Chapter 08Timers

In this section we discuss d3-timer.

We may wish to have a function that is called repeatedly, every X seconds, or after a certain amount of time. For these situations, D3.js provides d3-timer.

d3-timer is not included in, so it has to be loaded separately:

 <script src="">

D3.js provides to get the amount of time that a page has been loaded. This time is in milliseconds and is useful if we want an event to trigger at a specific time (such as 5 seconds after the page loads). Internally, it uses to check the time elapsed, however note that some browsers randomize this timestamp and it is not 100% accurate. If is not available, uses instead.


When making our visualizations we may want a function that continuously keeps executing. This functionality is especially useful in animations or time tracking situations.

Luckily, D3.js provides us with d3.timer(callback[, delay[, time]]) to invoke a callback function every animation frame (~17ms).

To use d3.timer we first pass in a function to use as our callback. This callback is passed in the elapsed time from when the timer was set up to when the callback is being invoked that specific time. d3.timer invokes the callback function once every animation frame (~17ms).

Next, we can pass in an optional delay parameter. This delay prevents the timer from calling the callback until delay milliseconds have passed.

Finally, we can pass in an optional time parameter. The time parameter is at what time the delay starts from. By default time is

For example setting time to + 10 and delay to 250, will result in an effective delay of 260ms from when the timer is declared to when the first callback function will be called.

In Figure 1 we have a function printTime which displays in a div the string passed in. We also have a d3.timer with the callback function being set to printTime. d3.timer calls printTime every animation frame (~17ms). Each time printTime is called, d3.timer passes in the time elapsed from when that timer was originally declared to when that timer calls printTime that time.

    function printTime1(elapsed){"#demo1").text(Math.round(elapsed) + "ms")
<div id="demo1"></div>
Figure 1 - A timer set to call printTime every animation frame, which displays how long the timer has been running.


Running a function every animation frame with d3.timer can be taxing on our computers which can result in visual studders or timing issues if we use too many. To remedy this for less important functions, we can use a timer that is not called every animation frame, but instead every delay milliseconds. D3.js provides us d3.interval as a solution to this problem.

Like d3.timer, d3.interval calls a callback function that we supply or define and passes into it the elapsed time.

However, unlike d3.timer, d3.interval does not run every frame, but instead every delay milliseconds. If delay is not passed in, d3.interval will invoke the callback every frame like with d3.timer. d3.interval starts the countdown for the first invocation of the callback after time milliseconds from when the interval was decalred.

In Figure 2 we use the printTime function like we did in Figure 1, however now instead of using d3.timer, we use d3.interval to call the function every 500ms.

Note that animation frames are not run every millisecond so there is some variance in every delay we use so it usually waits slightly more or less than 500ms.

    function printTime2(elapsed){"#demo2").text(Math.round(elapsed) + "ms")
    d3.interval(printTime2, 500);
<div id="demo2"></div>
Figure 2 - An interval set to call printTime every 500ms, which displays how long the interval has been running.


We may need a function to run just once, but at a later time (such as X seconds after a button is clicked). D3.js provides d3.timeout to help us perform this functionality.

Like d3.timer, d3.timeout calls a callback function that we supply or define and passes into it the elapsed time.

Instead of running every frame after the delay, d3.timeout runs once after delay milliseconds. Like d3.timer, the delay will start “counting down” after the specified time after the timeout is defined.

In Figure 3 we use the printTime function like we did in Figure 1, however now instead of using d3.timer, we use d3.timeout to call the function once after 100ms.

    function printTime3(elapsed){"#demo3").text(Math.round(elapsed) + "ms")
    d3.timeout(printTime3, 100);
<div id="demo3"></div>
Figure 3 - An timeout set to call printTime after 100ms, which displays how long it took for the timeout to call printTime.


We may need to stop a timer, interval, or timeout from continuing to run. To do this we can invoke timer.stop on a timer, interval, or timeout. timer.stop will immediately stop any the timer, preventing it from invoking its callback any more. Any callbacks that were started before timer.stop was called will continue to execute.

In Figure 4 we use the printTime function and a timer like we did in Figure 1, however now we use timer.stop to stop the timer after 250ms by also using d3.timeout.

    function printTime4(elapsed){"#demo4").text(Math.round(elapsed) + "ms")
    timer4 = d3.timer(printTime4);
    d3.timeout(() => timer4.stop(), 250);
<div id="demo4"></div>
Figure 4 - A timer set to constantly call printTime, such as in Figure 1. The timer is then stopped after 250 ms using d3.timeout and timer.stop.


All the timers pass into their callbacks the elapsed time from when that timer was set up to when the callback is being called. We may wish to reset the time when the timer was set up (such as whenever a button is repeatedly clicked).

D3.js provides timer.restart to reset the timer, including when the timer was define for the elapsed time. To use this function, we have to redefine our callback, delay, and time.

For d3.timer and d3.timeout, invoking timer.restart stops the old timer immediately and makes a new timer with the specified parameters. If the timer has not invoked its callback at all yet, such as in d3.timeout, it will not execute the first time.

d3.interval is not compatible with timer.restart. If you call timer.restart on an instance of d3.interval, the interval will be converted to an intance of d3.timer instead, running every frame.

In Figure 5 we have a timer and printTime function similar to Figure 1. We then have a d3.timeout which calls the function restartTimers after 2.5 seconds. restartTimers then restarts both the timer and the timeout with their original parameters.

    function printTime5(elapsed){"#demo5").text(Math.round(elapsed) + "ms")
    function restartTimers(){
        timeout5.restart(() => restartTimers(), 2500);
    timer5 = d3.timer(printTime5);
    timeout5 = d3.timeout(() => restartTimers(), 2500);
<div id="demo5"></div>
Figure 5 - A timer and timeout reset every 2.5 seconds.


If we ever need to invoke the callbacks of all timers with no delay, we can call d3.timerFlush. d3.timerFlush immediately triggers all timers that have no delay.