Before we start

LifeFlow is a tool designed to analyze temporal event sequences by visualization. It is recommended that the users read the paper first to become familiar about the design of LifeFlow. The paper can be found at: http://www.cs.umd.edu/localphp/hcil/tech-reports-search.php?number=2010-22

System requirements

LifeFlow can be used on systems running either Mac OS X or Microsoft Windows. The minimum system requirements are:

LifeFlow has been tested on Mac OS X 10.5-10.7, Microsoft Windows XP and Windows 7.

How to download and install LifeFlow?

LifeFlow is now available. Please email Catherine Plaisant at for the executable and source code.

After extracting the zip file, run LifeFlow by:

Data format

Four different files are used in LifeFlow.

Event Data file

It is a 4-column tab-delimited text file.


Table 1.4.1: Sample event data file (sample_data.txt)
Record IDEvent typeDate and TimeEvent attributes
4318Arrival2010-01-19 03:53:00Account No.="24287939"; Entrance-Diagnosis="Heart attack"; Exit-Diagnosis="Heart attack"
4318ER2010-01-19 03:53:00
4318ICU2010-01-19 03:53:00Room No.="125"
4318Floor2010-01-19 03:53:00Room No.="854"
4318Exit-DISC2010-01-19 06:44:00ED-Dispo="DISC"; Exit-Diagnosis="Heartburn"
5397Arrival2010-01-19 03:53:00Account No.="24287939"; Entrance-Diagnosis="Heart attack"; Exit-Diagnosis="Heart attack"
5397ER2010-01-19 03:53:00
5397Floor2010-01-19 03:53:00Room No.="854"
5397Exit-DISC2010-01-19 06:44:00ED-Dispo="DISC"; Exit-Diagnosis="Heartburn"

Attribute Data file (optional)

This file store the non-temporal attributes of each record. You are not required have to have this file if you do not have any record attribute. It is a 3-column tab-delimited text file, which has the same name as the event data file but with extension *.attrib.


Table 1.4.2: Sample attribute data file (sample_data.attrib)
Record IDAttribute nameAttribute value
4318GenderMale
5397GenderFemale

Config File (optional)

The config file helps the users to bring back their previously used setting and continue the analysis (Section 4.1). For example, their preferred color of the event. Another important aspect is to carefully maintain a log file about where the data came from, what modifications were made, etc. To help convert data to the LifeFlow format we are developing the DataKitchen application.

Sample data to use while learning LifeFlow

Throughout the manual, a sample dataset is used to demonstrate the features in LifeFlow. Please email for the sample file.

The sample data is a generated set of electronic medical records with six event types: