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Viz v3

The main author of Viz (Steven) still has about half more year in his PhD candidature and therefore Viz will still be an active research project at least until he graduates. Look at the sneak previews below (screen shot taken using Windows Vista). We will release this version soon.

Last update: 27 May 2008

Updates for Viz EW

The revamped Viz EW, looks similar with the previous version, but now with these additional capabilities...
1. It is now capable to produce FLST visualization with less layout errors, more accuracy, and more scalable.
2. It is because of the updated AP Selection algorithm which capable to selects better APset.
3. We also collect points around selected APs: the Anchor Region (this feature is not completed yet).
4. Statistical tools are integrated into Viz EW, making empirical analysis (e.g. testing for significance) easier.
5. Every COP has different characteristics, we now give user more choices to adjust some "assignments" characteristics.
6. COP instances can now be "grouped" for better presentation of results.
7. EW now have more support for black-box tuning. User can select/deselect certain combination of configurations!
8. Viz EW window size is now resize-able.
9. Experiments are now conducted in SLS own folder, no need to copy the files into Viz "SLS Experiment" folder!
10. Quick access to most recently used experiment design.
11. Numerous small bug fixes behind the scene, etc.

Updates for Viz SIMRA

The revamped Viz SIMRA also looks similar with the version three months ago, but now with these new features:
1. FLST visualization is now much more powerful, observe the following screen shots. Most notable change is the circular gridlines!
2. We reorganize the Ribbon, it should be even more user friendly now.
3. Viz SIMRA window size is now resize-able.
4. Numerous small bug fixes behind the scene, etc.

Viz v2 Released Version (v2.2007.10.24)

After approximately 1 year of research work since last public release (October 2006-September 2007), we are happy to announce that SLS algorithm designers and researchers can now try the second version of visualization tool Viz, or what we now call SLS Engineering Suite - following the spirit of SLS 2007 workshop. Viz v2.2007.10.24 is quite stable now and ready for public usage.

Here are the features of the current version of this SLS Engineering Suite:

1. The Introduction of Viz Experiment Wizard (EW)

Viz EW replaces and extends the Raw-to-Visual Data Conversion Wizard included in Viz v1. This Viz EW allows us to control various experiment settings, e.g. set the problem design (selection of COP instances), the algorithm design (selection of SLS algorithm and its configuration, these SLS executables receive configuration settings from command line interface), set number of replication of each run, run the selected experiment design, write experiment notes/results, and finally view the tabulated and visualized objective values summary results, both in visualization and in descriptive statistics.

Viz EW Experiment Design screen (left), Waiting screen (middle), and Results screen (right)

2. New look and feel of Viz Single Instance Multiple Runs Analyzer (SIMRA)

The Viz GUI in v1 is now renamed as Viz SIMRA. Viz SIMRA is now much user friendly with the introduction of Ribbon interface (inspired by Microsoft Office 2007) to group related features together. Hopefully there is no copyright issue with Microsoft because we followed their idea. This grouping is quite helpful to make Viz more user friendly. All the visualizations are reworked to be more user friendly and more informative.

On the right, we display the 5 Ribbon tabs: Home, View, Options, Highlighting, Help

3. Many other small improvements to various aspects of Viz, e.g.

-. Right click opens context sensitive menus in almost every part of Viz SIMRA.
-. Ribbon is (much) nicer now.
-. Help/tool tips are everywhere in Viz EW/SIMRA, just highlight a widget and press F1 (for help, if any), or wait for few seconds for the tool tip to appear. Most of the time, help/tool tip text will appear.
-. The Viz Visual Data Files (VDF) are now zipped using open source zip software 7z. This results in a much smaller VDFs (can be up to 10 times smaller), allowing us to run MORE SLS experiments without worrying about gigantic RunLog files using up our hard disk space.
-. We abandon our own spring model layout algorithm and using the layout program NEATO inside the GraphViz package to layout the anchor points. This results in a nicer layout and less layout errors.
-. Adjustment to make Viz runs in both Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Viz v2 Interim Versions (October 2006 - March 2007 in reverse chronological order)


