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D3.js vs Plotly: What are the differences?

D3.js and Plotly are both powerful data visualization libraries used for creating interactive and dynamic visualizations in web applications. Here are the key differences between D3.js and Plotly:

  1. Approach: D3.js (Data-Driven Documents) is a low-level JavaScript library for manipulating and binding data to the Document Object Model (DOM). It gives developers complete control over every aspect of the visualization process, allowing for highly customized and unique visualizations. Plotly, on the other hand, is a higher-level library that provides a declarative syntax for creating visualizations. It abstracts away many of the low-level details and provides a more streamlined approach for quickly creating interactive charts and graphs.

  2. Chart Types and Features: D3.js provides a wide range of chart types and visualizations, including bar charts, line charts, scatter plots, maps, and more. It offers extensive customization options to create complex and custom visualizations. Plotly also supports a variety of chart types and offers interactive features like zooming, panning, and tooltips. Additionally, Plotly provides built-in support for 3D visualizations and animations, making it well-suited for creating dynamic and engaging visualizations.

  3. Learning Curve: D3.js has a steeper learning curve compared to Plotly due to its low-level nature and the need to have a good understanding of JavaScript and web technologies. It requires more coding and a deeper understanding of data visualization concepts. Plotly, on the other hand, has a more user-friendly interface and a simpler syntax, making it easier to get started with and create visualizations quickly, especially for developers with limited coding experience.

  4. Community and Support: D3.js has a mature ecosystem with extensive examples and tutorials. Plotly also has a growing community and provides comprehensive documentation and support. It offers additional features like online sharing of visualizations and collaborative editing.

In summary, D3.js provides unparalleled flexibility and customization options, making it suitable for developers who require fine-grained control over their visualizations and have a good understanding of JavaScript. Plotly, on the other hand, offers a more streamlined and user-friendly approach, with a focus on creating interactive visualizations quickly and easily.

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Pros of D3.js
Pros of Plotly.js
  • 195
    Beautiful visualizations
  • 103
  • 92
  • 81
    Large set of examples
  • 61
    Data-driven documents
  • 24
    Visualization components
  • 20
  • 18
    Dynamic properties
  • 16
  • 11
  • 7
    Makes data interactive
  • 4
    Open Source
  • 4
    Enter and Exit
  • 4
  • 3
  • 3
    Backed by the new york times
  • 2
    Easy and beautiful
  • 1
    Highly customizable
  • 1
    Awesome Community Support
  • 1
    Simple elegance
  • 1
    Templates, force template
  • 1
    Angular 4
  • 16
    Bindings to popular languages like Python, Node, R, etc
  • 10
    Integrated zoom and filter-out tools in charts and maps
  • 9
    Great support for complex and multiple axes
  • 8
    Powerful out-of-the-box featureset
  • 6
    Beautiful visualizations
  • 4
    Active user base
  • 4
    Impressive support for webgl 3D charts
  • 3
    Charts are easy to share with a cloud account
  • 3
    Webgl chart types are extremely performant
  • 2
    Interactive charts
  • 2
    Easy to use online editor for creating plotly.js charts
  • 2
    Publication quality image export

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Cons of D3.js
Cons of Plotly.js
  • 11
    Beginners cant understand at all
  • 6
    Complex syntax
  • 18
    Terrible document

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What is D3.js?

It is a JavaScript library for manipulating documents based on data. Emphasises on web standards gives you the full capabilities of modern browsers without tying yourself to a proprietary framework.

What is Plotly.js?

It is a standalone Javascript data visualization library, and it also powers the Python and R modules named plotly in those respective ecosystems (referred to as and Plotly.R). It can be used to produce dozens of chart types and visualizations, including statistical charts, 3D graphs, scientific charts, SVG and tile maps, financial charts and more.

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What companies use D3.js?
What companies use Plotly.js?
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What tools integrate with D3.js?
What tools integrate with Plotly.js?

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Blog Posts

Sep 8 2017 at 2:54PM


What are some alternatives to D3.js and Plotly.js?
It is a cross-browser JavaScript library and Application Programming Interface used to create and display animated 3D computer graphics in a web browser.
Highcharts currently supports line, spline, area, areaspline, column, bar, pie, scatter, angular gauges, arearange, areasplinerange, columnrange, bubble, box plot, error bars, funnel, waterfall and polar chart types.
Python is a general purpose programming language created by Guido Van Rossum. Python is most praised for its elegant syntax and readable code, if you are just beginning your programming career python suits you best.
Tableau can help anyone see and understand their data. Connect to almost any database, drag and drop to create visualizations, and share with a click.
Bokeh is an interactive visualization library for modern web browsers. It provides elegant, concise construction of versatile graphics, and affords high-performance interactivity over large or streaming datasets.
See all alternatives