VisIt Team Adds Color Usability Improvements

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Visualization tools such as LLNL’s VisIt offer many important capabilities, one of which is imbuing data with color. This can be thought of as virtually painting color onto a data object to communicate something about the data to viewers. In the case of a visualization tool, the painter is an algorithm, not an artist. While many aspects of the use of color in art apply to scientific visualization, the scientific computing community may not see their use of color through the artist’s lens. Color palettes and tables are commonplace in web design, PowerPoint slide design, and even interior office space design. In scientific visualization, a wide variety of color palettes are used for tasks such as feature identification, exploration, differencing, segmentation, and communication. In addition, some scientific visualization cases require dataset-specific color maps. Tools such as Colormoves allow users to build complex, data-driven color maps that can be exported for use in other visualization software. VisIt was originally released in 2002 with a handful of immutable color maps. Developers soon recognized that the options were insufficient, so they added the ability to create, import, and export color maps. As a result, the number of color maps quickly increased until about 60 color tables (including the popular Viridis tables) came installed with VisIt. “To satisfy requests for more inclusive software design, our research led us to color tables that we could integrate into VisIt to improve various aspects of data analysis in scientific visualization,” states VisIt computer scientist Mark Miller. Read more about VisIt’s color maps at LLNL Computing.