Magnet Mail: A Visualization System for Emails

Magnet Mail: A Visualization System for Emails

Paulo Castro (CITI-DI, FCT, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal) and Adriano Lopes (CITI-DI, FCT, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/jcicg.2010070103
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Magnet Mail (MM) is a visualization system for emails based on a zoomable interface and on manipulation of objects. Users are able to search, analyze and understand relations among email messages as long as they provide searching keywords to do so, as well as interact with graphical objects in the display in a pro-active manner. The underlying concept is a magnet metaphor that relates user interaction, searching keywords and relations among emails. In this paper, the authors present a prototype that interacts with a mass-market email system and most of its graphical implementation relies on the Piccolo toolkit.
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A large majority of email client solutions seeking better user interaction rely not only on header information but message content. We envisage three major approaches as far as information visualization is concerned:

  • Time-based visualization.

  • Thread-based visualization.

  • Social-based visualization.

First and foremost, these approaches can work together and can all be part of a particular email client application. For example, time-based visualization can easily be found alongside thread-based visualization so it is a matter of how much each one contributes to the final package.

Time-based visualization highlights the importance of timestamp in emails. Emails can be displayed chronologically so one can figure out how content have changed over time.

The Themail application shows this approach. It relies on the content of messages to display interactions over time. Its interface shows a series of columns of keywords arranged along a timeline. Keywords are shown in different colors and sizes depending on their frequency and distinct conversations over time (Viégas, Scott, & Donath, 2006). Mailview is another tool that display emails chronologically. It includes focus+context views, dynamic filters and coordinated views (Frau, Roberts, & Boukhelifa, 2005). Also, FaMailiar is a tool to visualize email data over time, focusing on discovering communication rhythms and patterns. Some features include daily email averages, daily quality of emails, frequency of email exchanges, comparative frequency of email exchanges (Mandic & Kerne, 2004).

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