University of Toronto
Department of Computer Science

A Distinguished Lecture on Computer Science

Ronald Baecker

Software Visualization for Programmers and Users


Software visualization has been defined as "the use of the crafts of typography, graphic design, animation, and cinematography with modern human-computer interaction and computer graphics technology to facilitate both the human understanding and effective use of computer software." I shall begin by reviewing thirty years of research and development in software visualization. Despite the appeal of seeing programs come to life, and despite literature from the behavioural sciences that suggests that software visualization is a promising idea, the field has failed to take off. I shall then describe a new approach to software visualization which may dramatically expand its scope and use.

Until recently, all work in the field has focused on enhancing the understanding by programmers and programming students of how software operates internally. I shall review outstanding examples of this approach, the work of Baecker, Brown, Eisenstadt, Eick, and their collaborators.

The new approach is to facilitate the rapid development of structured digital video presentations that demonstrate how software is used and show users how to accomplish desired tasks. The resulting video demonstrations and explanations can be integrated into the documentation, training, and support sections of a company's Web site. They can then be accessed from the Web by customers and employees and streamed over the Internet "just in time." I shall show examples of this approach, and discuss research challenges that need to be faced.


Ronald Baecker is the Bell University Laboratories Professor of Human-Computer Interaction in the Department of Computer Science of the University of Toronto. He is also cross-appointed to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Faculty of Management, and is founder and Chief Scientist of the Knowledge Media Design Institute. He was the founder, CEO, and Chairman of HCR Corporation, a Toronto-based UNIX contract R&D and technology development and marketing firm, sold in 1990 to a U.S. competitor. He is also the founder and CEO of Expresto Software Corp, a firm specializing in structured visual communications explaining software and other complex technology.

He has published over 100 papers and articles on human-computer interaction and user interface design, multimedia, computer-supported cooperative work and learning, and interactive computer graphics. He is the author or co-author of four books, Readings in Human-Computer Interaction: A Multidisciplinary Approach, Human Factors and Typography for More Readable Programs, Readings in Groupware and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work: Facilitating Human-Human Collaboration, and Readings in Human-Computer Interaction: Toward the Year 2000, and the author of two published videotapes. He has a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. from M.I.T.

Time and Location: return to the 2000 Colloquia Series main page.
R. J. Miller
Last modified: Mon Jan 15 14:54:18 EST 2001