CATBox – An Interactive Course in Combinatorial Optimization

W. Hochstättler and A. Schliep

Springer, 2010.

Graph algorithms are easy to visualize and indeed there already exists a variety of packages and programs to animate the dynamics when solving problems from graph theory. Still, and somewhat surprisingly, it can be difficult to understand the ideas behind the algorithm from the dynamic display alone. CATBox consists of a software system for animating graph algorithms and a course book which we developed simultaneously. The software system presents both the algorithm and the graph and puts the user always in control of the actual code that is executed. He or she can set breakpoints, proceed in single steps and trace into subroutines. The graph, and additional auxiliary graphs like residual networks, are displayed and provide visual feedback. The course book, intended for readers at advanced undergraduate or graduate level, introduces the ideas and discusses the mathematical background necessary for understanding and verifying the correct ness of the algorithms and their complexity. Computer exercises and examples replace the usual static pictures of algorithm dynamics. For this volume we have chosen solely algorithms for classical problems from combi natorial optimization, such as minimum spanning trees, shortest paths, maximum flows, minimum cost flows as well as weighted and unweighted matchings both for bipartite and non-bipartite graphs. We consider non-bipartite weighted matching, in particular in the geometrical case, a highlight of combinatorial optimization. In order to enable the reader to fully enjoy the beauty of the primal-dual solution algorithm for weighted matching, we present all mathematical material not only from the point of view of graph theory, but also with an emphasis on linear programming and its duality. This yields insightful and aesthetically pleasing pictures for matchings, but also for minimum spanning trees. You can find more information at

The publication includes results from the following projects or software tools: Gato, AlgorithmAnimations.

The following presentation(s) are based on this publication: Nov. 24, 2000 by Alexander Schliep at Multimedia Tools for Communicating Mathematics, Lissabon, Portugal (Invited Talk).

Further publications by Alexander Schliep.