It’s practically impossible to imagine any dashboard without graphs and charts. They present complex statistics quickly and effectively. Additionally, a good graph also enhances the overall design of your website.
While most of the libraries are free and open source, some of them provide a paid version with additional features.
D3.js — Data-Driven Documents
D3.js doesn’t work well with older browsers like IE8. But you can always use plugins like aight plugin for cross-browser compatibility.
If you’d like to learn D3.js, we have a book on data visualization with D3.
Google Charts is a great choice for simple projects that do not require complex customization. It provides many pre-built charts like area charts, bar charts, calendar charts, pie charts, geo charts, and more. All charts are interactive and you can add them to your page in minutes.
Google Charts also comes with various customization options that help in changing the look of the graph. Charts are rendered using HTML5/SVG to provide cross-browser compatibility and cross-platform portability to iPhones, iPads, and Android. It also includes VML for supporting older IE versions.
Here’s a great list of examples built using Google Charts.
ChartJS provides beautiful flat designs for charts. It uses the HTML5 Canvas element for rendering and supports all modern browsers (IE11+).
ChartJS charts are responsive by default. They work well on mobile and tablets. There are 8 different types of charts out of the box (Line, Bar, Radar, Doughnut and Pie, Polar Area, Bubble, Scatter, Area), plus the ability to mix them. All charts are animated and customizable.
Here is a curated list of examples built with ChartJS.
You can explore and play with different types of charts at the Chartist.js examples page. The charts are interactive and you can edit them on the fly.
If you are an Angular developer, you will definitely find n3-charts extremely useful and interesting. n3-charts is built on top of D3.js and Angular. It provides various standard charts in the form of customizable Angular directives.
Check out this list of charts built using n3-charts.
Ember Charts is another great open source library built with D3.js and Ember.js. It provides time series, bar, pie, and scatter charts that are easily customizable. It uses SVG to render charts.
ZingChart offers a flexible, interactive, fast, scalable and modern product for creating charts quickly. Their product is used by companies like Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Boeing and Cisco, and uses Ajax, JSON, HTML5 to deliver great-looking charts quickly.
ZingChart offers more than 35 responsive chart types and modules, which can also be showing data in real-time. They can be styled and themed by CSS and can render big data fast.
You can check out their rich set of examples.
A branded version, with all charts, is available to try for free, but for watermark-free output you need to buy one of ZingChart’s paid licenses according to your business size.
Highcharts is another very popular library for building graphs. It comes loaded with many different types of cool animations that are sufficient to attract many eyeballs to your website. Just like other libraries, Highcharts comes with many pre-built graphs like spline, area, areaspline, column, bar, pie, scatter, etc. The charts are responsive and mobile-ready. Besides, Highcharts offers some advanced features such as adding annotations to your charts.
One of the biggest advantages of using Highcharts is compatibility with older browsers — even way back to Internet Explorer 6. Standard browsers use SVG for graphics rendering. In legacy Internet Explorer, graphics are drawn using VML.
There are wrappers for most popular languages (.NET, PHP, Python, R, and Java) and frameworks (Angular, Vue and React), and for iOS and Android.
While Highcharts is free for personal use, you need to purchase a license for commercial usage.
You can use the watermarked version of FusionCharts for free in personal projects. However, you need to purchase a commercial license to remove the watermark.
Flot supports lines, points, filled areas, bars and any combinations of these. It’s also compatible with older browsers — way back to IE6 and Firefox 2.
Flot is completely free to use. Here’s a list of example graphs created using Flot.
amCharts is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful charting libraries out there. It offers both charts and geographical maps (Map Chart), which allow for advanced data visualization.
The Map Chart package is very impressive. It allows you to create all kinds of interactive maps with a few lines of code. Some of the great features this package provides include map projections, coordinate shifting, and heat maps. There are lots of bundled maps and you can make your own too.
Checkout this fantastic collection of cool demos created using amCharts.
The free version of amChart will leave a backlink to its website on the top of every chart.
EJSCharts is an open source solution for home and business data representation and customization. The charts are clean, readable and interactive. EJSCharts is compatible with older browsers back to IE6. Check out this list of examples.
uvCharts is built with D3.js. It promises to eliminate all the difficult coding parts from D3.js and provide easy implementations of standard chart types. uvCharts are rendered using SVG and HTML5, so it works only with modern browsers.
CanvasJS is a responsive HTML5 charting library with high performance and a simple API. It supports 30 different chart types (including line, column, bar, area, spline, pie, doughnut, stacked charts, etc.), which are well documented. All charts include interactive features like tooltips, zooming, panning, animation, etc. CanvasJS can be integrated with popular frameworks (Angular, React, and jQuery) and server-side technologies (PHP, Ruby, Python, ASP.Net, Node.JS, Java).
TOAST UI Chart
AnyChart provides users with five types of resources to learn the library (documentation, API Reference, Playground, Chartopedia, and FAQ).
You can download a watermarked version for free after registration. However, to get rid of the branding and use AnyChart for commercial purposes, it’s necessary to buy a license.
It now depends on you to select the best charting library for your future projects. Developers who like to have complete control over their charts will definitely opt for D3.js. Almost all the above libraries have good support via Stack Overflow forums.
If you are looking for tools to generate ready-made charts, head over to 5 Tools for Creating Amazing Online Charts article. You can also read Creating Simple Line and Bar Charts Using D3.js to get started with D3.js. We also have a dedicated series on using Google Charts with Angular, and a book: An Introduction to Data Visualization with D3.
There are lots of other charting and graphing libraries out there. Here are some more worth checking out:
- C3.js is a D3-based reusable chart library.
- dimple is an object-oriented API for business analytics powered by D3.
- Charted, by Medium, is a tool that automatically visualizes data. You just give it a link to a data file. (You can read more about it at Medium.)
- Smoothie Charts can be helpful, if you are dealing with stream real-time data.
Lastly, here are some simpler tools for quickly creating infographics:
- infogram makes it easy to create engaging infographics and reports in minutes.
- Piktochart is a simple, intuitive tool that helps you represent various kind of data.
- Easelly is a simple infographic maker that lets you visualize any kind of information.
Ivaylo Gerchev is a self-taught web developer/designer. He loves to play with HTML, CSS, jQuery, PHP, and WordPress, as well as Photoshop and Illustrator. Ivaylo's motto is "Minimum effort for maximum effect!"