Interactive Visual Histories for Vector Graphics

Sara L. Su Sylvain Paris Fred Aliaga Craig Scull Steve Johnson Frédo Durand
MIT CSAIL Adobe Systems Adobe Systems Adobe Systems Adobe Systems MIT CSAIL
MIT CSAIL Technical Report, June 2009

Figure 1: This automatically-generated visualization shows the editing history of an illustration. Arrows and icons depict spatial transforms and color change actions performed by the user. The user can click on any depiction to selectively undo the corresponding action.


Presentation and graphics software enables users to experiment with variations of illustrations. They can revisit recent editing operations using the ubiquitous undo command, but they are limited to sequential exploration. We propose a new interaction metaphor and visualization for operation history. While editing, a user can access a history mode in which actions are denoted by graphical depictions appearing on top of the document. Our work is inspired by the visual language of film storyboards and assembly instructions. Our storyboard provides an interactive visual history, summarizing the editing of a document or a selected object. Each view is composed of action depictions representing the user's editing actions and enables the user to consider the operation history in context rather than in a disconnected list view. This metaphor provides instant access to any past action and we demonstrate that this is an intuitive interface to a selective undo mechanism.


Sara L. Su, Sylvain Paris, Frederick Aliaga, Craig Scull, Steve Johnson, and Frédo Durand. Interactive Visual Histories for Vector Graphics. Technical Report MIT-CSAIL-TR-2009-031, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Cambridge, MA, June 2009.

Paper: PDF
Video: coming soon

  author = "Sara L. Su and Sylvain Paris and Frederick Aliaga and Craig Scull and Steve Johnson and Fr\'edo Durand",
  title = "Interactive Visual Histories for Vector Graphics",
  number = "MIT-CSAIL-TR-2009-031",
  institution = "Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory",
  address = "Cambridge, MA",
  month = "June",
  year = "2009",


The authors wish to thank the MIT Graphics Group, Steve Feiner, and Mira Dontcheva for discussion, the developers of Inkscape, and the maintainers of the Open Clip Art Library. Frédo Durand acknowledges a Microsoft Research New Faculty Fellowship, a Sloan Fellowship, and a generous gift from Adobe. This work was partially funded by the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab.