Straightforward interactive ggplot graphs in R with ggiraph

Static visualizations are sometimes sufficient to inform tales together with your information. However generally you need to add interactivity, so customers can hover over graphs to see underlying information or hyperlink their hover over one visualization to highlighting information in one other. 

R has various packages for creating interactive graphics together with echarts4r, plotly, and highcharter. I like and use all of these. However for simple linking of interactive graphs, it’s onerous to beat ggiraph.

From ggplot to ggiraph in 3 straightforward steps

There are three straightforward steps to show ggplot code into an interactive graph:

  1. Use a ggiraph interactive geom as an alternative of a “common” ggplot geom. The format is straightforward to recollect: Simply add _interactive to your common geom. So, geom_col() for a daily bar chart could be geom_col_interactive(), geom_point() could be geom_point_interactive(), and so forth. 
  2. Add not less than one interactive argument to the graph’s aes() mapping: tooltip, data_id, or onclick. That data_id argument is what connects two graphics, letting you hover over one and have an effect on the show of one other one — all with out Shiny. 
  3. After creating your ggiraph dataviz object, use the girafe() operate to show it right into a JavaScript graphic. Sure, that’s girafe() just like the animal however with one f. (That’s the way you spell it in French, and the creator of ggiraph, David Gohel, lives in Paris.)

Set up the R packages

In case you’d prefer to comply with together with the code on this tutorial, you’ll want the ggplot2, ggiraph, dplyr, and patchwork packages from CRAN in your system in addition to ggiraph. And, to create a map, I’ll be utilizing Bob Rudis’s albersusa bundle, which isn’t on CRAN. You’ll be able to set up it from GitHub with 




Put together the info

For information, I’m going to make use of latest US Covid vaccination information by state out there from the Our World in Knowledge GitHub repository.

Within the code beneath, I’m loading libraries, studying within the vaccination information, and altering “New York State” to only “New York” within the information body.


data_url <- ""

all_data <- learn.csv(data_url)
all_data$location[all_data$location == "New York State"] <- "New York"

Subsequent, I create a vector of entries that aren’t US states or DC. I’ll use it to filter out that information so my chart doesn’t have too many rows. 

not_states_or_dc <- c("American Samoa", "Bureau of Prisons", 
"Dept of Protection", "Federated States of Micronesia", "Guam",
"Indian Well being Svc", "Lengthy Time period Care", "Marshall Islands",
"Northern Mariana Islands", "Puerto Rico", "Republic of Palau",
"United States", "Veterans Well being", "Virgin Islands")

This subsequent code block filters out the non_states_or_dc rows, chooses solely the latest information, rounds the p.c vaccinated to at least one decimal level, selects solely the state and p.c vaccinated columns, and renames my chosen columns to State and PctFullyVaccinated.

bar_graph_data_recent <- all_data %>%  
filter(date == max(date), !(location %in% not_states_or_dc)) %>%
PctFullyVaccinated = spherical(people_fully_vaccinated_per_hundred, 1)
) %>%
choose(State = location, PctFullyVaccinated)

Create a primary bar graph with ggplot2

Subsequent I’ll create a primary (static) ggplot bar chart of the info. I exploit geom_col() for a bar chart, add my very own customary blue bars outlined in black and minimal theme, set the axis textual content measurement to 10 factors, and flip the x and y coordinates so it’s simpler to learn the state names. 

bar_graph <- ggplot(bar_graph_data_recent, 
aes(x = reorder(State, PctFullyVaccinated),
y = PctFullyVaccinated)) +
geom_col(coloration = "black", fill="#0072B2", measurement = 0.5) +
theme_minimal() +
theme(axis.textual content=element_text(measurement = 10)) +
labs(title = "P.c Totally Vaccinated July 2021",
subtitle = "Knowledge from Our World in Knowledge GitHub repo"
) +
ylab("") +
xlab("") +


Bar chart of state vaccination data Sharon Machlis, IDG

Bar chart of US vaccination data by state created with ggplot2. Data from Our World in Data.

Create a tooltip column in R

ggiraph only lets me use one column for the tooltip display, but I want both state and rate in my tooltip. There’s an easy solution: Add a tooltip column to the data frame with both state and rate in one text string:

bar_graph_data_recent <- bar_graph_data_recent %>%
tooltip_text = paste0(toupper(State), "n",
PctFullyVaccinated, "%")

Make the bar chart interactive with ggiraph

To create a ggiraph interactive bar chart, I changed geom_col() to geom_col_interactive() and added tooltip and data_id to the aes() mapping. I also reduced the size of the axis text, because the ggplot size ended up being too large.

