Top 9 JavaScript Chart Libraries to Use in 2019

Top 9 JavaScript Chart Libraries to Use in 2019

The JavaScript charting library ecosystem is growing and evolving considerably. In this article, you'll see top JavaScript chart libraries to use in 2019

The JavaScript charting library ecosystem is growing and evolving considerably. In this article, you'll see top JavaScript chart libraries to use in 2019

With the tendency to collect and use data is increasing exponentially, it becomes more important to visualize that data. Developers are trying to bring together the records in different databases into dashboards and beautiful charts which can be interpreted quickly and intuitively by humans.

Over the past decade, data visualization technology has improved continuously, and now consumers have advanced chart libraries made available to them.

The server-side image bitmap charts were used prominently during the early 2000s for chart generation. Plugins like Silverlight and Flash offered more of interactive charting experience, but then it came at the expense of battery life, download speed, and system resources.

The boost in the mobile and tablet usage leads to a situation where plugins were no more supported by the mobile platforms and this way moving to open client-side technologies which could run everywhere became the choice of developers. At the same time, resolution -independent vector charts came to the limelight due to the advent of common zooming using touch gestures and very high-resolution screens.

So comes the time of data visualization where the use of SVG-Scalable Vector Graphics and JavaScript is in use. Today charts are available which support all the browsers, support interactivity and animations and come without special plugins. These charts look well across high-resolution devices. This has been made possible with Javascript Development using several JavaScript chart libraries.

There are several such JavaScript charting libraries available in the market but, here we are with a list of few ones which stands out from others and can be used for your project in 2019.

Here is a List of Top Javascript Charting Libraries which you can use in 2019.

1 - D3.js

D3.js is a graphics JavaScript library which is powerful and extensive in nature. It lets you apply data-driven transformations to the document after it allows you to bind arbitrary data to a DOM – Document Object Model.

Compared to other charting libraries, D3 does exceptionally well, which includes some of the smaller technical modules like colors, axes, contours, hierarchies, polygons, easing, and more. Now all this together points to the fact that you have much to learn here and it is not easy.

It can be complicated to even trying to create a simple chart. You need to explicitly define all the elements which include chart items and axes. How CSS can be made used to style chart elements can be seen in different samples. Charting-based features cannot apply automatically.

If you want to get deep and make use of creativity to have complete control over the elements, then it would be the best decision. It may not be the best thing to do from the beginning to complete the data visualization project requirements by working against the clock.

For a charting library, D3.js can act as a building block. To come up with chart solutions which can easily consume D3 like NVD3, developers are making use of it. This charting library is free and open source in nature.

2 - Highcharts

Highcharts is one of the popular JavaScript charting libraries available in the market and, is used by a number of big companies. For backward compatibility through IE6 to IE8, charts are generated by making use of SVG and then turn to VML. The demo charts come with some amazing features, but visually they fail to impress. Here the tutorials for API documentation and many relevant topics are included in the general documentation.

Here the API is easy to use, and the chart makes use of configuration options to develop charts. For personal and non-commercial use, Highcharts is free to use. For stock and other usage, commercial licensing is needed while separate licenses are required for Gantt, and map charts.

3 - Chart.js

Chart.js is a JavaScript library which is open source in nature and offers support for 8 types of chart. It is 60kb in size and is quite a small JS library you can have. The types of charts included here are radar, inline charts, pie charts, bar charts, scatter plots, area charts, bubble, and mixed. It also supports time series. For rendering, it makes uses of the canvas element and to maintain scale granularity it is responsive on window resize. It is compatible with IE9 backward. To work with IE7, you have Polyfills available too.

The sample visuals include initial animations when you are using it for the first time for drawing and are more of a modern looking. When adding data points or series in real-time, it animates smoothly. You can modify the chart options and redraw the chart by calling an update() function.

