Shedrack Akintayo Shedrack Akintayo is a software engineer from Lagos, Nigeria, who has a love for community building, open-source, and creating content and tech for the Next Billion Users.

Creating charts in Node.js with billboard.js

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Data is such a crucial part of not just software development, but society in general. Wherever data resides, and however it’s used, it’s important to display it in a way that helps the audience digest and understand it.

There are many libraries that facilitate data visualization in charts and other forms. billboard.js stands out for its simplicity and ease of use.

In this tutorial, we’ll explore billboard.js and show you how to use it to create beautiful charts in Node.js.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

To follow along with this tutorial, you should have the following:

What is billboard.js?

billboard.js is a powerful, reusable, elegant interface chart library based on D3 v4+. It’s a JavaScript library that allows developers to create a chart instantly to visualize data.

billboard.js gets its name from the Billboard charts, which tabulate the relative weekly popularity of music released in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Developers like using billboard.js because it’s easy to get started with and use. It also supports D3.js V4+ and offers a wide variety of chart options to choose from.

Installing billboard.js

There are various ways to use billboard.js in a project. billboard.js uses D3.js under the hood, so you’ll also need to load D3.js.

The first way to install billboard.js is to download the library (CSS and JavaScript files) from the official billboard.js website and load it into your project:

We made a custom demo for .
No really. Click here to check it out.

<!-- Step 1) Load D3.js -->
<script src="https://d3js.org/d3.v5.min.js"></script>

<!-- Step 2) Load billboard.js with style -->
<script src="$YOUR_DOWNLOAD_PATH/billboard.js"></script>

<!-- Load with base style -->
<link rel="stylesheet" href="$YOUR_DOWNLOAD_PATH/billboard.css">

Create a div for your chart to be displayed in:

<div id="chart"></div>

You can also download styles for various chart themes via the official website.

Alternatively, you can install billboard.js using npm:

$ npm install billboard.js # latest
$ npm install [email protected] # Release Candidate

If you want to try billboard.js without downloading or installing it, you can use any of the CDN links below to load it in your project:

Supported chart types

billboard.js supports a variety of charts. Below are the chart types that are currently available for use, according to the official docs:

Billboardjs Supported Chart Types Display

Please note that there are various configuration options available for various chart types, see the examples section of the official billboard.js documentation for more information.

Creating a simple chart with billboard.js

In this section, I’ll demonstrate how to easily create a chart in your project using billboard.js.

First, install billboard.js using any of the methods mentioned above. For this demo, I’ll use the D3.js and billboard.js CDN to use the library and create my chart.

Create a file called chart.html in an empty folder and input the following:

<!--chart.html -->
<!DOCTYPE html>

<title>billboard.js DEMO</title>

<head>
<!-- Load billboard.js css files via cdn -->
<link rel="stylesheet" href="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/billboard.js/dist/billboard.min.css">

<!--Load D3.js -->
<script src="https://d3js.org/d3.v5.min.js"></script>

<!-- Load billboard.js via cdn --> 
<script src="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/billboard.js/dist/billboard.min.js"></script>
</head>

</html>

The next step is to create a div in the HTML file to display your chart:

<body>
<div id="chart"></div>
</body>

Now create a new file, name it chart.js, and paste in the following:

bb.generate({
    bindto: "#chart",
    data: {
        columns: [
            ["JavaScript", 30, 200, 100, 170, 150, 250],
            ["PHP", 130, 100, 140, 35, 110, 50]
        ],
        types: {
          JavaScript: "area-spline",
          PHP: "step"
        },
        colors: {
          JavaScript: "blue",
          PHP: "green"
        }
    }
});

Let’s break down what’s going on in the code snippet above.

bb.generate({})

This function generates the chart with the parameters you specify inside it.

bb.generate({
    bindto: "#chart"
})

The bindto property holds the ID of the div we created to display our chart in. This enables you to easily target specific HTML elements without having to manipulate the DOM manually.

