Chapter 05Links

In this section we’ll discuss how to draw links. Links can be used independently when the coordinates are predefined, or within a hierarchical layoutswhere the points are computed based on the layout.

Links

A link is a path that creatse a smooth Bézier curve from a source point to a target point. When having a large amount of points that need to be shown as being connected, links can be used to easily show their relation.

There are three different types of link generators that D3 provides:

Figure 1 shows a quick example of each:

<script>
    //Same data used for both diagrams
    var nodeData = [
        {id: "D3",       x: 100, y: 25},
        {id: "Scales",   x: 25, y: 175},
        {id: "Shapes",   x: 175, y: 175}];

    var linkData = [
        {source: [100,25], target: [175,175]},   // D3 -> Shapes
        {source: [100,25], target: [25,175]}]; // D3 -> Scales
     
    //Begin making the horizontal link diagram
    var link = d3.linkHorizontal()
            .source(function(d) {
                return [d.source[1], d.source[0]];
            })
            .target(function(d) {
                return [d.target[1], d.target[0]];
            });
            
    d3.select("#quickDemoH") //Adding the Circle nodes
        .selectAll("circle")
        .data(nodeData)
        .join("circle")
        .attr("cx", d => d.y)
        .attr("cy", d => d.x)
        .classed("circle", true);
        
	d3.select("#quickDemoH") //Adding the link paths
        .selectAll("path")
        .data(linkData)
        .join("path")
        .attr("d", link)
        .classed("link", true);

    d3.select("#quickDemoH") //Adding the text labels
          .selectAll("text")
          .data(nodeData)
          .join("text")
          .attr("font-size", "12px")
          .attr("text-anchor", "middle")
          .attr("x", d => d.y)
          .attr("y", d => d.x + 20)
          .text(d => d.id);

    //Begin making the vertical link diagram
    var link = d3.linkVertical();
    
    d3.select("#quickDemoV") //Adding the circle nodes
        .selectAll("circle")
        .data(nodeData)
        .join("circle")
        .attr("cx", d => d.x)
        .attr("cy", d => d.y)
        .classed("circle", true);

    d3.select("#quickDemoV") //Adding the link paths
        .selectAll("path")
        .data(linkData)
        .join("path")
        .attr("d", link)
        .classed("link", true);

    d3.select("#quickDemoV") //Adding the text label
        .selectAll("text")
        .data(nodeData)
        .join("text")
        .attr("font-size", "12px")
        .attr("text-anchor", "middle")
        .attr("x", d => d.id === "D3" ? d.x + 15 : d.x) //If the node is the D3 node, move it over some so it fits right, otherwise d.x
        .attr("y", d => d.y + 20)
        .text(n => n.id);
    
    //Begin making radial link diagram
    var link = d3.linkRadial()
    				.angle(d => xAngleScale(d[0]))
                    .radius(d => yRadiusScale(d[1]));
    
    var xAngleScale = d3.scaleLinear().domain([25,175]).range([Math.PI, Math.PI *2 ]);
    var yRadiusScale = d3.scaleLinear().domain([25,175]).range([0, 80]);
    
    d3.select("#quickDemoR") //Adding the circle nodes
        .selectAll("circle")
        .data(nodeData)
        .join("circle")
        .attr("cx", d => d3.pointRadial(xAngleScale(d.x), yRadiusScale(d.y))[0])
        .attr("cy", d => d3.pointRadial(xAngleScale(d.x), yRadiusScale(d.y))[1])
        .classed("circle", true)
        .attr("transform", "translate(100,100)");

    d3.select("#quickDemoR") //Adding the link paths
        .selectAll("path")
        .data(linkData)
        .join("path")
        .attr("d", link)
        .classed("link", true)
        .attr("transform", "translate(100,100)");

    d3.select("#quickDemoR") //Adding the text label
        .selectAll("text")
        .data(nodeData)
        .join("text")
        .attr("font-size", "12px")
        .attr("text-anchor", "left")
        .attr("x", d => d3.pointRadial(xAngleScale(d.x), yRadiusScale(d.y))[0] + 10)
        .attr("y", d => d3.pointRadial(xAngleScale(d.x), yRadiusScale(d.y))[1])
        .text(n => n.id)
        .attr("transform", "translate(100,100)");
</script>
<svg id="quickDemoV" width="200" height="200"></svg>
<svg id="quickDemoH" width="200" height="200"></svg>
<svg id="quickDemoR" width="200" height="200"></svg>
Figure 1 - A vertical link (left), a horizontal link (center), and a radial link (right).

