Graph visualization with Graphviz


Article from Issue 77/2007

Using drawing tools to manually create graphs and diagrams can be a slow and convoluted process. The Graphviz toolbox offers a faster way. Based on a short text with the information for the graph, Graphviz quickly generates a neat drawing.

Graphviz is a useful toolbox to have on hand if you need an automated approach to generating graphs (see the “Terminology” box). Computer users fumble through generating graphs, starting with E/ R diagrams for visualizing database schemas to hierarchicial tree structures that represent an organization’s shareholdings or a chain of command. Normally, the information is located in square boxes that must be positioned carefully, without overlap-
ping with other boxes, before drawing anyconnecting arrows. This is the kind of challenge in which Graphviz excels – users simply specify the relationships between the elements, and the tool automagically outputs an attractive drawing. Don’t look for a neat graphical editor in which you can specify the relations. Instead, Graphviz reads a textbased description of the graph in a special markup language. (LaTeX uses a similar approach, although the two systems have nothing in common apart from this.)

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