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The authors introduce the contour spectrum, a user interface component that improves qualitative user interaction and provides real-time exact quantification in the visualization of isocontours. The contour spectrum is a signature consisting of a variety of scalar data and contour attributes, computed over the range of scalar values /spl omega//spl isin/R. They explore the use of surface, area, volume, and gradient integral of the contour that are shown to be univariate B-spline functions of the scalar value /spl omega/ for multi-dimensional unstructured triangular grids. These quantitative properties are calculated in real-time and presented to the user as a collection of signature graphs (plots of functions of /spl omega/) to assist in selecting relevant isovalues /spl omega//sub 0/ for informative visualization. For time-varying data, these quantitative properties can also be computed over time, and displayed using a 2D interface, giving the user an overview of the time-varying function, and allowing interaction in both isovalue and time step. The effectiveness of the current system and potential extensions are discussed.