A link generator needs an object with a source and a target, whichin each should be an array with two numbers representing the x and y values of where the link should start and end.

An example of a single link object and a default horizontal link generator:

var linkGen = d3.linkHorizontal();
var singleLinkData = { source: [25,25], target: [75,75] } ;  

We can also take multiples of these objects and put them into an array:

var multiLinkData = [
    {source: [50,50], target: [175,25]},
    {source: [50,50], target: [175,50]},
    {source: [50,50], target: [175,75]},
];

From here we simply select our svg, add data, join paths, and set the d attribute of the paths to the link generator:

d3.select("#multiLink")
    .selectAll("path")
    .data(multiLinkData)
    .join("path")
    .attr("d", linkGen)
    .attr("fill", "none")
    .attr("stroke", "black");

In Figure 2, we create a single link from one object and then multiple links from an array of objects.

<script>
    //Link generator used for both examples
    var linkGen = d3.linkVertical();
    
    //The single object containing a link
    var singleLinkData = { source: [25,25], target: [175,75] }; 
        
    //Since the single link is not an array of links, we do not add the data of it, we only pass it into the generator    
	d3.select("#singleLink") 
        .append("path")
        .attr("d", linkGen(singleLinkData))
        .classed("link", true);
        
    //The array of multiple links
    var multiLinkData = [
        {source: [100,25], target: [25,75]},
        {source: [100,25], target: [100,75]},
        {source: [100,25], target: [175,75]},
    ];
    
    //Since this is an array of links, we add its data then join to add our paths
    d3.select("#multiLink")
        .selectAll("path")
    	.data(multiLinkData)
        .join("path")
        .attr("d", linkGen)
        .classed("link", true);
            
</script>

<svg id="singleLink" width="200" height="100"></svg>
<svg id="multiLink" width="200" height="100"></svg>
Figure 2 - A single link (left) and multiple links(right).

link.source() and link.target()

In most situations, the source and target are not going to be separate and easily accessible from our data like they are in the previous examples. For these times the .source() and .target() can be manuelly changed to fit whatever data is being used.

Let’s use the following data:

var nodeData = [
    {id: "D3",      position: [100, 25],  parentPosition: [100, 25]},
    {id: "Scales",  position: [25, 175],  parentPosition: [100, 25]},
    {id: "Shapes",  position: [175, 175], parentPosition: [100, 25]}];

Now instead of having an array of links, we have an array of nodes with positions and a parent position. We can take this array and create links between each node’s position and it’s parent position by setting the source and target of our link generator:

var link = d3.linkHorizontal()
        .source(d => d.parentPosition)
        .target(d => d.position);

For this example, the link generator will create a link from the parent position to the node position.

In Figure 3, we create links by setting source and target to position and parentPosition, respectively.

<script>
    var nodeData = [
        {id: "D3",       position: [100, 25],   parentPosition: [100, 25] },
        {id: "Scales",   position: [25, 175],   parentPosition: [100, 25] },
        {id: "Shapes",   position: [175, 175],  parentPosition: [100, 25] }];

    //Adding in circles where the node positions are
    d3.select("#demoSrcTar")
        .selectAll(".circle")
        .data(nodeData)
        .join("circle")
        .attr("cx", d => d.position[0])
        .attr("cy", d => d.position[1])
        .classed("circle", true);

    //Link generator with .source and .target set
    var link = d3.linkVertical()
        .source(d => d.parentPosition)
        .target(d => d.position);

    //Creating path elements by adding in our data and calling link
	d3.select("#demoSrcTar")
          .selectAll("path")
          .data(nodeData)
          .join("path")
          .attr("d", link)
          .classed("link", true);
          
    d3.select("#demoSrcTar")
          .selectAll("text")
          .data(nodeData)
          .join("text")
          .attr("font-size", "12px")
          .attr("text-anchor", "end")
          .attr("x", d => d.position[0] + 20)
          .attr("y", d => d.position[1] + 20)
          .text(n => n.id);
</script>

<svg id="demoSrcTar" width="200" height="200"></svg>
Figure 3 - Links created by setting source and target.

link.x() and link.y()

Other times, we may want to have our x and y positions put through a scale so we do not have to manually compute their positions. This can be very helpful in cases where our data is dynamic and we do not always know what exact positions to use.

