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Anteater: Interactive Visualization for Program Understanding



Rebecca Faust, Kartherin Isaacs, William Z. Bernstein, Michael Sharp, Carlos Scheidegger


Debugging is famously one the hardest parts in programming. In this paper, we tackle the question: what does a debugging environment look like when we take interactive visualization as a central design principle? We introduce Anteater, an interactive visualization system for tracing and exploring the execution of Python programs. Existing systems often have visualization components built on top of an existing infrastructure. In contrast, Anteater's organization of trace data enables an intermediate representation which can be leveraged to automatically synthesize a variety of visualizations and interactions. These interactive visualizations help with tasks such as discovering important structures in the execution and understanding and debugging unexpected behaviors. To assess the utility of Anteater, we conducted a participant study where programmers completed tasks on their own python programs using Anteater. Finally, we discuss limitations and where further research is needed.
Conference Dates
October 25-30, 2020
Conference Location
Salt Lake City, UT, US
Conference Title


Interactive Visualizations, Program Traces


Faust, R. , Isaacs, K. , Bernstein, W. , Sharp, M. and Scheidegger, C. (2020), Anteater: Interactive Visualization for Program Understanding, IEEE VIS 2020, Salt Lake City, UT, US, [online], (Accessed July 13, 2024)


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Created September 24, 2020, Updated December 12, 2022