1. Overhaul the conversion wizard to experiment wizard, with the capability to do design of experiment plus `summary visualization'.
2. Hierarchical ST visualization, top-$K$ idea, much faster conversion time (abandoned later).
3. Using Viz v2 for short running, stop, convert, analyze, change parameter, continue short running, etc... like human guided search.
4. Use Ribbon interface, more faster and clean loading for Viz.
5. Many minor but necessary bug fixes.
6. VDF is now contain one run only. The do visual comparison, one must load two VDFs. This is more robust.

This is the snapshot of Viz version 2 GUI as of March 2007, now labeled as Viz Single Instance Multiple Runs Analyzer (SIMRA). Notice that the Ribbon UI is now much more cleaner. We used the screen shots produced by this tool for our SLS 2007 workshop paper.

In early 2007, we improve the old Raw-to-Visual Data Conversion Wizard into Viz Experiment Wizard where now the SLS algorithm designer can specify algorithm design (which COP instances to be processed), algorithm design (which SLS executable with its configuration will be used to process the COP instances), and number of repetitions (to test robustness). This is very helpful for us to conduct various SLS experimentations. We used this our Tabu Search experimentation on Quadratic Assignment Problem (QAP) that we submitted for SLS 2007 workshop. Viz is now evolving into not just a visualization tool for visual analysis, but into a more complete tool to support SLS engineering :)

Around October 2006, we have the chance to try Microsoft Office 2007 (still beta at that time) with its Ribbon UI. We find that this kind of interface helps the user in locating what they want. We follow that idea and transform Viz Control Panel window and many other functionalities into Ribbon style menus, divided into five sections:

1. Home (where all major features will be hosted),
2. View (for window and view-related menus are hosted),
3. Options (for other visualization options),
4. Highlighting (for highlighting features), and
5. Help (links to other resources).

After releasing Viz v1: The important issue that we have after releasing Viz v1 is that we realize that SLS algorithm analysis cannot be done on one single COP instance alone. We need a tool, a batch tool, to help us conduct SLS experiments on multiple COP instances since Viz program itself can only visualize the behavior of SLS algorithm on ONE COP instance only. The screen shot here is the preliminary idea.

Viz v1 Released Version (October 2006)

This is the version presented to the audiences in UIST 2006, Montreux, Switzerland, 15-18 October 2006. This is also the version that we release for public usage.

As seen in the screen shot, during the time window from July to October 2006, we further upgrade Viz in terms of GUI look and feel (the revision of Control Panel window) and most notably, the changes in Anchor Points labeling into a more cleaner design.

The development of version 1 is then frozen at this point of time and Viz v1 is made available for public usage around October 2006. The new visualization and UI ideas are now channeled to Viz v2.



