and will be used in an upcoming version of the Thunderbird email client to help users visualize email data, Heer says.  "With Protovis, you think first and foremost in visual marks on a page," he says.  "It is our belief that this would make visualizations easier to learn and easier to modify."
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