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A Fisheye Viewer for Text Files

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A Screenshot of the Application in UseFisheye views are used to display complex structured information in a way that systematically leaves out or minimizes information that is not currently relevant. On this page you can download a small Java application which applies a fisheye view to the display of plain text documents that are structured by the indentation of their lines. Such a system was first described by Furnas [1]. Rather than including or excluding lines completely based on their current degree of interest, this viewer normally draws increasingly "squashed" text as the degree of interest decreases. This is done by scaling the text down verticallycharacters retain the same width, so they still line up in the correct columns. The viewer can display documents directly from files, URLs, or the system clipboard.

To run the application you must have a recent version of the Java runtime installed (at least 1.5.x). The most recent runtime can be downloaded from here.

Download the Application

fisheyeviewer.jar (version 1, 40 kB)

On clicking the link, you may choose to open the file directly if your browser is aware of your Java installation. Alternatively, you may save the .jar file to disk. Depending on your operating system, the program may start automatically when you click (or double-click) on the icon for the downloaded .jar file, or you may need to start it from the command line using a variant of:

java -jar fisheyeviewer.jar

When started from the command line, any additional arguments are interpreted as documents to open. Arguments that contain the sequence :// will be interpreted as URLs to be opened (for example, Arguments not containing :// will be interpreted as names of local files to be opened (for example, D:\MyTextFile.txt).


[1] Furnas, George W. The FISHEYE View: A New Look at Structured Files. Murray Hill, NJ: AT&T Bell Laboratories, 1981.

[2] Furnas, George W. Generalized Fisheye Views. In Proceedings of the 1986 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing, 1623, 1986.

[3] Card, Mackinlay, and Shneiderman.  Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think.  Morgan Kaufmann, 1999.


Note: [1] is a technical report which has been generally hard to come by, but is now available as part of the collection [3].

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January 1 2006 Updated January 01, 2011