News from ggiraph

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ggiraph 0.6.1 has evolved, this post presents work that has been done recently.

ggiraph, what is it?

The ggiraph package lets you work with ggplot and produce interactive graphics. The number of features is low and ggiraph usage is simple. The three features to be aware of are:

  • ability to animate points, polygons or lines,
  • ability to display tooltips when mouse is over these elements,
  • ability to select elements when the graphic is shwon in a shiny application.

An example with cats and meows

An illustration will help those who never used ggiraph… We will plot the distribution of cats and dogs among pets in the United States. We will display a tooltip, animate the bars and the click will trigger a dog or cat sound.

First, let’s define two JavaScript objects. these are medias that will be played when a bar will be clicked.

var ouahouah = new Audio("/media/uhauha.ogg" ) ;
var meow = new Audio("/media/Meow.ogg" ) ;

Next, we need to prepare the data for ggplot. The following code import data and create a table with repartition of cats and dogs for each state.


# curl download file from github ----
xlfile <- tempfile()
  url = paste0("",
    "cats-vs-dogs.xlsx?raw=true"), destfile = xlfile)

# aggregate and prepare data for ggplot/ggiraph ----
data <- readxl::read_excel(xlfile) %>% 
  select(Location, `Percentage of Dog Owners`, `Percentage of Cat Owners`) %>% 
  set_names( c( "location", "dog", "cat") ) %>% 
  gather(animal, percentage, -location) %>% 
  mutate(clickjs = case_when(
    animal %in% "dog" ~ ";",
    animal %in% "cat" ~ ";",
    TRUE ~ ";"
  ), data_id = paste0(location, animal) )







District of Columbia



District of Columbiadog













New Jersey



New Jerseydog





We can now create a ggplot graphic, we only have to use geom_bar_interactive instead of geom_bar.

gg <- ggplot( data = data, aes(x = location, y = percentage, fill = animal, 
    onclick = clickjs, data_id = data_id, tooltip = percentage ) ) + 
  geom_bar_interactive(stat = "identity") + theme_minimal() +
  scale_fill_manual(values = c("#FF4136", "#FFDC00") ) + 
  labs(title = "click on bars to play cat or dog sound!") + 
  theme(axis.text.x = element_text(angle = 45, hjust = 1))
girafe(ggobj = gg, width_svg = 10, height_svg = 4 ) %>% 

New features


The main function ggiraph became a bit heavy with the number of arguments that increased too much with time. New users did not always understand what arguments related to which features.

Rather than breaking existing codes, we preferred to implement new features: girafe to turn the ggplot into an interactive widget and girafe_options to customize effects and options of the visualization.

girafe_options is expecting calls to functions opts_tooltip, opts_hover, opts_zoom, opts_selection and opts_toolbar. These features make it easier to understand the options offered by segmenting them clearly. Everything about the zoom can be specified using opts_zoom, everything related to the tooltip can be specified with opts_tooltip.

Let’s illustrate this syntax with a simple example. We will:

  • specify background color opacity for tooltips (opts_tooltip(opacity = .7)),
  • specify zoom levels, from 50% to 400% (opts_zoom(min = .5, max = 4)),
  • define style for points when mouse is over them (opts_hover(css = "fill:red;stroke:gray;")).

gg_point <- ggplot(data = mtcars, 
  mapping = aes(x = wt, y = mpg, size = disp, color = as.factor(carb) ) ) +
  geom_point_interactive(aes(tooltip = row.names(mtcars), data_id = row.names(mtcars))) +
  scale_color_brewer(palette = "Set1", name = "carb") +
  scale_size(range = c(1, 15), name = "disp") +
  scale_x_continuous(limits = c(1, 6)) +
  scale_y_continuous(limits = c(7, 36)) +
  theme_minimal() +
  theme(legend.position = "bottom")

girafe_obj <- girafe(ggobj = gg_point) %>% 
    opts_tooltip(opacity = .7), 
    opts_zoom(min = .5, max = 4),
    opts_hover(css = "fill:red;stroke:white;stroke-width:2px;"))

Download as a png

A new feature of the visualization has also been implemented, it is the ability to download the visualization as a png file. In the graph, just click on the icon and the image will be downloaded to your machine.

This does not work with old browser. It can be desactivated with option opts_toolbar(saveaspng = TRUE).

JavaScript module

Thanks to Babel and Webpack, we have completely rewritten the JavaScript code as an ES6 module. Modularizing the application was the opportunity to clean and consolidate the code but also to better support older browsers.

This seems to have also facilitated collaboration. We received the help of Panagiotis Skintzos who did a great job of reviewing and improving the rendering (if you see a ggiraph in a shiny application from your mobile phone, praise him).

visual studio code

visual studio code

Next evolutions

The project is now quite stable. In the next iterations, efforts will focus on the interactive part. The work that seems to us the most motivating is the ability of having an animation on the point closest to the cursor and not only on the point under the cursor.

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