1. Viz Raw-to-Visual Data Conversion Wizard is revamped...
    a. AP Selection Strategy from multiple RunLogs are added...
    b. Users are not required to create APLog by themselves (this is potentially confusing for novice)...
    c. Wizard like UI, with back/next buttons... User's task per page is simplified a lot, RunLog2 can be turned off.
2. Splash Screen is added, no more flickers during loading/unloading Viz :)
3. WinXPVisualStyle in .NET Framework is activated... transforming Viz UI to be a lot nicer... :) (except the trackbar issue)
4. Updates to visualization codes:
    a. Look at the ST, OV, FDC, EB, Playback options, we have so many customizeable items now :) An important feature!
    b. All visualization codes are improved to be slightly faster, ensure all runs in constant time. Avoid updating while doing multiple
        updates by having a `Block' and `Unblock' method, like a semaphore in Operating System.
    c. ST visualization: circles are smaller to avoid confusion, the circle does not represent an area. It is just a highlight.
        Avoid drawing trajectory line if it is far from closest AP.
        Support mouse tracking for quick analysis of points.
        Trail Type/Length for RunLog1/2 are splitted, Contour Map is updated
    d. OV: contour map is added here, also the fluctuations, best found line.
        We can use %-off instead of absolute values, ability to scale x and y axis, show/hide fluctuations and best found line...
    d. FDC: contour map is added here too, now there are many points again
        Percentage-off and the points for FDC computation & scatter plot are updated to resemble true FDC calculation!
5. Options in Control Panel undergo major update...
    a. Playback: Options to advance playback by iteration (adjustable) or by actual search time (time increment is adjustable too)!
    b. Visual Comparison: A two column mode is presented.
    c. Color Scheme added: 2 default scheme: on printed paper and on screen mode...
6. Update to Viz visual data file
    a. Settings are now merged into Viz vdf. We can exchange a single Viz VDF only, other people can see `exactly' what we see. :)
    b. Current solution data are compressed... this trick saves space quite a lot... even though not perfect...
    c. More computation data are embedded into VDF by the conversion wizard. Viz VDF format is improved.
7. Expert System (BETA) is started... Its effectiveness is still as objective reporter only... No great analysis done yet...
8. Text-based Information Center is now become MDI child, and beautifies with color emphasis.
9. Help files are updated and improved...
    a. Help files are now in PDF format. The newest help files will be posted to Viz website for public usage if there are any updates :)
    b. For most UI controls in \Viz{}, set focus to it and press F1 to get context sensitive help or mouse hover it to get tooltip...
    c. Link to wikipedia for explanation of TS, ILS, SA, TSP, QAP :)
10. Viz menu structure is reorganized/revamped. Now the menu is more useful.
    a. Several basic window layouts and view modes are added to Viz menu.
    b. Viz now supports user's input from keyboard as well from mouse because a lot mouse-input functionalities are now duplicated
        in menu structure and given keyboard shortcuts.
11. Many (I repeat, many) small bugs/improper small UI behavior errors are fixed and/or updated... for example:
    a. Contour Map: Now I use splitter instead of three sliders.
    b. Color scheme: instead of using new panel, I embed the button to change color in the ST control panel.
    c. Control panel groupings: now I use indentation to help grouping checkboxes/UI elements together.
    d. I can now hide a MDI child window without crashing :)
12. Logos and artworks are updated... some screenshots are edited to become logos in our Visualization windows...

Look at the videos below:

1. My presentation at UIST 2006 (16 October 2006)

We have presented Viz in User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) 2006.
Thanks to the organizer for recording the main author's (Steven) talk, now you can view it too :)
(video copyright is with ACM but we can use the video for non commercial purpose like this one).

The video files are too big to be hosted in our School of Computing website, so please view it directly from the IDIAP server.

2. Viz: Raw-to-Visual Data Conversion Wizard

This is a mini wizard tool that we build so that other users can analyze their own SLS algorithms too. Simply instruct your SLS algorithm to record some basic information into RunLog files and then pass those RunLog files into this Conversion Wizard. It helps the conversion from raw RunLog files generated by your SLS algorithm into Visual Data Files that are understood by Viz. This wizard is available in Viz version 1 but it is by default disabled. It can only be activated after e-mailing us your details and in turns we give you the activation key.

Viz v1 (July 2006)

This is the version that was used in our final UIST 2006 paper (camera ready copy submitted July 2006). Notice the heavy usage of alpha blending of contour map in the fitness landscape and search trajectory visualization. We later found out that this is not the best method and change it to a more cleaner design in future versions of Viz. Notice that Viz program is now much more matured compared to the February 2006 version =).


