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Output SVG Elements with D3 v4

5:13 D3 lesson by

D3 is capable of creating regular DOM elements like divs and buttons, and can even render to canvas, but by far the most common type of output is SVG. In this lesson we’ll convert from DOM elements to SVG elements, and make the updates necessary for maintaining a consistent appearance between the two.

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D3 is capable of creating regular DOM elements like divs and buttons, and can even render to canvas, but by far the most common type of output is SVG. In this lesson we’ll convert from DOM elements to SVG elements, and make the updates necessary for maintaining a consistent appearance between the two.

I've simplified our example here a little bit and removed the pre-existing elements from the DOM. We're really just dealing with the enter selection now. Our code creates and appends a DIV for each data item. We set its text to the name property and then we've got some lines down here that are basically just styling the items, setting color, background, border, and that sort of thing.

To clean this up a bit, I'm going to move some of these stylistic properties to an actual CSS class and then we'll just apply that. We can create our bar class here, and then instead of setting all of these style properties individually here, we will just go ahead and use the attribute method and set class to bar.

Now, of course in the past we saw a different method of assigning a CSS class, which was using the classed method, where you pass in the class name and then true if you want to set the class and false if you want to remove it.

I tend to stick with the attribute method when simply assigning a class and only use the classed method if it's something that I'm going to have to turn on or off based on some sort of conditional logic.

We're creating these DIVs here, which are of course just normal DOM elements, and we could change this to be some other sort of DOM-type like buttons, and we basically get the same layout. We've just got inline elements now instead of block-level elements.

You can create normal DOM elements with D3 and you can also even draw to Canvas using D3, but that's a more advanced technique that you're generally only going to use in times when you need really high performance.

What you're most commonly going to see, though, is the creation of SVG elements with D3. For a simple introduction to what that looks like, the first thing we need to do is to actually create an SVG container tag. We're going to do that as the parent for our whole visualization here. We're going to append an SVG to the chart DIV that is what we're drawing the whole thing into.

Once we've created that root SVG tag, we can then change our buttons here to be rect elements, which is of course short for, "rectangle," and one of the basic elements of an SVG. SVG stands for scalable vector graphics, and that scalable part is a big part of why it's appealing, especially for visualizations.

Since it's a vector output and not a raster output, that means that things can be scaled without losing visual fidelity or becoming pixelated.

Once we change this to rect, you're going to see that instead of those buttons, we now just have what looks like a black rectangle in the top left corner. Part of the reason for this is that rect elements have different style property names than DOM elements like DIVs and buttons.

The first example of this is that SVG shapes use fill to set their background color, rather than a property called background. Similarly, instead of referring to a border, their property is called stroke.

Stroke is only about specifying the color. You can't do a combined property the way you do borders in CSS. Instead, you can use the stroke width property and set that to a value to specify how thick of a border you want.

Now that we've updated these styles, you can see that we don't actually just have a single rectangle. It's just that everything is on top of each other. That is because SVG elements don't do that sort of automatic document flow that you get from DOM elements. In SVG, you have to give everything an explicit position.

We can go ahead and get rid of our bottom margin style here, because that's not going to do anything for us anyway. Since we don't have that automatic layout, we're going to have to do it ourselves. We know that our bars have a height of 30 pixels. We're going to come over here and each time we append a rect, we're going to set its y attribute.

We're going to do this with a function and in this case our function is going to have two arguments, d, which is our data object, as we've seen previously, and the second argument here is going to be i, which is short for "index."

This is another standard and convention that you'll see all over D3, where these functions have d as the first argument, representing the data, and i as the second argument, representing the index.

In this case we're just going to multiply the index times 33. For our first rect, where i is zero, it'll be zero. For the first one it'll be 33, 66, and on and on. Now you can see that our rectangles are in fact vertically positioned to avoid any overlap. Let's go back and change the stroke width to one just to simplify things, and there we go.

We'll go ahead and move this width property up and you may have noticed that our y attribute doesn't need a pixel suffix and so neither does our width. When you're working with SVG, everything is assumed to be pixels. You may also notice that the bottom of the last rectangle here is cut off, and that is because it's running outside of the size of the SVG, because the SVG just has a default size at the moment.

Instead, we'll make sure that we have enough room by going up here and setting the width and height attributes on our SVG to make sure that they're big enough to hold all of our content.

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