Then I displayed the interactive graph object with the girafe() function. You can set the graph width and height with width_svg and height_svg arguments within girafe()

latest_vax_graph <- ggplot(bar_graph_data_recent, 
aes(x = reorder(State, PctFullyVaccinated),
y = PctFullyVaccinated,
tooltip = tooltip_text, data_id = State #<<
)) +
geom_col_interactive(color = "black", fill="#0072B2", size = 0.5) + #<<
theme_minimal() +
theme(axis.text=element_text(size = 6)) + #<<
labs(title = "Percent Fully Vaccinated July 2021",
subtitle = "Data from Our World in Data GitHub repo"
) +
ylab("") +
xlab("") +

girafe(ggobj = latest_vax_graph, width_svg = 5, height_svg = 4)

The graph will look quite similar to the ggplot version — but if you run the code yourself or watch the video embedded above, you’ll see that you can now hover over the bars and see underlying data. 

Bar chart with blue bars and one yellow bar showing a small box with state name and vaccination rate Sharon Machlis, IDG

If you hover over a bar on a ggiraph graph, the bar is highlighted and you can see a tooltip with underlying data. Data from Our World in Data.

One thing that really makes ggiraph shine is how easy it is to link up multiple graphs. To demo that, of course, I’ll need a second visualization to link to my bar chart.

The code below creates a data frame with vaccination data from February 14, 2021, and a ggiraph bar chart with that data.

bar_graph_data_early <- all_data %>%
filter(date == "2021-02-14", !(location %in% not_states_or_dc)) %>%
arrange(people_fully_vaccinated_per_hundred) %>%
PctFullyVaccinated = round(people_fully_vaccinated_per_hundred, 1),
tooltip_text = paste0(toupper(location), "n", PctFullyVaccinated, "%")
) %>%
select(State = location, PctFullyVaccinated, tooltip_text)

early_vax_graph <- ggplot(bar_graph_data_early, aes(x = reorder(State, PctFullyVaccinated), y = PctFullyVaccinated, tooltip = tooltip_text, data_id = State)) +
geom_col_interactive(color = "black", fill="#0072B2", size = 0.5) +
theme_minimal() +
theme(axis.text=element_text(size = 6)) +
labs(title = "Fully Vaccinated as of February 14, 2021",
subtitle = "Data from Our World in Data"
) +
ylab("") +
xlab("") +

Link interactive graphs with ggiraph

The code to link the two graphs is extremely simple. Below I use the girafe() function to say I want to print the early_vax_graph plus the latest_vax_graph and set the canvas width and height. I also add an option so when the user hovers, the bars turn cyan.

girafe(code = print(early_vax_graph + latest_vax_graph), 
width_svg = 8, height_svg = 4) %>%
girafe_options(opts_hover(css = "fill:cyan;"))

Linking the two graphs makes it easy for users to see what happened to state rankings between February and July. For example, by hovering over Alaska in the February graph, the bar for Alaska in the July graph also turns cyan. (Without that option, the bars would turn the default yellow color.)

2 bar charts side by side with bars for Alaska highlighted in both. Sharon Machlis, IDG

Hovering over a state’s bar in one graph highlights that state’s bars on both graphs. Data from Our World in Data.

Link a map and bar chart with ggiraph

This idea comes from Kyle E. Walker, who coded a demo using his tidycensus package to create a map linked with a chart. We can do the same with this data and a map from scratch using the albersusa package (although I highly recommend tidycensus if you’re working with U.S. Census data).

Below is the code for the map. us_sf is an R simple features geospatial object created with the albersusa::usa_sf() function. state_map creates a ggiraph map object from that us_sf object. The map code uses typical ggplot() syntax, but instead of geom_sf() it uses geom_sf_interactive(). There are also tooltip and data_id arguments in the aes() mapping. Finally, the code eliminates any background or axes with theme_void().

us_sf <- usa_sf("lcc") %>%
mutate(State = as.character(name))

state_map <- ggplot() +
geom_sf_interactive(data = us_sf, size = 0.125,
aes(data_id = State, tooltip = State)) +

The next code block uses girafe() and its ggobj argument to display both the map and the vax graph, linked interactively.

girafe(ggobj = state_map + latest_vax_graph, 
width_svg = 10, height_svg = 5) %>%
girafe_options(opts_hover(css = "fill:cyan;"))

Now if I hover over a state on the map, its bar “lights up” on the bar chart.

Map next to a bar chart. New York State is highlighted on both the map and bar chart. Sharon Machlis, IDG

Hover over a state on the map, and its corresponding bar “lights up” on the bar chart. Data from Our World in Data.

It takes very little R code to make a static graphic interactive and to link two graphs together.

How to use your ggiraph data visualizations

You can add ggiraph visualizations to an R Markdown document and generate an HTML file that works in any web browser.

You can also save output from the girafe() function as an HTML widget and then save the widget to an HTML file using the htmlwidgets package. For example:  

my_widget <- girafe(ggobj = state_map + latest_vax_graph, 
width_svg = 10, height_svg = 5) %>%
girafe_options(opts_hover(css = "fill:cyan;"))

htmlwidgets::saveWidget(my_widget, "my_widget_page.html",
selfcontained = TRUE)

For more on ggiraph, check out the ggiraph package website.

And for more R tips, head to the InfoWorld Do More With R page.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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