Patterns:Direct Manipulation

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The parameter values for a particular task are ill defined. Direct interaction with visual objects in the display is possible.


How to explore the dataset.


  • Need to explore and manipulate dataset.
  • Task types include selection, filtering, and navigating.


Use direct manipulation style interaction. Allow the user to select and manipulate objects directly in the scene.

Dynamic queries are an excellent mechanism for providing rapid, easily reversible actions on the scene. However, sometimes it is difficult or less intuitive to map an action onto a control. Instead the action should be applied directly to the object or objects in the scene. Selecting objects by using a bounding box is a good example. The classification that the user has determined by looking at the objects may be difficult to describe in terms of the values of those object’s attributes and therefore difficult to set the associated controls correctly. However, by using a bounding box or by clicking on individual items, the user can easily select the desired set.

During our daily routines we often pick up objects, move them, rotate them, and so on. Using direct manipulation in a display more closely matches our everyday experiences.


  • Selective Dynamic Manipulation [1]
  • Brath [2]

Related Patterns[edit]


  1. Chuah et al. (1995). SDM: Selective Dynamic Manipulation of Visualizations. In: The 8th ACM Symposium on User interface and Software Technology. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, 15-17 November 1995. pp 61-70.
  2. Brath, R. (1999) Effective Information Visualization : Guidelines and Metrics for 3D Interactive Representations of Business Data. Masters of Computer Science Thesis, Graduate Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto, Canada.

See also: Wilkins, B., (2003). “MELD: A Pattern Supported Methodology for Visualisation Design”, PhD Dissertation, University of Birmingham, UK.