Tom Sawyer Software

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Tom Sawyer Software
Industry Computer Software
Founded Berkeley (1992)
Headquarters Berkeley, California, U.S.A.

Tom Sawyer Software provides products that are used to build data relationship visualization and analysis applications. Organizations with needs in link analysis, network topology, schematics and models, and dependencies, flows, and processes rely on the company's data relationship visualization and analysis expertise.

As advanced specialists in graph visualization and analysis technology, Tom Sawyer Software helps organizations gain new understanding from their data and increase the appeal of their applications. Tom Sawyer Software offers mature and market-proven products, comprehensive services, and excellent technical support to help its customers succeed.

The company is headquartered in Berkeley, California, with additional offices in Riga Latvia, Mexico City Mexico, Newcastle Australia, Haifa Israel, Ankara Turkey, and other locations.


Tom Sawyer Software's flagship product line is named Tom Sawyer Perspectives, see It is an advanced SDK, and is offered in both Java and .NET editions. Tom Sawyer Perspectives supports both web and desktop deployments from a single application design.

Additionally, Tom Sawyer Software now offers Tom Sawyer Cloud, see, in order to help its enterprise and government customers scale their application deployments.

The company also produces legacy graph visualization, graph layout, and graph analysis software with the product family names of Tom Sawyer Visualization, Tom Sawyer Layout, and Tom Sawyer Analysis. Each of these three product lines is packaged into multiple editions that are designed for different operating systems, programming languages, and graphics systems.


Tom Sawyer Software was founded in 1992 in Berkeley, California by Brendan Madden. Tom Sawyer Software pioneered commercial graph visualization and analysis in the United States. The company was founded initially with approximately fifteen thousand dollars in savings. Ten thousand dollars of this initial savings came from insurance company proceeds after Brendan's 1967 Ford Mustang was stolen in San Francisco.

Brendan started Tom Sawyer Software in his apartment in Berkeley, California when he was 27 years old. The company worked one year in the apartment, and then occupied three different offices on Fourth and Fifth Streets in Berkeley for the next eight years. In late 2000, the company moved to downtown Oakland where it occupied two floors in a historic building at the corner of 17th and Clay Streets. In 2008, Tom Sawyer Software purchased a property in North Berkeley near the entrance to the Solano Tunnel. Design and construction were finally completed in 2012, and the company now occupies this building as its headquarters.

The company's software was first written in GNU C++ on a NeXT Computer NeXTstation. Brendan initially focused on writing the company's portable graph layout software in C++. When this portable C++ product was first released, it was named the "Graph Layout Toolkit". The initial version included hierarchical layout which is a form of directed graph layout. New versions were then quickly released every few months to improve quality, features, performance, and documentation. As new versions were released, support was added for nested drawing support, incremental layout, labeling and other features.

Tom Sawyer Software's very first customer for the Graph Layout Toolkit was Michael Swan of Neon Software for his LANSurveyor product. Later on, the Graph Layout Toolkit was adopted by Symantec TimeLine, Synoptics Optivity, Sun SPARCWorks, Make Systems, Cisco Systems, Alias Wavefront Maya, Candle, and other companies.

As time progressed, Tom Sawyer Software built approximately one new layout style every year, and followed up with circular layout, symmetric layout, and orthogonal layout. Each layout style was a very complex undertaking and designed to support different classes of applications. After the initial releases of each layout style, the work would continue on each of those layout styles for years to come. Since the Graph Layout Toolkit was designed to use strict ANSI C++, it was ported to Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh, SunOS, Solaris, HP-UX, and AIX over time. Over the first four or five years of the company, the software eventually ran on more than fifty different compiler configurations.

Shortly after the company started, Tom Sawyer Software also realized it needed graphics software to be able to display results, for interactive testing, and to be able to express visually to customers what the software could do for them. At this time, Brendan's brother Patrick moved to Berkeley as well and began writing Tom Sawyer Software's graph visualization software on a new 33 MHz Microsoft Windows 3.0 computer using 16-Bit Borland C++ and Borland OWL. When the graph visualization software was finally first released, it bore the name "Graph Editor Toolkit". The Graph Editor Toolkit relied on the portable Graph Layout Toolkit for core data structures and algorithms. The graph visualization software was later ported from Borland C++ to Microsoft MFC, and was later ported from 16-Bit Microsoft Windows to 32-Bit Microsoft Windows.

In 1995, Tom Sawyer Software also produced the Graph Editor Toolkit in an ActiveX edition. The company now had mainstream technology and licensed the Graph Editor Toolkit for either MFC or ActiveX to customers such as Intel, Checkpoint Software Technologies, Advanced Software Technologies, ESRI, and other companies.

In 1995, Tom Sawyer Software was also selected by the NIST Advanced Technology Program as one of seven winners in a component technology award for "Graph Visualization Technology". The award program ran for three years. During this time, and after, many of the most famous graph layout specialists in the world worked at Tom Sawyer Software in Berkeley. The company had many Ph.D. specialists and visiting professors from Australia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Turkey, and other countries on its staff. Over a number of years as many as five of the company's research staff went back into academia with professorships.

In 1998, Tom Sawyer Software released the Graph Layout Toolkit and Graph Editor Toolkit in a new Java edition for desktop applications. This was an essential product as many software and networking companies were quickly moving to Java at the time. New customers during this time included Sun Microsystems and other companies.

To Be Continued...


People have always been somewhat curious about where the name of the company comes from. The company was named on a whim from the song "Tom Sawyer" by the Canadian band Rush, as Brendan liked the lyrics at the time.


Tom Sawyer Software has won the following awards:

  • U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Grant Winner, "Graph Visualization Technology" Advanced Technology Program (ATP) grant (95-09) Component Based Software Technology Development, 1995.[1]
  • U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Grant Finalist, "Graph Analysis Technology" Advanced Technology Program (ATP) grant (00-09) Component Based Software Technology Development, 2000.[2]
  • 2011 Red Herring 100 North America Award, Finalist.[3]
  • Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project Grant Winner, "Visual Interaction Methods for Clustered Graphs" (11-13), 2011.[4]
  • 2011 Red Herring 100 Global Award, Finalist.[5]


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