In the website gallery sample source code is not shown, but you can see it in the GitHub repo. Here the API is intuitive and clean. To create and modify a chart, configuration options are used.

The documentation comes in detail and comes with tutorials for code snippets and property API.

This library is free to use for commercial and personal use. It is open source in nature. For advanced requirements, having a limited number of types can cause some issues.

4 - amCharts

amCharts, which is in business for quite some time now, has released its 4th version. This version offers support for SVG animation engine, which helps the developers to create scenes like in movies.

Demo charts are beautiful, and most of them offer a slider UI, and a number of palettes adjust the variables of the chart in real-time. The documentation includes full API property descriptions and many tutorials. Creating charts follow more of a declarative API and a little bit different from the configuration-based approach. It offers you a better experience in terms of code completion but requires slightly more codes when it comes to configuring charts. For branded charts, amCharts offers a free license and for others offers paid licenses.

5 - Google Charts

Just like the name suggests, Google Charts is powerful and yes, easy to use. For the users, the sample charts are easy to read on and clean. Many chart types can be found in the gallery and extended gallery. More chart types which are not displayed in the gallery lists can be revealed by pressing the hamburger menu.

Here each chart type has been explained well using live examples that come with dedicated tutorials. The tutorials come with API listings and have code for related features. When it comes to working with a new chart library, it offers a pleasant experience.

By using configuration options object, charts can be customized. DataTable class is used to populate data sets, and it can be used by all charts too. Each chart type comes with options listed in a unique manner, and they come in type-specific tutorials. Many options work on different types, and property naming is standardized.

Google charts are free to use, but it comes with some limitations. It cannot be hosted locally as it is a web service. If you are using it for critical projects, then you should think about using any other chart library as Google has retired APIs.

6 - ZingChart

There are many chart types in ZingChart, and it integrates with react, angular, and other frameworks. It comes with a feature set which is strong and comes with many customization options.

You will find a number of styling themes in the demo charts and some of them look quite good too. In order to style them, you can find a number of options there as well. The demos do not demonstrate all the chart types available here.

The documentation comes with tutorials for a number of features, for all types of charts and a complete API listing. To customize charts, ZingChart makes use of configuration options. Different property settings, like font styling, are included in the samples. To know what settings you need for a given chart, these samples with property settings can get in the way of understanding.

With branding, ZingChart can be used for free. For non-branded usage, paid licensing is available.

7 - FushionCharts

Starting as a Flash-based chart plugin, FusionCharts has been here for a long time now. This is a chart visualization library which is robust in nature. This library offers support for modern browsers, data formats which include JavaScript, JSON, and XML, and it is also compatible with IE6. Many server-side programming languages and JavaScript frameworks are also supported.

The chart gallery comes with a number of examples and has a visual appearance that is clean. Documentation comes with a number of good API descriptions, and each chart type has examples. By task and chart features, the configuration properties are grouped.

Configuration based options are used in creating charts, and they are quite easy to be used. When digging deeper into the API, the list of properties can get lengthy. Configuration properties like showAlternateHGridColor, chartLeftMarginare shallow. This can be a step taken for code completion improvement.

For chart branding, FusionCharts is free to use at a personal level. For commercial and unbranded use, paid licensing is available.

8 - Flot

When you look for simple usages, nice look, and interactive features, then Flot, the best and pure JavaScript plotting library for jQuery is the right option for you. The library is effectively compatible with all the latest browsers including Internet Explorer 6+, Chrome, Firefox 2+, Safari 3+, and Opera 9.5+. It’s the most popular and oldest library for charting. Flot supports lines, points, filled areas, bars and the combinations made out of them.

Flot basically used for creating a placeholder div where graph can be put in.

9 - Sigmajs

When you want to create some beautiful graphs to display networks on the web, helping you showcase your simple interactive publication of network to the larger and rich web applications which would have the dynamic network exploration. It is for everyone, be it a beginner or advanced users.

