New visualization tools

I just saw two Bioinformatics applications notes in my RSS feed this week that caught my attention, both web-based tools for visualizing genome annotation.

ChromoZoom is a genome browser that offloads the bulk of the processing to the browser client, as opposed to the more common bulky Perl-heavy server-side genome browsers like GBrowse and xGDB. Unlike other browsers that focus on client side processing, ChromoZoom can load flat files without the need for preprocessing, and it provides a bit of newfangled UI swag in the form of smooth zooming and intertial scrolling.

Scribl is a JavaScript-based graphics library designed to facilitate the development of dynamic web-based tools for visualizing genomic features. The examples provided by Scribl all look very rudimentary (almost unprofessionally so), although the Rover genome browser powered by Scribl looks significantly better. As far as APIs for genome feature visualization go, my only experience is with the GenomeTools AnnotationSketch API (with which I’ve been quite pleased, I must say), so it is nice to see this type of functionality being extended into the domain of web-based languages (who doesn’t like programming in JavaScript?).

I’m not ready to invest too much time in either of these tools yet. Both of them have some significant limitations. However, I am excited about the direction things are going, and I could definitely see myself utilizing them (or their descendants or related tools) some time in the near future as the need arises.

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