How to add a new chart type to dc.js


Enrico Spinielli


April 21, 2015

This is a step by step description of how I extended dc.js with a new chart type. It is inspired by a wiki page by Thomas Robert.

A Bullet chart

Mike Bostock already implemented a bullet chart in D3.js. The vertical version from Jason Davies uses the official code which is available as a d3-plugin. (I have submitted a proposal for a bug fix and will use it instead.)

So how can I make it available in dc.js?

Below you can see what I did and here what is still in the todo list.

The result is not too bad.


Starting from dc.js directory

  • add a file named src\bullet-chart.js
  • copy bullet.js (with the fix proposed here) from the d3-plugin to in src\d3.bullet.js
  • add the two files above in the module.exports.jsFiles array in `Gruntfile.js
    module.exports.jsFiles = [
      'src/footer.js'  // NOTE: keep this last
  • add the example file examples\web\bullet.html, a copy of ord.html for example, and update examples\web\index.html accordingly

Stub your chart

bullet-chart.js can initially be something like

    ## Bullet Chart
    Includes: [Margin Mixin](#margin-mixin), [Color Mixin](#color-mixin),
              [Base Mixin](#base-mixin)
    Bullet chart implementation.
    #### dc.bulletChart(parent[, chartGroup])
    Create a bullet chart instance and attach it to the given parent element.
    #### Example of usage
    var chart = dc.bulletCloudChart()
     .colors(d3.scale.quantize().range(["#E2F2FF", "#C4E4FF", "#9ED2FF", 
     "#81C5FF", "#6BBAFF", "#51AEFF",  "#36A2FF", "#1E96FF", "#0089FF", "#0061B5"]))
     .colorDomain([0, 200])
     .label(function (d) { return labels[d.key]; })
     .title(function (d) { return d.value+" $"; })
    * parent : string | node | selection - any valid
    [d3 single selector](
    specifying a dom block element such as a div; or a dom element or d3 selection.
    * chartGroup : string (optional) - name of the chart group this chart instance should
    be placed in.
    Interaction with a chart will only trigger events and redraws within the chart's group.
    A newly created bullet chart instance
    // create a bullet chart under #chart-container1 element using the default global chart group
    var chart1 = dc.bulletChart('#chart-container1');
    // create a bullet chart under #chart-container2 element using chart group A
    var chart2 = dc.bulletChart('#chart-container2', 'chartGroupA');
    dc.bulletChart = function (parent, chartGroup) {
        var _chart = dc.marginMixin(dc.colorMixin(dc.baseMixin({}))));
        //--- specifics ---
     return _chart.anchor(parent, chartGroup);

The rationale for the mixin used is:

  • Base: you cannot really get away from it
  • Margin: useful to get proper spacing around
  • Color: allows for selecting the bullet colors

The rendering for the new chart is to be coded in the //--- specifics --- part.

The source code (yes! It should be better documented, hence this post) of Base Mixin specifies that _doRender and _doRedraw are the functions to be implemented in the concrete charts.

Rendering the chart

Luckily for bullet charts there are examples to get inspired from both for the horizontal and the vertical layout.

The _doRender function is mimicking what done by Mike Bostock in his horizontal layout with the parametrization of the title transform.

  var _bulletMargin = {top: 5, right: 40, bottom: 20, left:120},
      _bulletWidth = 960 - _bulletMargin.left - _bulletMargin.right,
      _bulletHeight = 50 -  - _bulletMargin.bottom,
      _bulletOrient = "left",
      _titleTranslate = titleTranslate(_bulletOrient);

  _chart._doRender = function () {
    var _bullet = d3.bullet()

    var svg = _chart.root().selectAll("svg")
        .attr("class", "bullet")
        .attr("width", _bulletWidth + _bulletMargin.left + _bulletMargin.right)
        .attr("height", _bulletHeight +  + _bulletMargin.bottom)
        .attr("transform", "translate(" + _bulletMargin.left + "," + + ")")

    var title = svg.append("g")
        .style("text-anchor", "end")
        .attr("transform", "translate(" + _titleTranslate[0] + "," + _titleTranslate[1] + ")");

        .attr("class", "title")
        .text(function(d) {
          return d.title;

        .attr("class", "subtitle")
        .attr("dy", "1em")
        .text(function(d) {
          return d.subtitle;

    return _chart;

The proper positioning of the title is taken care by the titleTranslate function. Titles will either be on the left of the bullet bar in the horizontal layout or at the bottom in the vertical one.

Chart options

The bullet chart can be customized in order to produce the desired graph via the getter/setter methods described in the following sections.

These are quite low level customizations, see the To Do section for a better approach.


  #### .bulletWidth([value])
  Set or get the bullet width.

  _chart.bulletWidth = function (_) {
      if (!arguments.length) {
          return _bulletWidth;
      _bulletWidth = +_;
      return _chart;


  #### .bulletHeight([value])
  Set or get the bullet height.

  _chart.bulletHeight = function (_) {
      if (!arguments.length) {
          return _bulletHeight;
      _bulletHeight = +_;
      return _chart;


  #### .bulletMargin([value])
  Set or get the bullet margin, i.e. `{top: 5, right: 40, bottom: 50, left:120}`.

  _chart.bulletMargin = function (_) {
      if (!arguments.length) {
          return _bulletMargin;
      _bulletMargin = _;
      return _chart;


This method defines the starting point for the bullet.

