Introduction to Software Engineering/Quality/Visualization

Software visualization[1] is the static or animated 2-D or 3-D[2] visual representation of information about software systems based on their structure,[3] size,[4] history,[5] or behavior.[6]

Typically, the information used for visualization is software metric data from measurement activities or from reverse engineering. Visualization is inherently not a method for software quality assurance but can be used to manually discover anomalies similar to the process of visual data mining.[7]

The objectives of software visualizations are to support the understanding of software systems (i.e., its structure) and algorithms (e.g., by animating the behavior of sorting algorithms) as well as the analysis of software systems and their anomalies (e.g., by showing classes with high coupling).



Single component


Tool for software visualization might be used to visualize source code and quality defects during software development and maintenance activities. Their target is the automatic discovery and visualization of quality defects in object-oriented software systems and services. Designed as a plugin for an IDE (e.g., Visual Studio, Eclipse) they visualized the direct relationship of a class and its methods with other classes in the software system and mark potential quality defects to warn the developer. A further benefit is the support for visual navigation through the software system.

Whole (sub-)systems


Other more powerful tools are used to visualize a whole system or subsystem to explore the architecture or to apply visual data mining or visual analytics techniques for defect discovery.


  1. (Diehl, 2002; Diehl, 2007; Knight, 2002)
  2. (Marcus et al., 2003; Wettel et al., 2007)
  3. (Staples & Bieman, 1999)
  4. (Lanza, 2004)
  5. (Girba et al., 2005, Lopez et al., 2004; Van Rysselberghe et al., 2004)
  6. (Kuhn et al., 2006, Stasko et al., 1997)
  7. (Keim, 2002; Soukup, 2002).

Further reading

  • Diehl, S. (2002). Software Visualization. International Seminar. Revised Papers (LNCS Vol. 2269), Dagstuhl Castle, Germany, 20-25 May 2001 (Dagstuhl Seminar Proceedings).
  • Diehl, S. (2007). Software Visualization — Visualizing the Structure, Behaviour, and Evolution of Software. Springer, 2007, ISBN 978-3-540-46504-1
  • Gîrba, T., Kuhn, A., Seeberger, M., and Ducasse, S., “How Developers Drive Software Evolution,” Proceedings of International Workshop on Principles of Software Evolution (IWPSE 2005), IEEE Computer Society Press, 2005, pp. 113–122. PDF
  • Keim, D. A. (2002). Information visualization and visual data mining. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, USA * vol 8 (Jan. March 2002), no 1, p 1 8, 67 refs.
  • Knight, C. (2002). System and Software Visualization. In Handbook of software engineering & knowledge engineering. Vol. 2, Emerging technologies (Vol. 2): World Scientific Publishing Company.
  • Kuhn, A., and Greevy, O., “Exploiting the Analogy Between Traces and Signal Processing,” Proceedings IEEE International Conference on Software Maintenance (ICSM 2006), IEEE Computer Society Press, Los Alamitos CA, September 2006. PDF
  • Lanza, M. (2004). CodeCrawler — polymetric views in action. Proceedings. 19th International Conference on Automated Software Engineering, Linz, Austria, 20 24 Sept. 2004 * Los Alamitos, CA, USA: IEEE Comput. Soc, 2004, p 394 5.
  • Lopez, F. L., Robles, G., & Gonzalez, B. J. M. (2004). Applying social network analysis to the information in CVS repositories. "International Workshop on Mining Software Repositories (MSR 2004)" W17S Workshop 26th International Conference on Software Engineering, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, 25 May 2004 * Stevenage, UK: IEE, 2004, p 101 5.
  • Marcus, A., Feng, L., & Maletic, J. I. (2003). 3D representations for software visualization. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 2003 ACM symposium on Software visualization, San Diego, California.
  • Soukup, T. (2002). Visual data mining : techniques and tools for data visualization and mining. New York: Chichester.
  • Staples, M. L., & Bieman, J. M. (1999). 3-D Visualization of Software Structure. In Advances in Computers (Vol. 49, pp. 96–143): Academic Press, London.
  • Stasko, J. T., Brown, M. H., & Price, B. A. (1997). Software Visualization: MIT Press.
  • Van Rysselberghe, F. (2004). Studying Software Evolution Information By Visualizing the Change History. Proceedings. 20th International Conference On Software Maintenance. pp 328–337, IEEE Computer Society Press, 2004
  • Wettel, R., and Lanza, M., Visualizing Software Systems as Cities. In Proceedings of VISSOFT 2007 (4th IEEE International Workshop on Visualizing Software For Understanding and Analysis), pp. 92 – 99, IEEE Computer Society Press, 2007.
  • EPDV Eclipse Project Dependencies Viewer
  • SoftVis is the second meeting in a planned series of biennial conferences.
  • The Program Visualization Workshops aim to bring together researchers who design and construct program, algorithm, or data structure visualizations or animations as well as educators who use or evaluate visualization or animations in their teaching.
  • CppDepend - useful C++ tool to visualize dependencies.