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Dheeraj
Dheeraj

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Building a responsive chart in React with Plotly.js

If you are building a web application that involves a lot of charts, Plotly.js is one of the best open source choice you can find. Built on top of D3 Plotly is a high level charting library which has over 40 types of charts including ones in 3D.

To get plotly running in react you need to use a react wrapper called react-plotly.js. This library comes with a dependency of needing plotly.js, despite it's huge bundle size; 6Mb unminified, and minifies to just over 2Mb(There are ways to bring down the bundle size, but more on that later) I still believe it is still one of the easiest high-level declarative charting library that you can use with react today.

Installing and using react-plotly

npm install react-plotly.js plotly.js
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A point to note here, as of the time of writing this blog, ploty.js is a client-side rendering library and doesn't yet support server side rendering.

The most basic usage goes like...

import React from 'react';
import Plot from 'react-plotly.js';

export function PlotlyChart() {

    return (
      <Plot
        data={[
          {
            x: [1, 2, 3],
            y: [2, 6, 3],
            type: 'scatter',
            marker: {color: 'red'},
          },
        ]}
        layout={{width: 320, height: 240, title: 'A Fancy Plot'}}
      />
    );
}
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Bringing the bundle size down

As I mentioned Plotly support over 40 types of charts, you may not need all of them, or ever half of them in your project. Having a 2MB dependency hanging around in you project is not always the best idea.

Plotly provides couple of ways to get around this issues. One of them is Partial bundles, a subset of all the plotly charts which comes in a smaller bundle size. You can find complete details on these over here

Or else, if you are feeling a bit hacky you can create a custom bundle tailor made for your project with only the charts you need. More on that here

For this tutorial let's go with minified plotly.js basic partial bundle which packages around 999 kB.

install using

npm i plotly.js-basic-dist-min
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Using this version require a bit of a work than before.

1. import the minified package that we just added

import Plotly from "plotly.js-basic-dist-min";
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2. Import react-plotly factory function

import createPlotlyComponent from "react-plotly.js/factory";
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3. Create the Plot component form the Plotly import using the factory function

const Plot = createPlotlyComponent(Plotly);
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Well there you go, you can now use your Plotly chart as the Polt component.

Oh, and it’s now safe to remove the Plotly.js dependency from your package.json file. We are not using it anymore.

import React from 'react';
import Plotly from "plotly.js-basic-dist-min";
import createPlotlyComponent from "react-plotly.js/factory";

const Plot = createPlotlyComponent(Plotly);

export function PlotlyChart() {

    return (
      <Plot
        data={[
          {
            x: [1, 2, 3],
            y: [2, 6, 3],
            type: 'scatter',
            marker: {color: 'red'},
          },
        ]}
        layout={{width: 320, height: 240, title: 'A Fancy Plot'}}
      />
    );
}
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Adding typescript support

react-plotly.js does not come with native typescript support, but you can get the declaration provided by @types/react-plotly.js

npm install -d @types/react-plotly.js
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One big problem here is, if you are using the partial bundles, you may not get a type declaration for that specific bundle at all. But there is workaround for that.

Add type roots to you tsconfig file.

"typeRoots": [
    "src/types/customTypings", // this path may vary depending on you project set up.
    "node_modules/@types"
  ]
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create a plotly.js-cartesian-dist-min.d.ts file in your custom typings folder and add the below code.

declare module "plotly.js-cartesian-dist-min" {
  import * as Plotly from "plotly.js";
  export default Plotly;
}
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We are importing plotly.js declarations that came with @types/react-plotly.js and exporting it as declarations for plotly.js-cartesian-dist-min. This will provides all the types required for the Plot component and our partial bundle.

Making the chart responsive

To make the chart responsive when the window is resized, define height and width either by using styles prop or by using className and of cause you can use width: 100%; height: 100%.

You also need to set useResizeHandler prop to true, while setting layout.autosize to true and leaving layout.height and layout.width undefined.

import React from 'react';
import Plotly from "plotly.js-basic-dist-min";
import createPlotlyComponent from "react-plotly.js/factory";

const Plot = createPlotlyComponent(Plotly);

export function PlotlyChart() {

    return (
      <Plot
        data={[
          {
            x: [1, 2, 3],
            y: [2, 6, 3],
            type: 'scatter',
            marker: {color: 'red'},
          },
        ]}
        layout={{autosize: true, title: 'A Fancy Plot'}}
        useResizeHandler
        className="w-full h-full" // I am using tailwind.css here, scss or just css would work fine as well
      />
    );
}
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The Problem

Now, the key thing to note here is

To make the chart responsive when the window is resized

What if your window size doesn't change? what if you have some element, let's say a sidebar that pops in and out which changes the width of you component?

Plotly's resize function depends on window resizing, it will only trigger when it detects a change in window size.

The Solution

Trigger the resize function manually!

Plotly.Plots.resize()
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Ya I know, it doesn't sounds like much, But I had to searched far and wide to finally find a solution to get this working. So here you go. The basics goes like this.

  • use an effect to trigger the layout resize function
  • Find a trigger in your app to run the effect. This depends on your use case.

In my case, I triggered the effect every time the sidebar came in and out.

  useEffect(() => {
    Plotly.Plots.resize();
  }, [showSideBar]);
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Don't want all your charts to resize? Yep, I got that covered as well..

Add a prop divId to your Plot component and use this as an argument to the resize function.

the final code would look something like

import React from 'react';
import Plotly from "plotly.js-basic-dist-min";
import createPlotlyComponent from "react-plotly.js/factory";

const Plot = createPlotlyComponent(Plotly);

export function PlotlyChart({sideBarOpen}) {

useEffect(() => {
 Plotly.Plots.resize("plotlyChart");
  }, [sideBarOpen]);

    return (
      <Plot
        divId="plotlyChart"
        data={[
          {
            x: [1, 2, 3],
            y: [2, 6, 3],
            type: 'scatter',
            marker: {color: 'red'},
          },
        ]}
        layout={{autosize: true, title: 'A Fancy Plot'}}
        useResizeHandler
        className="w-full h-full" // I am using tailwind.css here, scss or just css would work fine as well
      />
    );
}
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Bonus Tip

Because the way how react-plotly works, the chart type is actually defined by the data.type prop of the Plot component.

let's say you want to change our line chart example to a bar chat(assuming that the layout stays the same, in most cases you won't be needing to change it), the only thing that changes here is the data prop. you can extract it out to keep only a single chart component for your entire project. Neat, eh?!

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