For this example we will use a larger data set:

var nodeData = [
    {id: "D3",       position: [2, 0], parentPosition: [2, 0]},
    {id: "Shapes",   position: [1, 1], parentPosition: [2, 0]},
    {id: "Scales",   position: [3, 1], parentPosition: [2, 0]},
    {id: "Links",    position: [0, 2], parentPosition: [1, 1]},
    {id: "Areas",    position: [1, 2], parentPosition: [1, 1]},
    {id: "Arcs",     position: [2, 2], parentPosition: [1, 1]},
    {id: "Ordinal",  position: [3, 2], parentPosition: [3, 1]},
    {id: "Quantize", position: [4, 2], parentPosition: [3, 1]}];

In our new data array the positions are no longer absolute and should be put through a d3.linearScale() to get the real values that will be displayed in the svg.

Since we changed how the real x and y positions are computed we will need to set up our link generator to accommodate this; we also need to set up our scales:

var xScale = d3.scaleLinear().domain([0, 4]).range([25, 175]);
var yScale = d3.scaleLinear().domain([0,2]).range([25, 175]);

var linkGen = d3.linkVertical()
    .source(d => d.position)
    .target(d => d.parentPosition)
    .x(d => xScale(d[0]))
    .y(d => yScale(d[1]));

In Figure 4, we apply a scale to x and y.

<script>
    //Our larger node data
     var nodeData = [
        {id: "D3",       position: [2, 0], parentPosition: [2, 0]},
        {id: "Shapes",   position: [1, 1], parentPosition: [2, 0]},
        {id: "Scales",   position: [3, 1], parentPosition: [2, 0]},
        {id: "Links",    position: [0, 2], parentPosition: [1, 1]},
        {id: "Areas",    position: [1, 2], parentPosition: [1, 1]},
        {id: "Arcs",     position: [2, 2], parentPosition: [1, 1]},
        {id: "Ordinal",  position: [3, 2], parentPosition: [3, 1]},
        {id: "Quantize", position: [4, 2], parentPosition: [3, 1]}];

    //x and y scales
   var xScale = d3.scaleLinear().domain([0, 4]).range([25, 175]);
   var yScale = d3.scaleLinear().domain([0,2]).range([25, 175]);

    // Adding the circle nodes
    d3.select("#demoXY")
        .selectAll(".circle")
        .data(nodeData)
        .join("circle")
        .attr("cx", d => xScale(d.position[0]))
        .attr("cy", d => yScale(d.position[1]))
        .classed("circle", true);

    // Our link generator with the new .x() and .y() definitions
    var linkGen = d3.linkVertical()
    	.source(d => d.position)
        .target(d => d.parentPosition)
        .x(d => xScale(d[0]))
        .y(d => yScale(d[1]));

    // Adding the links
	d3.select("#demoXY")
          .selectAll("path")
          .data(nodeData)
          .join("path")
          .attr("d", linkGen)
          .classed("link", true);
             
    // Adding the text nodes
    d3.select("#demoXY")
          .selectAll("text")
          .data(nodeData)
          .join("text")
          .attr("font-size", "10px")
          .attr("text-anchor", "middle")
          .attr("x", function(d) { 
                if(d.position[1] == 2 || d.position[1] == 0)
                    return xScale(d.position[0]);
                var xOffset = xScale(d.position[0]);
                if(xOffset > 100)
                    return xScale(d.position[0]) +25;
                return xScale(d.position[0]) -25;
                })
          .attr("y", function(d) { 
                if(d.position[1] == 2)
                    return yScale(d.position[1]) + 15;
                if(d.position[1] == 1)
                    return yScale(d.position[1])
                return yScale(d.position[1]) - 10
                })
          .text(d => d.id);
</script>

<svg id="demoXY" width="200" height="200"></svg>
Figure 4 - Links with a scale applied to x and y.

Using d3.linkHorizontal() and d3.linkVertical()

We have been using d3.linkVertical() for most of this section. d3.linkVertical() should be used when your graph is rooted at the top or bottom. Another link generator, d3.linkHorizontal() can be used when your graph is rooted to the left or right.