Note that it influences where the title/subtitle will be positioned: the current implementation of bullet.js allows for title to either be on the left or at the bottom in the horizontal and vertical layout respectively.

The internal function titleTranslate sets sensible values for the title position.

  #### .orient([value])
  Set or get the bullet orientation (one of `"left"`, `"right"`, `"top"` or `"bottom"`).

  _chart.orient = function (_) {
      if (!arguments.length) {
          return _bulletOrient;
      _bulletOrient = _;
      _titleTranslate = titleTranslate(_bulletOrient);
      return _chart;

titleTranslate (internal)

This internal function sets the right parameters for the positioning of the title/subtitle for the vertical and horizontal layout.

  function titleTranslate(orient) {
    if (!arguments.length) {
      return _titleTranslate;
    if (_bulletOrient == "left" || _bulletOrient == "right") {
      return [-6, _bulletHeight / 2];
    else if (_bulletOrient == "bottom" || _bulletOrient == "top") {
      return [_bulletWidth, _bulletHeight + 20]

    return [-6, _bulletHeight / 2];


The bullet.html file is structured pretty much the same as the other examples:

  • the head part,
  • the libraries,
  • the style part
  • the <div>’s for the charts
  • the code for the chart instantiation and rendering
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
<title>dc.js - Bullet Chart Example</title>
    <meta charset="UTF-8">
    <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="../css/dc.css"/>
<script type="text/javascript" src="../js/d3.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="../js/crossfilter.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="../js/dc.js"></script>

  /* see "A Matter of Style" section */

<div id="test-horizontal"></div>
<div id="test-vertical"></div>

<script type="text/javascript">
  // see "The Two Layouts" section

The Two Layouts

The example mimics charts in the gists from Mike Bostock and Jason Davies.

There is the usual binding to the <div>’s, the crossfilter bits and the chart definition and rendering.

Note the trick about how statusGroup has been defined in order to comply with dc.js way to pass the data to the underlying d3.js: this is based on the knowledge that the default implementation of .data() is returning group.all().

var chart1 = dc.bulletChart("#test-horizontal");
var chart2 = dc.bulletChart("#test-vertical");

var data = [
  {"title":"Revenue","subtitle":"US$, in thousands","ranges":[150,225,300],"measures":[220,270],"markers":[250]},
  {"title":"Order Size","subtitle":"US$, average","ranges":[350,500,600],"measures":[100,320],"markers":[550]},
  {"title":"New Customers","subtitle":"count","ranges":[1400,2000,2500],"measures":[1000,1650],"markers":[2100]},
  {"title":"Satisfaction","subtitle":"out of 5","ranges":[3.5,4.25,5],"measures":[3.2,4.7],"markers":[4.4]}

var ndx        = crossfilter(data),
    titleDimension = ndx.dimension(function(d) {return d.title;}),
    statusGroup    = {
      all: function(){
        return data;

// dims from Mike Bostock's bl.ock,
  .bulletMargin({top: 5, right: 40, bottom: 20, left: 120})
  .bulletWidth(960 - 120 - 40)
  .bulletHeight(50 - 5 - 20)


// dims from Jason Davies's bl.ock,
  .bulletMargin({top: 5, right: 40, bottom: 50, left: 120})
  .bulletWidth(185 - 120 - 40)
  .bulletHeight(450 - 5 - 50)


A Matter of Style

In the best tradition of the web, everything in the chart can be customized via CSS

body {
  font-family: "Helvetica Neue", Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;
  margin: auto;
  padding-top: 40px;
  position: relative;
  width: 960px;

button {
  position: absolute;
  right: 10px;
  top: 10px;

.bullet { font: 10px sans-serif; }
.bullet .marker { stroke: #000; stroke-width: 2px; }
.bullet .tick line { stroke: #666; stroke-width: .5px;}
.bullet .range.s0 { fill: #eee; }
.bullet .range.s1 { fill: #ddd; }
.bullet .range.s2 { fill: #ccc; }
.bullet .measure.s0 { fill: lightsteelblue; }
.bullet .measure.s1 { fill: steelblue; }
.bullet .title { font-size: 14px; font-weight: bold; }
.bullet .subtitle { fill: #999; }

.bullet .axis line, .bullet .axis path { opacity: 0.5; }

To Do

The current implementation lacks few feature and refinements.


I am studying the existing ones and will add them!

Automatic Layout

From a user perspective I would like to just say:


and have sensible width/height/margins being calculated by the internals of the implementation, with the above methods available for fine-tuning.

Colors selection

Even if I made bulletChart include the Color Mixin, I haven’t really tackled colors customization.

With code like the following


you would be able to define the three colors for the bad, satisfactory and good ranges.

Chart Margins

Even if included, the Margin Mixin hasn’t been handled.

These will be the margins for the whole chart, not the ones for the bullets as described above.

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