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What's the best way to view a deep hierarchy?

In a desktop application what are the innovative, alternate methods to a tree structure?

Provide me some example links to go through.

  • 2
    There are many similar if not duplicate questions like yours. Also, please help us answer you and provide more information. Thanks.
    – jonshariat
    Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 19:49
  • 1
    P.S. A good start would be over there in the "Related" section ------------------->
    – jonshariat
    Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 19:49
  • What is going to be the purpose of the tree structure?
    – Ry-
    Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 2:51

2 Answers 2


For arbitrary numbers of levels:

  • Cascading windows

Cascading Windows

  • There are numerous possible presentations of tree hierarchies. The variants shown below are all from http://vis.stanford.edu/protovis/ex/, which is web based, but nothing stops the algorithms being used to render hierarchies in a desktop application:

Protovis Hierarchies

  • Google's Image Swirl is a web based tree browsing of images - similar presentation could be used for a desktop application - and in any case a web browser is a desktop application. Modern application development tools can make including a browser window in an application a good choice.

  • The Open Source Walrus Program provides interactive 3D visualizations of very large trees.

  • Any method for showing networks can equally show a tree, because a tree is just a network with the least links necessary to stay connected in one piece.

  • GraphViz can be used to generate displays of trees of all kinds. This circular example below is for visualizing the hailstone sequence. Another program, Circos, specializes in diagrams in a circular format, and as well as networks can also show tree structured data.

enter image description here

  • Menus are a form of tree. So are menus in disguise like Microsoft's Ribbon.

  • Miller Columns

Miller Columns
(source: google.com)

For one or two levels:

  • Accordions

  • Tabbed control

  • One nested inside the other to get to two levels.

For a small fixed number of levels

  • A table with a column for each level, each row representing one leaf node and giving the full breadcrumbs-path to the node represented.

  • Table using indents

Indented Table


Multi level pie menu

picture of Multi level pie menu

Tree map

picture of Treemap

Zoomable interface

picture of Zoomable Interface

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