It is easy to make a d3.linkHorizontal() graph out of an existing d3.linkVertical() graph. All we have to do is flip the x and y positions of a d3.linkVertical() graph and we will get a d3.linkHorizontal() graph.

You could do this by making a new array and flipping the x and y values, however an easier way is to flip the x and y in the source and target of d3.linkHorizontal():

var link = d3.linkHorizontal()
    .source( d => [d.position[1], d.position[0]] )
    .target( d => [d.parentPosition[1], d.parentPosition[0]] );

Since we flipped the x and y positions in our link generator we will need to make sure to flip them when we are creating the circle and text nodes.

In Figure 5, we use d3.linkHorizontal to display our chart left-to-right instead.

<script>
    //Same data used for both diagrams
    var nodeData = [
        {id: "D3",       position: [100, 25],   parentPosition: [100,25] },
        {id: "Scales",   position: [25, 175],   parentPosition: [100, 25] },
        {id: "Shapes",   position: [175, 175],  parentPosition: [100, 25] }];
     
    //Begin making the horizontal link diagram
    var link = d3.linkHorizontal()
        .source( d => [d.position[1], d.position[0]] )
        .target( d => [d.parentPosition[1], d.parentPosition[0]] );
            
    d3.select("#demoH") //Adding the circle nodes
        .selectAll("circle")
        .data(nodeData)
        .join("circle")
        .attr("cx", d => d.position[1]) // Flipped X
        .attr("cy", d => d.position[0]) // Flipped Y
        .classed("circle", true);
        
	d3.select("#demoH") //Adding the link paths
        .selectAll("path")
        .data(nodeData)
        .join("path")
        .attr("d", link)
        .classed("link", true);

    d3.select("#demoH") //Adding the text labels
          .selectAll("text")
          .data(nodeData)
          .join("text")
          .attr("font-size", "12px")
          .attr("text-anchor", "middle")
          .attr("x", d => d.position[1]) // Flipped X
          .attr("y", d => d.position[0]+ 20) // Flipped Y
          .text(d => d.id);

    //Begin making the vertical link diagram
    var link = d3.linkVertical();
    
    d3.select("#demoV") //Adding the circle nodes
        .selectAll("circle")
        .data(nodeData)
        .join("circle")
        .attr("cx", d => d.position[0])
        .attr("cy", d => d.position[1])
        .classed("circle", true);

    d3.select("#demoV") //Adding the link paths
        .selectAll("path")
        .data(linkData)
        .join("path")
        .attr("d", link)
        .classed("link", true);

    d3.select("#demoV") //Adding the text label
        .selectAll("text")
        .data(nodeData)
        .join("text")
        .attr("font-size", "12px")
        .attr("text-anchor", "middle")
        .attr("x", d => d.id === "D3" ? d.position[0] + 15 : d.position[0])
        .attr("y", d => d.position[1] + 20)
        .text(n => n.id);
</script>
<svg id="demoH" width="200" height="200"></svg>
<svg id="demoV" width="200" height="200"></svg>
Figure 5 - Horizontal links.

Link Radial

D3 also provides a circular link generator, d3.linkRadial(). Just as with d3.linkHorizontal(), d3.linkRadial() can be easily converted from an existing d3.linkVertical() graph.

To convert a d3.linkVertical() into a d3.linkRadial() all we need to do is change our x position to become an angle and our y position will become the radius. We will also need to change our scales to reflect angles and radii. Note that for this example the data set is expanded again.

var xScale = d3.scaleLinear().domain([0, 8]).range([0, Math.PI * 2]);
var yScale = d3.scaleLinear().domain([0,2]).range([0, 80]);

var link = d3.linkRadial()
    .source(d => d.position)
    .target(d => d.parentPosition)
    .angle( d => xScale(d[0]))
    .radius( d => yScale(d[1]));

Our circle and text nodes will no longer be at the right point without changing their coordinates as well, so we will use d3.pointRadials to place them into the right spot.

circleSelection
    .attr("cx", d => d3.pointRadial(xScale(d.position[0]), yScale(d.position[1]) )[0] )
    .attr("cy", d => d3.pointRadial(xScale(d.position[0]), yScale(d.position[1]) )[1] )

In Figure 6, we use d3.linkRaidal to display our chart radially instead.