bb.generate({
    bindto: "#chart",
    data: {
        columns: [
            ["JavaScript", 30, 200, 100, 170, 150, 250],
            ["PHP", 130, 100, 140, 35, 110, 50]
        ],
        types: {
          JavaScript: "area-spline",
          PHP: "step"
        },
        colors: {
          JavaScript: "blue",
          PHP: "green"
        }
    }
});
  • The data property holds an object that contains all the data you need to display in your chart
  • columns holds an array containing the values of the data you want to display and the name of the data
  • types holds an object containing the type of chart you with which want to display your data. In our case, for JavaScript, we use the “line” chart type and for PHP we used the “step” chart type. You can use any of the supported chart types I showed above
  • colors property holds an object containing the type of color you want your data to be displayed in

In your chart.html file, inject chart.js:

<body>
<div id="chart"></div>
<script src="YOUR_PROJECT_PATH/chart.js"></script>
</body>

You should see the following chart displayed in your browser when you open the chart.html file:

Chart HTML File Display

We just created a chart to display data quickly and very easily. There are plenty of other ways to create charts with billboard.js, such as in categories, etc. (more on that in a bit). billboard.js also has various themes for charts that you frequently use by loading the CSS file for whatever theme you want into your project.

Displaying data in categories

Displaying data in categories comes in handy when you need to show a wide range of information on a single chart.

For example, let’s say you have a bunch of servers from which people can download and upload data and you want to display the download and upload values in a single chart. Here’s how to do that with billboard.js:

var chart = bb.generate({
  data: {
    x: "x",
    columns: [
        ["x", "www.site1.com", "www.site2.com", "www.site3.com", "www.site4.com"],
        ["download", 30, 200, 100, 400],
        ["upload", 90, 100, 140, 200]
    ],
    groups: [
      [
        "download",
        "loading"
      ]
    ],
        colors: {
          download: "blue",
          upload: "green"
        },
    type: "bar", // for ESM specify as: bar()
  },
  axis: {
    x: {
      type: "category"
    }
  },
  bindto: "#categoryData"
});

Let’s break down the code.

  data: {
    x: "x",
    columns: [
        ["x", "www.server1.com", "www.server2.com", "www.server3.com", "www.server4.com"],
        ["download", 30, 200, 100, 400],
        ["upload", 90, 100, 140, 200]
    ],

Here, we’re basically specifying the axis (the x property). The columns property holds an array containing the values of the data you want to display and the name.

Unlike the previous example, here we have three arrays containing various data related to the chart:

  • The first array contains the name for the category of data we’d like to display. It starts with the x value because we want the category names to be displayed on the x axis
  • The second array contains the data we would like to display for the various categories
  • Ditto for the third array

If you need to pull data from a server with a URL, you can use the following at the top level of the bb.generate() function:

  data: {
    url: "./data/test.csv",
    type: "line", // for ESM specify as: line()
  },

The url should hold the link or path to the data you want to display on the chart:

    groups: [
      [
        "download",
        "loading"
      ]
    ],
        colors: {
          download: "blue",
          upload: "green"
        },

In this section, we’re naming the category groups and their colors — which, in this case, are download and upload.

  axis: {
    x: {
      type: "category"
    }
  },

Here, we’re specifying what data should be on which axis. We’re telling billboard.js that the x axis should hold the category names.

Here’s what our chart looks like:

X Axis Category Names Chart View

If you hover on any of the chart bars, a tooltip will display containing the data for that particular category:

Chart Bar Hover Tooltip Category Data Display

If you don’t want a tooltip to be displayed on hover or at any point, just add the following property inside the bb.generate() function:

tooltip: {
    show: false
  },

Theming in billboard.js

There are various themes that are available for use with billboard.js, including:

  • default
  • insight
  • datalab
  • graph

You can use these themes in your project by simply loading a CSS file provided by billboard.js instead of the default CSS file.

For example, here’s the above chart we created using the insight theme:

Insight Theme CSS Chart

Add the following to the head tag of your HTML file to use the insight theme:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="
https://naver.github.io/billboard.js/release/latest/dist/theme/insight.css">

If you prefer to use JavaScript to import the theme, or if you installed billboard.js with npm, just add the following to the top level of your JavaScript file and you’re good to go:

// base css
import "billboard.js/dist/theme/insight.css";

Conclusion

In this tutorial, we learned what billboard.js is, reviewed its features, and demonstrated how to create a simple chart. We also learned how to use the chart library to display data in categories and, finally, how to use themes in billboard.js.

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Shedrack Akintayo Shedrack Akintayo is a software engineer from Lagos, Nigeria, who has a love for community building, open-source, and creating content and tech for the Next Billion Users.

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