Combining Sketching and Traditional Diagram Editing Tools

Gem Stapleton, Beryl Plimmer, Aidan Delaney, Peter Rodgers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The least cognitively demanding way to create a diagram is to draw it with a pen. Yet there is also a need for more formal visualizations, that is diagrams created using both traditional keyboard and mouse interaction. Our objective is to allow the creation of diagrams using traditional and stylus-based input. Having two diagram creation interfaces requires that changes to a diagram should be automatically rendered in the other visualization. Because sketches are imprecise, there is always the possibility that conversion between visualizations results in a lack of syntactic consistency between the two visualizations. We propose methods for converting diagrams between forms, checking them for equivalence and rectifying inconsistencies. As a result of our theoretical contributions, we present an intelligent software system allowing users to create and edit diagrams in sketch or formal mode. Our proof of concept tool supports diagrams with connected and spatial syntactic elements. Two user studies show that this approach is viable and participants found the software easy to use. We conclude that supporting such diagram creation is now possible in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Pages (from-to)1-29
JournalACM Transactions on Intelligent Systems and Technology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

© 2015 ACM


  • Diagrams
  • Sketching
  • Intelligent Systems
  • Sketching interfaces
  • diagram editing
  • tools for visual languages


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