D3.js Getting started (again..)

The same questions as some years back: How to get started with it ?

The learning curve for beginners is certainly a bit steep if you dont have a basic background in at least HTML, CSS and JavaScript, in this case you rather go for a visualization tool like Tableau if you look for fast results.
The good news: There is plenty of material out there about D3, books, websites, tutorials. I purchased a couple of books from Packt Books and O’Reilly as PDF version, I think they have the most books, though most of them based on earlier D3 versions.

Packt Books

Packt Books

O'Reilly Books

O’Reilly Books

I wont recommend a specific one, most follow the same principles, a short intro to the DOM, explain the D3 basics followed by more or less complex samples. As with any other technology or programming language you learn most hands-on, there so many examples and good tutorials available. I never attempted to understand everything, understand the concepts, dissect existing visualizations and get creative !

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D3.js Data-Driven-Documents Revisited

I came across this fantastic JavaScript library for DOM manipulation in 2011, at that time it was still fairly new in the visualization space and I picked it up for a couple of visualizations moving away from prefuse and other thick client embeded libraries. Now 5 years later, it matured massively and got adopted at large scale. Just recently the version 4.0 was releasey. One of the main features certainly the modularit

D3.js Webesit

D3.js Website and

I will revisit some of the old visualizations I created and also try to convert some newer ideas into visualizations. Now tinkering and playing became much easier, I recommend JSFiddle if you want to avoid local web server setup, though JSFiddle does not support version 4.0 yet (at the time of writing this).



You also can run your visualization with the good old GitHub Gist and the bl.ocks site or the browser plugins.

I am working with D3 again after experimenting with visualization tools like Tableau and realizing quickly that outstanding visualizations only can be created with the power of D3, though you have to work with sourcecode and understand whats going on under the hood of a modern web browser. Please dont forget D3 is released under the BSD license !


d3.js – Available Books

D3 is my favourite visualization platform, though the learning curve is steeper because it is about selections, data mapping and transformation close to the DOM. D3 does not come with pre-defined visualizations like bar and piecharts. The website comes with lots of samples and tutorials are available as well. If you take the time to walk through them and experiment by yourself you will learn most. Still I enjoy reading books about technical topics with an end to end walk-through.

Currently there are 2 books about D3 both from O’Reilly and both have a similar introductory focus.

Getting Started with D3

d3a June 2012, 12.99 U$ (ebook)

The books does what its title promises, getting you started, It jumps right into D3 with sample applications and code. What I really like is the fact the author connects the visualizations to real life data (New York’s MTA transportation data) which makes the whole book more entertaining and tangible. It also provides a chapter about transition and interaction, even about layouts which make more exciting visualizations, like those we all know from the D3 websites sample page. Though it does not go into advanced details. At this reasonable price I would recommend the title.

Interactive Data Visualization for the Web


November 2012, 23.99 US (ebook)

This book is a bit more comprehensive than the first one, it starts with some more basic underlying technologies and provides the reader with an introduction to HTML, DOM, CSS and Javascripts. The chapters covering D3 are written lengthier providing slightly more details. It runs along the sample around a bar-charts and scatter-plots which turns dull after a while.  The early release I have seems to be incomplete, so I dont want to give a final verdict.

With D3 obviously getting more popular we will certainly see more books, hopefully covering advanced features and more visualization centric. I was asked if I like to write one but my D3 knowledge is way not comprehensive enough, I wish Mike Bostock would write one.

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