1. This is a major update after few months, with 'more user friendly' as the major update theme... :)
2. Add new default windows layout :)
3. Add new ControlPanel window: Now the user can customize a lot of stuffs, e.g. color scheme, visual comparison mode, etc. We know that not everyone likes our default settings...
4. Standardized log files format (version 1.0), Now everyone can use Viz by following this log file format...
5. New Raw Log files - Viz Visual Data files conversion wizard is created! This is to simplify the user's task :) Thus, Viz is just to display the visualization... Viz cannot be used to modify visual data files..., it was done by the wizard...
6. Two search playback controller... the playback can be done independently now...
7. Help files enhanced so that new users can get to know how to use Viz easily...

Look at the videos below:

1. Viz Version 1 Full Demo, UIST 2006

This video (download the video here) is created using the Viz version 1.2006.7.14 and is used to complement our UIST 2006 paper. If you compare this video with the April 2006 version, you will notice that we have upgraded the capabilities of Viz significantly in terms of UI and in functionalities.

Here are the updates:

We add the capability of Viz to convert raw RunLog files into Viz Visual Data File (VDF). This helps the users when they want to analyze their own SLS algorithm. The user just need to record some basic information iteration by iteration and Viz will process these RunLog files into visualization like this.

The Viz GUI received a lot of revamps. First, notice that we group all the visualization options into a Control Panel window because as Viz grows, its set of functionality is also increase. The second major improvement is the usage of color labeling to the quality of anchor points where blue is low values (good values in minimizing problem like TSP), green is medium values, brown is high values (bad values in minimizing problem) and a red dot to indicate the best found solution. Then, in TSP, you will be able to see that the blue anchor points are in the middle whereas the green and brown ones are surrounding it... a Big Valley. The color labeling is controlled by "Contour Map" sliders for quick filtering of good/bad anchor points. The user can choose different color schemes according to their preference. The area mode of search trajectory visualization is now changed into circles for easier understanding.

Finally (in the video), we show an in-depth example of how to use Viz for understanding and then tuning a Reactive Tabu Search (Re-TS) SLS algorithm to attack Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP).

First: understand how TS can be trapped in solution cycling under low tabu tenure setting. Then, understand that TS can be very far from Big Valley region under high tabu tenure setting. We then arrives at a reactive setting of tabu tenure to balance these two trade-offs.

2. Fitness Landscape and Search Trajectory Visualization in Viz v1

This is a snapshot of Search Trajectory visualization of a Tabu Search (TS) algorithm on the fitness landscape of Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP) instance: pr76. Blue colored anchor points are good ones (red: best found solution), green: medium quality, brown: poor quality. Here we see that these anchor points are clustered in one big group (Big Valley property of TSP). The animation illustrates the movement of TS algorithm over time on this fitness landscape.

Viz v1 (April 2006)

Around early April 2006, 2 months after ECAI 2006, we improve Viz v1 a little bit more and submitted this UI/HCI work to UIST 2006, an HCI/UI conference. This symposium is a premiere forum for new UI tools. If this paper gets acceptance for this conference, it means that InfoViz experts' regards our tool as promising.

Shortly after submitting HCI/UI paper to UIST06, Viz paper is accepted as poster paper in ECAI 2006.


1. Built-in visualizations available:
    a. Search Trajectory (Updated with contour map --- black/white grid, smooth animation, arrows to indicate direction)
    b. Objective Value (Updated with statistical features)
    c. FDC (New, to display FDC scatter plot, static version)
    d. Algorithm Specific (Tabu Tenure) (New, to display Tabu Tenure over time for TS local search)
    e. Problem Specific (TSP) (New, to display TSP tour over time. Best and current TSP solution are superimposed)
2. Switch to Multiple Document Interface (MDI) style, and with all window layout capabilities.
3. Use professional-looking menustrip and toolstrip
4. Add Visual Comparison feature. Almost all visualization windows capable of drawing two trajectories simultaneously!
5. Built-in Screenshots capability
6. Using tool-tips almost everywhere to make the GUI neater
7. Regroup the search trajectory controls to its own window (zoom/scroll/trail, etc)
8. Introduce "*.viz" file, a pre-computed visual data file for faster loading time.
9. Also presented at Swedish Constraint Day (SweConsNet 2006).

