Programs to create visual representations of large tree structures?
February 10, 2005 8:33 AM   Subscribe

What program should I use to create visual representations of some large tree stuctures? [+]

I need to create visual maps of some moderately large websites (around 100 pages). The sites, of course, are basically simple tree structures, and it seems to me that autogenerating a visual tree hierarchy from a tree structure ought to be a not uncommon task. Right now, I'm using MS Visio, but so far that's been very inefficient... inserting and removing elements reqiures the hand adjustment of dozens of other elements, even when you use tools like connectors. I'd like to be able to update the structure, and have the representation then update with a minimum of effort. Anyone know of software that helps you do this?
posted by gsteff to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
The standard-bearer for going round-trip from outline to diagram is probably Inspiration. I've always been disappointed by the visual polish of Inspiration's output, but if your team is used to what Visio produces, it's probably fine. On the Mac, the combination of OmniOutliner and OmniGraffle is pretty powerful and produces much better output.

But before you go to all that trouble: If the diagram contains exactly the same information as your outline would, what do you gain by producing the visualization?
posted by jjg at 8:49 AM on February 10, 2005

what do you gain by producing the visualization?

As the saying goes, ours is not to wonder why, ours is but to do or die.
posted by gsteff at 9:21 AM on February 10, 2005

I've used GraphViz for something similar (auto-generating class hierarchies).

It is very old-school Unix, but it is not hard, because it takes simple text files as input, with just one line for each connection, in the format "A -> B".
posted by smackfu at 9:36 AM on February 10, 2005

There are fancy, expensive visualization tools like NetMap (Click the arrows to see the demo) which might be overkill.
posted by callmejay at 10:09 AM on February 10, 2005

MindManager Pro. There's a demo on the page. Fantastic software. My prof used it extensively last semester, and it's really flexible -- he edited and rearranged on the fly, while lecturing.

One particularly nice feature is that it can export the resulting "map" in a number of formats (these are examples from my class): mindmap, flat html, and Word. The mindmap sounds the most like what you want.

If you need/want to use it for project management, it also integrates very well with Outlook.

Sadly, it's not free. But it's very good.
posted by jewishbuddha at 11:12 AM on February 10, 2005

I don't think MindManager lets you edit the structure independent of the visualization.
posted by jjg at 11:20 AM on February 10, 2005

If you want free, I second graphviz, which at one point I used extensively for large directed graphs (1000s of nodes or more, 10000s of edges or more). It also has good programatic interfaces for java, if you're into that kind of thing. It isn't the fastest (for really large graphs), and it doesn't have a visual editor, but it gets the job done.
posted by advil at 11:33 AM on February 10, 2005

3rd for grapviz. I used it to create a chart of the entire dependency Hierarchy of Fedora, and it didnt die (it did however produce a 15 mb image)
posted by JZig at 12:25 PM on February 10, 2005

4th for graphviz. there are a number of different layout engines (dot, neato, fdp, circo, twopi) that you can choose to affect the way graphs are laid out, and if you want to add a couple nodes, you just edit the input file and re-run the image-generator and they come out purty.

Plus, it can generate output in a really wide range of formats, including svg and pdf (via postscript).
posted by dkg at 6:41 PM on February 10, 2005

Late to the party, but thought I'd mention CMapTools, which is a free mind-mapping, tree-viewing type of app. (Free for non-commercial applications, I believe. Read the fine print.) It will automatically produce maps from XML files, or you can assemble by hand. It produces different arrangements of tree views and re-flows automatically with edits. Output looks nice, too.
posted by Tubes at 11:12 AM on February 11, 2005

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