It comes with some exciting feature on board such as Canvas and WebGL renderers or mouse and touch support so that you can make dynamic network applications. Let’s check them out.

Sigmajs is configured by default and can be utilized using mouse and touch and can scale when the container size changes. Similarly, there are Custom Rendering, which enables developers with a set of tools and setting which can be customized how to get interacted with the network.

Conclusion

The JavaScript charting library ecosystem is growing and evolving considerably. In order to meet the diverse needs of the projects, you will find a large number of charting products. To let you evaluate the effectiveness of the chart, most of them offer you a free trial.

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JavaScript developers should you be using Web Workers?

JavaScript developers should you be using Web Workers?

Do you think JavaScript developers should be making more use of Web Workers to shift execution off of the main thread?

Originally published by David Gilbertson at https://medium.com

So, Web Workers. Those wonderful little critters that allow us to execute JavaScript off the main thread.

Also known as “no, you’re thinking of Service Workers”.

Photo by Caleb Jones on Unsplash

Before I get into the meat of the article, please sit for a lesson in how computers work:

Understood? Good.

For the red/green colourblind, let me explain. While a CPU is doing one thing, it can’t be doing another thing, which means you can’t sort a big array while a user scrolls the screen.

This is bad, if you have a big array and users with fingers.

Enter, Web Workers. These split open the atomic concept of a ‘CPU’ and allow us to think in terms of threads. We can use one thread to handle user-facing work like touch events and rendering the UI, and different threads to carry out all other work.

Check that out, the main thread is green the whole way through, ready to receive and respond to the gentle caress of a user.

You’re excited (I can tell), if we only have UI code on the main thread and all other code can go in a worker, things are going to be amazing (said the way Oprah would say it).

But cool your jets for just a moment, because websites are mostly about the UI — it’s why we have screens. And a lot of a user’s interactions with your site will be tapping on the screen, waiting for a response, reading, tapping, looking, reading, and so on.

So we can’t just say “here’s some JS that takes 20ms to run, chuck it on a thread”, we must think about where that execution time exists in the user’s world of tap, read, look, read, tap…

I like to boil this down to one specific question:

Is the user waiting anyway?

Imagine we have created some sort of git-repository-hosting website that shows all sorts of things about a repository. We have a cool feature called ‘issues’. A user can even click an ‘issues’ tab in our website to see a list of all issues relating to the repository. Groundbreaking!

When our users click this issues tab, the site is going to fetch the issue data, process it in some way — perhaps sort, or format dates, or work out which icon to show — then render the UI.

Inside the user’s computer, that’ll look exactly like this.

Look at that processing stage, locking up the main thread even though it has nothing to do with the UI! That’s terrible, in theory.

But think about what the human is actually doing at this point. They’re waiting for the common trio of network/process/render; just sittin’ around with less to do than the Bolivian Navy.

Because we care about our users, we show a loading indicator to let them know we’ve received their request and are working on it — putting the human in a ‘waiting’ state. Let’s add that to the diagram.

Now that we have a human in the picture, we can mix in a Web Worker and think about the impact it will have on their life:

Hmmm.

First thing to note is that we’re not doing anything in parallel. We need the data from the network before we process it, and we need to process the data before we can render the UI. The elapsed time doesn’t change.

(BTW, the time involved in moving data to a Web Worker and back is negligible: 1ms per 100 KB is a decent rule of thumb.)

So we can move work off the main thread and have a page that is responsive during that time, but to what end? If our user is sitting there looking at a spinner for 600ms, have we enriched their experience by having a responsive screen for the middle third?

No.

I’ve fudged these diagrams a little bit to make them the gorgeous specimens of graphic design that they are, but they’re not really to scale.

When responding to a user request, you’ll find that the network and DOM-manipulating part of any given task take much, much longer than the pure-JS data processing part.

I saw an article recently making the case that updating a Redux store was a good candidate for Web Workers because it’s not UI work (and non-UI work doesn’t belong on the main thread).