Viz Version 1 Full Demo, UIST 2006

This video demo (download the video here) contains the summary of what Viz v1 (up to April 2006) is capable of.

It shows how a Tabu Search algorithm works in a fitness landscape of TSP instance: pr76. It shows Viz in Multiple Document Interface (MDI) style where all the visualization windows are embedded inside one big MDI window. At that time, Viz already supports zooming in/out and panning of the fitness landscape and search trajectory visualization, even though they are still quite rough. Viz already has two playback sliders to support visual comparison, which are used to compare and then explain certain behaviors:

First, we have blue trajectory trapped in solution cycling where the blue trajectory seems stuck in an area for a long time.

Then in the subsequent example, we have blue trajectory with reactive tabu tenure versus the red trajectory with static tabu tenure. The result: blue trajectory is better as it is closer to the middle section of the visualization (Big Valley).

Viz v1 (February 2006)

Viz is born! This is the earliest prototype of Viz that we used for our ECAI 2006 paper (submitted February 2006).
At that time Viz was still very rough, however the basic idea are already there:

The first built-in visualizations available:
a. Search Trajectory, using greedy layout. Anchor Points are laid out using a very basic spring model algorithm.
b. Objective Value.
c. Simple TSP tour.
d. Draw visualizations in multiple coordinated screens.

Initial features:
a. The playback controller (to playback the search in animation by drawing sequence of lines visited).
b. Ability to adjust trail length and type (Line/Area).
c. Ability to adjust the speed slider to have faster/slower screen redraw.
d. Ability to adjust the filter slider to decide whether bad Anchor points will be drawn or not.
e. Zoom in/out to get better close up/overview look...
f. Colors, pixel size/line width to indicate information...
g. Utilizes: OpenGL + CsGL + .NET Framework

A preliminary paper about Viz is submitted to European Conference on Artificial Intelligence (ECAI 2006) for review...

Look at the example videos below:

1. Some basic features of Viz v1

In this video (download the video here), we show some basic features of the initial version (February 2006) of Viz and show a simple solution cycling event detected by Viz.

2: Comparing Iterated Local Search (ILS) Algorithms in Viz v1

In this video (download the video here), we show the differences of Iterated Local Search (ILS) A (with 'Better' acceptance criteria) compared with ILS B (with 'Always Accept' acceptance criteria) on a problem called Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP) using the February 2006 version of Viz.

ILS is known to be a good SLS for TSP. Here, we show that a simple change in acceptance criteria of the ILS algorithm can cause substantial differences in the behavior of the ILS and ultimately its performance.

ILS A can concentrate more on the 'middle of the screen' (in TSP, since we have Big Valley phenomenon, the anchor points will form one big cluster in the middle of the screen), whereas ILS B can not. The results produced by ILS A are generally much better than ILS B on different TSP instances.

Before Viz (2nd half of 2003-end of 2005)

1. During the final year of his undergraduate day, the first author built a 3-D visualization of Search Space (at that time, the visualization was quite `poor')...
2. Anchor Points concept conceived by the first author in early 2005...
3. A visualization tool (predecessor of Viz), V-MDF was built to support the idea...
4. The ideas of anchor points for visualizing search trajectory, plus the tool V-MDF and its Distance Radar, are presented at a Metaheuristics International Conference (MIC 2005), Vienna, Austria. We received positive feedbacks...
5. The book chapter version related to these ideas was submitted for publication in MIC 2005 Post-Conference Volume...

Notes: The videos are uploaded to YouTube service and streamed via this page. This is the most convenient mode to watch these videos. However, you can also download the AVI version of the videos, but then you need to have DivX codex installed in your PC. These AVI videos are playable in Windows Media Player and we believe that the videos should also be able to be played back in other major media player software. When we have more time, we will create more videos using the latest version of Viz v2. For now, just enjoy the existing videos/historical review of Viz in reverse chronological order :).

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