>> Download VisTrace here <<

Also see this short note to learn more about the FSM input format used by VisTrace.


VisTrace is a prototype for the visual analysis of multivariate system traces. Our method combines three perspectives that can be taken on multivariate system traces: (1) as a schematic diagram, (2) as time series plots and (3) as a state transition graph. The combination of all three perspectives provides the user with a rich analysis interface that enables gaining significant insight into system behavior. VisTrace builds on our previous work for state space visualization.

You can also find out more about about our technique in the following publication:

Multiple views on system traces
A.J. Pretorius and J.J. van Wijk
To appear in Proc. 2008 IEEE Pacific Visualization Symposium, Kyoto, Japan, 2008.

System traces

In many engineering domains, analysts study execution traces to understand the behavior of complex systems. These system traces express a system's behavior over an interval of time. Every successive state is described by n variables.


Our system enables the user to take three correlated perspectives on this data.

Perspective 1: user defined diagrams

We enable the user to capture his or her conceptualization of a system. For this we provide an integrated graphical editor. The user can draw simple graphical primitives such as ellipses, rectangles, lines and arrows. It is also possible link these shapes with one or more variables found in our data. The value that a variable assumes in the data then determines the graphical properties of the shape.

Perspective 2: time series plots

The user can also select and load a subset of variables into a time series view. These are visualized as time series plots.

Perspective 3: state transition graph

Finally, our prototype enables the user to cluster trace data. By selecting and loading a subset of state variables, the states are clustered based on the values assumed for these variables. This results in a multivariate graph that we visualize as an arc diagram.

Running VisTrace

To try out VisTrace, download the program here. The program and a number of files needed to run it are in a single zipped archive. You can extract these files anywhere on your hard drive.

After you have extracted and started up the program, load an FSM file by choosing File > Open. Some sample FSM files were included in the zipped archive and should be located in VisTrace/Samples after extraction. You can now work in one of two modes: (1) edit mode (Mode > Edit mode) or (2) analysis mode (Mode > Analysis mode).

Edit mode

In edit mode the user is presented with an integrated graphical editor:

(a) A number of utilities are provided (b) to define and edit shapes. Every shape has a number of (c) geometric and (d) non-geometric Degrees Of Freedom (DOFs). The user can define a range of values for these by selecting and dragging their associated handles. The user is provided with an overview of node attributes. Shapes are parameterized by associating (e) a DOF with (f) a state variable. (g) Text anchors are provided for displaying text labels.

Analysis mode

In analysis mode, the user is presented with three perspectives on the data (custom diagrams, time series plots and transition graph):

(a) The user is provided with an overview of state variables and (b) can view their domains. (c) The diagram view maps the currently selected state to the user defined diagram. (d) The user can load a subset of variables into the time series view. (e) The user can also perform variable-based clustering to generate a transition graph. The result is visualized in the graph view as an arc diagram and clustering tree. In the time series view (d.1) the portion of the global time scale represented by the beveled slider is (d.2) visualized at a higher resolution as time series plots. (d.3) The current position in the time series view and (d.4) selections in it are highlighted in the graph view (and vice versa). (d.5) The time series view and the graph view can be annotated with the user defined diagram. (d.6) Using icons on the diagram the user can animate or step through a selected range. (d.7) When the user moves over a diagram in any view it is shown in greater detail in the diagram view.


For feedback, comments or suggestions, please contact Hannes Pretorius. VisTrace was developed by Hannes Pretorius and Jack van Wijk at the Eindhoven University of Technology. This research was done as part of the VoLTS project, funded by the NWO. This project is a collaboration between the TU/e Visualization and Systems Engineering research groups. We thank the members of these groups for their input and suggestions.

Copyright 2007. A.J. Pretorius. All rights reserved.