Chucking the data processing over to a worker thread sounds sensible, but the idea struck me as a little, umm, academic.

First, let’s split instances of ‘updating a store’ into two categories:

  1. Updating a store in response to a user interaction, then updating the UI in response to the data change
  2. Not that first one

If the first scenario, a user taps a button on the screen — perhaps to change the sort order of a list. The store updates, and this results in a re-rendering of the DOM (since that’s the point of a store).

Let me just delete one thing from the previous diagram:

In my experience, it is rare that the store-updating step goes beyond a few dozen milliseconds, and is generally followed by ten times that in DOM updating, layout, and paint. If I’ve got a site that’s taking longer than this, I’d be asking questions about why I have so much data in the browser and so much DOM, rather than on which thread I should do my processing.

So the question we’re faced with is the same one from above: the user tapped something on the screen, we’re going to work on that request for hopefully less than a second, why would we want to make the screen responsive during that time?

OK what about the second scenario, where a store update isn’t in response to a user interaction? Performing an auto-save, for example — there’s nothing more annoying than an app becoming unresponsive doing something you didn’t ask it to do.

Actually there’s heaps of things more annoying than that. Teens, for example.

Anyhoo, if you’re doing an auto-save and taking 100ms to process data client-side before sending it off to a server, then you should absolutely use a Web Worker.

In fact, any ‘background’ task that the user hasn’t asked for, or isn’t waiting for, is a good candidate for moving to a Web Worker.

The matter of value

Complexity is expensive, and implementing Web Workers ain’t cheap.

If you’re using a bundler — and you are — you’ll have a lot of reading to do, and probably npm packages to install. If you’ve got a create-react-app app, prepare to eject (and put aside two days twice a year to update 30 different packages when the next version of Babel/Redux/React/ESLint comes out).

Also, if you want to share anything fancier than plain data between a worker and the main thread you’ve got some more reading to do (comlink is your friend).

What I’m getting at is this: if the benefit is real, but minimal, then you’ve gotta ask if there’s something else you could spend a day or two on with a greater benefit to your users.

This thinking is true of everything, of course, but I’ve found that Web Workers have a particularly poor benefit-to-effort ratio.

Hey David, why you hate Web Workers so bad?

Good question.

This is a doweling jig:

I own a doweling jig. I love my doweling jig. If I need to drill a hole into the end of a piece of wood and ensure that it’s perfectly perpendicular to the surface, I use my doweling jig.

But I don’t use it to eat breakfast. For that I use a spoon.

Four years ago I was working on some fancy animations. They looked slick on a fast device, but janky on a slow one. So I wrote fireball-js, which executes a rudimentary performance benchmark on the user’s device and returns a score, allowing me to run my animations only on devices that would render them smoothly.

Where’s the best spot to run some CPU intensive code that the user didn’t request? On a different thread, of course. A Web Worker was the correct tool for the job.

Fast forward to 2019 and you’ll find me writing a routing algorithm for a mapping application. This requires parsing a big fat GeoJSON map into a collection of nodes and edges, to be used when a user asks for directions. The processing isn’t in response to a user request and the user isn’t waiting on it. And so, a Web Worker is the correct tool for the job.

It was only when doing this that it dawned on me: in the intervening quartet of years, I have seen exactly zero other instances where Web Workers would have improved the user experience.

Contrast this with a recent resurgence in Web Worker wonderment, and combine that contrast with the fact that I couldn’t think of anything else to write about, then concatenate that combined contrast with my contrarian character and you’ve got yourself a blog post telling you that maybe Web Workers are a teeny-tiny bit overhyped.

Thanks for reading

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Further reading

An Introduction to Web Workers

JavaScript Web Workers: A Beginner’s Guide

Using Web Workers to Real-time Processing

How to use Web Workers in Angular app

Using Web Workers with Angular CLI