<script>
    //Our larger node data
     var nodeData = [
        {id: "D3",       position: [2, 0], parentPosition: [2, 0]},
        {id: "Shapes",   position: [1, 1], parentPosition: [2, 0]},
        {id: "Scales",   position: [3, 1], parentPosition: [2, 0]},
        {id: "Layouts",  position: [6, 1], parentPosition: [2, 0]},
        {id: "Links",    position: [0, 2], parentPosition: [1, 1]},
        {id: "Areas",    position: [1, 2], parentPosition: [1, 1]},
        {id: "Arcs",     position: [2, 2], parentPosition: [1, 1]},
        {id: "Ordinal",  position: [3, 2], parentPosition: [3, 1]},
        {id: "Quantize", position: [4, 2], parentPosition: [3, 1]},
        {id: "Tree", 	 position: [5, 2], parentPosition: [6, 1]},
        {id: "Cluster",	 position: [6, 2], parentPosition: [6, 1]},
        {id: "Partition",position: [7, 2], parentPosition: [6, 1]}];

    // Updated scales
    var xScale = d3.scaleLinear().domain([0, 8]).range([0, Math.PI * 2]);
    var yScale = d3.scaleLinear().domain([0,2]).range([0, 133]);

    //Adding circles
    d3.select("#demoRadial")
        .selectAll("circle")
        .data(nodeData)
        .join("circle")
        .attr("cx", d => d3.pointRadial(xScale(d.position[0]), yScale(d.position[1]) )[0] )
        .attr("cy", d => d3.pointRadial(xScale(d.position[0]), yScale(d.position[1]) )[1] )
        .classed("circle", true)
        .attr("transform", "translate(175,175)");

    //New radial link generator
    var link = d3.linkRadial()
        .source(d => d.position)
        .target(d => d.parentPosition)
        .angle( d => xScale(d[0]))
        .radius( d => yScale(d[1]));

    //Adding the link paths 
	d3.select("#demoRadial")
        .selectAll("path")
        .data(nodeData)
        .join("path")
        .attr("d", link)
        .classed("link", true)
        .attr("transform", "translate(175,175)");

    // Adding text nodes, the x and y have special functions to get them in a place where they do not overlap the links
    d3.select("#demoRadial")
        .selectAll("text")
        .data(nodeData)
        .join("text")
        .attr("font-size", "11px")
        .attr("text-anchor", "middle")
        .attr("x", function(d) {
        	if(d.position[1] == 2)
        	    return d3.pointRadial(xScale(d.position[0]), yScale(d.position[1]) + 25)[0];
            if(d.position[1] == 1){
                var xPos = d3.pointRadial(xScale(d.position[0]), yScale(d.position[1]))[0];
                xPos = xPos > 0 ? xPos - 25 : xPos + 15;
                return xPos;
            }                   
            return 0;})
        .attr("y", function(d){
        		return d.position[1] == 2 ? d3.pointRadial(xScale(d.position[0]), yScale(d.position[1]) + 20)[1] + 4 :
                	   d.position[1] == 1 ? d3.pointRadial(xScale(d.position[0]) + .15, yScale(d.position[1]) + 10)[1] :
                        					20 
                })
        .text(d => d.id)
        .attr("transform", "translate(175,175)");
</script>

<svg id="demoRadial" width="350" height="350"></svg>
Figure 6 - Radial links.

Canvasses

Our examples in the section all use an SVG as the graphic medium. If we want to work with a Canvas instead, we just pass in the context of a canvas into the .context() accessor of any of our link generators.

In Figure 7 we use the same links in Figure 4, but apply them to a canvas instead. Note that we have to use additional CanvasPathMethods for our graphics to display.

<script>
    var nodeData = [
        {id: "D3",       position: [100, 25],   parentPosition: [100,25] },
        {id: "Scales",   position: [25, 175],   parentPosition: [100, 25] },
        {id: "Shapes",   position: [175, 175],  parentPosition: [100, 25] }];
     
    var selection = d3.select("#demo7");
    var context = selection.node().getContext("2d");
     
    var link = d3.linkVertical()
        .source( d => {console.log(d); return d.position;} )
        .target( d => d.parentPosition )
        .context(context);
        
    context.beginPath();
    context.strokeStyle = "black";
    context.fillStyle = "white";
    for(node of nodeData) {
        link(node);
    }
    context.fill();
    context.stroke();
</script>
<canvas id="demo7" width=200 height=200></canvas>
Figure 7 - Canvas version of Figure 4.