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IBM Cambridge Research Center

  Project: OverViews

Researchers: John Patterson and Steve Rohall

A Collaborative User Experience Project:

OverViews provide new, unique visualizations for navigating Domino database documents in a Notes client or a Web browser. A standard Notes view lists selected fields from a subset of database documents in the order specified by the user. Sometimes this view contains a hierarchical structure. In contrast, OverViews allow the user to choose a graphical interface, such as a graph, a map, or a timeline, to represent the list of documents in a view. OverViews are interactive: the user can navigate to specific documents or dynamically control the visualizations (for example, by zooming in on the visualization or by controlling which fields are used to display the document set). OverViews exploit Notes' ability to embed Java applets on a form as well as the Domino Objects interface for accessing Domino data from within a Java program.

Try It Yourself!
Live Demos of OverViews
for Notes 5

See an OverViews demo!
If you have the Notes 5 client, get instructions for accessing the OverViews demo database over the Internet.

NEW! Try a Web demo using the XML version of OverViews.

NEW! Download the Java source code and Domino .nsf file for the Overviews demo!
Now available for download: a version of OverViews that runs in a browser and uses XML access to Domino as well as a detailed README file describing traditional, CORBA/IIOP, and XML OverViews.

Watch an OverViews Demo

Download a ScreenCam movie of the OverViews demonstration
Click the .zip file below.

If you need a player, download the ScreenCam Player here.

More About OverViews

OverViews presentation at Lotusphere 2000
Click a file below to download the Freelance Graphics slides or .PDF version.

AD108.prz AD108.pdf

OverViews presentation at DevCon'99
Click a file below to download the Freelance Graphics slides or .PDF version.
DevCon99.prz DevCon99.pdf

OverViews presentation at Lotusphere'99
Click a file below to download the Freelance Graphics slides or .PDF version.
Lotusphere99.prz Lotusphere99.pdf

If you need a Freelance Graphics player, download the free Freelance Graphics Mobile Screen Show player here.

About the OverViews Demo

John Patterson and Steve Rohall, along with Arjuna Wijeyekoon, a student intern, developed the "World Economy" OverViews demonstration. The World Economy database contains statistical data such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita and literacy rates on over 150 countries. Here is a traditional view of the database:

This view groups countries by the region of the world in which they are located. Each country is represented by a single row in the view. Columns provide population, GDP, literacy, and other information for each country.

To demonstrate the power of our technique, we created five OverViews for this database: a pie chart, a scatter plot, a timeline, a choropleth map, and a "blank sheet" for free-form brainstorming.

The PieChartView represents each document as a slice in a pie. The size of a slice is determined by the value of a specified field in the document (population is the field represented in the screen grab below). Clicking a slice displays the fields of the document at the side of the chart. Double-clicking a slice or pressing the "Goto Document" button opens the document currently selected.

The ScatterPlotView plots two fields of a document, one on the X-axis and the other on the Y-axis. Each plot point represents one document in the database. Clicking a point displays selected fields from the document. Double-clicking the point opens the document. To zoom in on a subset of points, the user drags a rectangle over the region of interest, and the plot is redrawn displaying just that region. A history box keeps track of the zoom levels, allowing the user to go back and forth between them. The screen grab below shows a plot of female literacy rate versus male literacy rate.

The LineView plots one attribute of the documents along an axis, similar to the way dates are shown along a timeline. Labels indicating the documents appear in the appropriate places along the axis. Users can click the document to get more information or to open it. Users can also scroll along the axis, or zoom into a part of it. As with the ScatterPlotView, a history box keeps track of the zoom levels, making it possible to switch between them.

The MapView plots the database statistics on a map. The user can choose a map of the entire world or a higher-resolution regional map. The user can also select which database attribute to plot (GDP per capita is the attribute in the screen grab below). With the timeline control developed for the LineView, above, the user can scroll and zoom the range of data being displayed to remove the outliers. Clicking a country pops up the country's name. Double-clicking opens the database document associated with that country.

The BlankSheetView allows the user to create arbitrary associations among countries in the database. In the screen grab below, the relationship among countries in various trade alliances is documented. The user selects the countries to display from the scrolling list on the right, and creates graphical objects such as ovals and lines with the tool palette on the left.

OverViews use Java applets embedded within a Notes Form. The Java API for Notes, Domino Objects (formerly NotesObject Interface), is used by the applet to access the document information. Although Java has been used for writing agents in Domino, our work has stressed combining the back-end classes with a graphical user interface that can be manipulated and used for document navigation. When a user requests that a document be opened, the necessary showDocument request is issued to the applet's appletContext. (This requires a "notes:" form of URL and not an "http:" form of URL to open the document within the Notes client.)

As described in this project summary, OverViews offers three general capabilities:

  • Since an OverView is associated with a document, it can be saved. By setting hidden document fields with the OverView state (e.g., level of zoom) the document becomes a record of the last settings for an information exploration. When the document is reopened, the user returns to these final settings rather than beginning anew. These saved OverViews can have their own view with the Notes client. It's even possible that after many OverViews have been saved, a user might also want some form of OverView of OverViews. For example, a reporting OverView might be a composite of the three or four charts that best make a point.
  • An OverView could access multiple databases to provide an integrated view across several data sets.
  • We have successfully tested cutting and pasting generic applets from one database into another database with similar properties. For example, the pie chart was placed in a database reporting Domino server statistics.

We encourage people to download our samples and build upon our ideas. Let us know what you've done with OverViews by sending email to