MetroMaps and T-Cubes: Beyond Gantt Charts

Martínez, Dolado, & Presedo (2010) discuss two visual modeling tools for software development and planning, MetroMap and T-Cube. This discussion is in the context of greater attention being paid to the development process and metrics, not just the software engineering itself. A concession the authors make very early on is that Gantt charts are the prevalent method for project mapping in organizations, and that the research to date shows they are not effective for communicating, especially when different groups are involved. Enter the MetroMap, a way of visualizing abstract train-of-thought information that communicates both high-level and detailed information to viewers.

Image courtesy of Martínez, Dolado, & Presedo (2010)

T-Cube visualization is reminiscent of a Rubik’s Cube, utilizing the three-dimensional nature of a physical cube, the individual cubes making up the whole, and the facets (colors) on each individual cube. These correspond to tasks and attributes. The authors utilized a specific software set to illustrate these concepts, represented in the article. As the tasks and attributes are written independently, they can be represented by workgroup, type of task, module or time.

These two methods have their strengths and weaknesses, both individually and together. At first glance, it is obvious that the MetroMap can represent many indicators at once while the T-Cube can only show one at a time. MetroMap uses a variety of icons and styles to represent information while the T-Cube uses traditional treemaps. The authors size up the tools in a simple comparison table, noting that MetroMap generally has the edge on viewing a lot of information at once.

Features and benefits are great, but how does actual use differ? Is one easier than the other in practice? The authors examined a shortest-path route to accomplish the same task in both tools, and found that MetroMap was the most efficient in multiple scenarios. In all cases the actions were more basic and straightforward. Overall, either tool is more informative and effective than Gantt charts. Access to information and ability to understand it are paramount in any planning and development exercise. These are two tools that better enable that.


Martínez, A., Dolado, J., & Presedo, C. (2010). Software Project Visualization Using Task Oriented Metaphors. JSEA, 3, 1015-1026.