overview for groupware

Group activity is simplified when collaborators can see others' actions and the objects they are working on. Individuals, however, need to move around the workspace independently to see and manipulate the objects they need for their specific tasks. One approach that makes this possible involves splitting the view of workspace into two viewpoints: a main detailed viewpoint under the control of the local user, and a smaller radar overview of the entire workspace overlaid with information about where another person is located, what they can see, as well as their telepointers.

This groupware concept map editor includes a radar overview (upper left). Onto this we overlay the view extents of what others can see, inlaid with that person's image. telepointers are visible within both the radar and main view. Since the radar overview provides a spatial representation of the workspace, it is easy to see who is present, where others are located, and what others are doing. Telepopinters let people gesture around as well. The radar is also active, which means that people can work in both the overview or the detailed view. Finally, people can grab their view extent rectangles in the radar and move them, which means they can rapidly bring their views into alignment. We have run extensive studies on this approach, and the results suggest that these systems are effective at providing people with the workspace awareness necessary for managing loose and thight coupling.

Primary Investigators

Carl Gutwin (as part of his PhD dissertation)
Saul Greenberg (Supervisor)


  • Many progressive versions of the radar view have been implemented.
  • Extensive usability tests and controlled experiments were performed to evaluate its effectiveness.
  • Papers and videos were produced describing the work.

Current Status

  • The radar overview work is more or less complete. We are exploring ways of generalizing this work as a graphical canvas.