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Protovis: A Graphical Toolkit for Visualization
November/December 2009 (vol. 15 no. 6)
pp. 1121-1128
Michael Bostock, Stanford University
Jeffrey Heer, Stanford University
Despite myriad tools for visualizing data, there remains a gap between the notational efficiency of high-level visualization systems and the expressiveness and accessibility of low-level graphical systems. Powerful visualization systems may be inflexible or impose abstractions foreign to visual thinking, while graphical systems such as rendering APIs and vector-based drawing programs are tedious for complex work. We argue that an easy-to-use graphical system tailored for visualization is needed. In response, we contribute Protovis, an extensible toolkit for constructing visualizations by composing simple graphical primitives. In Protovis, designers specify visualizations as a hierarchy of marks with visual properties defined as functions of data. This representation achieves a level of expressiveness comparable to low-level graphics systems, while improving efficiency--the effort required to specify a visualization--and accessibility--the effort required to learn and modify the representation. We substantiate this claim through a diverse collection of examples and comparative analysis with popular visualization tools.

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Index Terms:
Information visualization, user interfaces, toolkits, 2D graphics.
Michael Bostock, Jeffrey Heer, "Protovis: A Graphical Toolkit for Visualization," IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, vol. 15, no. 6, pp. 1121-1128, Nov.-Dec. 2009, doi:10.1109/TVCG.2009.174
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