Sébastien Heymann edited this page Jan 6, 2015 · 5 revisions
Clone this wiki locally

Filters are pruning the graph by keeping only nodes and edges that satisfies filters conditions. They are either predicates or functions that reduce the graph, predicates are easy and return only true or false, whereas functions input a graph and output a graph.

Please look at Plugin Quick Start to know how to create a new Netbeans Module. When you have your plugin module, that we will call MyFilter, you can start this tutorial.

One can find filters examples in the FiltersPlugin module.

How filtering works in Gephi

Gephi has a filter pipeline working with graph copies, where each filter can remove nodes and edges with settings. The Graph API in Gephi has the concept of View, a copy of the complete graph structure identified by an ID and where filters can work on it without disturbing other views. So, when a filter is removing nodes, it is removing them on a copy of the graph structure, the complete graph (named the main view) remains the same. This copy is eventually set as the visible view, the graph shown in the graph window. That is how users visualize a filtered graph. When filtering is disabled, the main view is simply set again as the visible view.

The filter pipeline is executed on a separate Thread and therefore doesn't block the rest of the application. Filters are wrapped into queries, which can be chained and combined. Similar as SQL nested queries concept, filter queries can have sub-queries and be represented as a tree, where the last executed query is the root. For example, the query INDEGREE(3, EDGE_WEIGHT(2)) would be executed like below:

  • A complete copy of the graph structure is created in a new view
  • It is passed to the EDGE_WEIGHT filter, which removes edges under weight 2
  • The sub-graph is passed to the INDEGREE filter, which removes nodes with in-degree less than 3 here
  • The graph view is set as visible view, the graph windows automatically refreshes

When a property is changed in the user interface, for instance the weight threshold, the complete process above is just re-executed and the former graph view is destroyed.

Create a new Filter

Set Dependencies

Add FiltersAPI, GraphAPI, and Lookup modules as dependencies for your plugin module. See How To Set Module Dependencies.

Create FilterBuilder

  • FilterBuilder is a factory class for building the Filters. The builder is registered in the FilterLibrary. The library is the upper panel where users choose the filters they want to use. Another type of builders, named CategoryBuilder can create several builders at once and will be detailed later.
  • Create a new builder MyFilterBuilder class, which implements FilterBuilder.
  • Add @ServiceProvider annotation to your builder class, in order it is detected by the filter library. Here is how it should look like:
@ServiceProvider(service = FilterBuilder.class)
public class MyFilterBuilder implements FilterBuilder {

    public Category getCategory() {
        return FilterLibrary.NODE;

    public String getName() {
        return "My Filter";

    public Icon getIcon() {
        return null;

    public String getDescription() {
        return "A filter example";

    public Filter getFilter() {

    public JPanel getPanel(Filter filter) {
        return null;

    public void destroy(Filter filter) {

Notice the getCategory() method. As the FilterLibrary is a tree, this builder needs a parent. That is the category. Use default categories defined in FilterLibrary like above or simply return your own:

public Category getCategory() {
    return new Category("Samples Filters");

Create Filter

Before creating the filter class, you should decide which filter interface to implement:

  • NodeFilter: Basic filters for nodes, that works as predicates. For a given node the filter's role is to return true if the node is kept or false if it is removed.
  • EdgeFilter: Basic filters for edges, that works as predicates. For a given edge the filter's role is to return true if the edge is kept or false if it is removed.
  • ComplexFilter: Filter working with full graphs and returning a subgraph.

The ComplexFilter interface is useful when both nodes and edges have to be filtered. For instance, in the case of an edge weight filter (a filter that keeps edges only in a particular weight threshold) we only need EdgeFilter. But if I want to design a filter that prunes the graph until it's average degree is 5.5 I need to have control on both nodes and edges. The complex filter is a black box, where nodes and edges can be filtered (e.g. removed) with tricky or complex processes.


Create a new MyFilter class, which implements NodeFilter interface. The main filter method is evaluate(). The init() asks if the filter is valid for the given graph. Only valid filters are executed by the system. The example below removes isolated nodes (e.g. with degree equal to 0). The filter is said valid only if the graph have nodes.

public class MyFilter implements NodeFilter {

    public boolean init(Graph graph) {
        return graph.getNodeCount() > 0;

    public boolean evaluate(Graph graph, Node node) {
        return graph.getDegree(node) > 0;

    public void finish() {

    public String getName() {
        return "My Filter";

    public FilterProperty[] getProperties() {
        return new FilterProperty[0];   //Will be explained later

For specific directed or undirected graphs, just cast the Graph in DirectedGraph or UndirectedGraph.


The complex filter interface is very simple, the filter() method directly gives the Graph.

public Graph filter(Graph graph);

Here is a example of a complex filter. It removes the 50% edges with the lowest weight.

public Graph filter(Graph graph) {
   int edgeCount = graph.getEdgeCount();
   edgeCount /= 2;

   Edge[] edges = graph.getEdges().toArray();
   Arrays.sort(edges, new Comparator<Edge>() {
      public int compare(Edge o1, Edge o2) {
         return, o2.getWeight());

   for (int i = 0; i < edgeCount; i++) {
      Edge edge = edges[i];
   return graph;

It uses the removeEdge() method from the Graph API and returns the graph it received.

Can a filter also add elements? Yes, as far as they are part of the main view as well. As as exemple, here is how the NOT operator works:

GraphView graphView = graph.getView();
Graph mainGraph = graph.getView().getGraphModel().getGraph();
for (Node n : mainGraph.getNodes().toArray()) {
   if (n.getNodeData().getNode(graphView.getViewId()) == null) {
      //The node n is not in graph
   } else {
      //The node n is in graph

It is possible to find the graph model from the view object. Then the n.getNodeData().getNode(graphView.getViewId()) line gets the same node in another view. The NodeData is common at all views and maintains a list of views where the node is.

Can the complex filter returns a different graph view? It's possible yes, but a use-case needing this is not obvious to find. The GraphModel.newView() is the method that duplicates the complete structure.

Can filters work with Hierarchical graph? Yes, the view copy is copying the complete hierarchy tree. Just cast the received graph in HierarchicalGraph.

Finish the builder

In the builder, return a new instance of your filter in the getFilter() method.

public Filter getFilter() {
   return new MyFilter();


It's very likely your filter will need to define properties, for instance a threshold or a pattern. In the case your filter has a user interface, the Filters API implementation has a system to automatically refresh the filter when a property value is changed. But for that it needs to be aware of these properties. That's why Filter interface has a getProperties() method.

If your filter doesn't have any user interface, it is therefore not necessary to return properties. Otherwise, it is mandatory. Below is how to define a simple useRegex boolean property:

FilterProperty p = FilterProperty.createProperty(this, Boolean.class, "useRegex");

As it uses introspection to get and set the value, your class simply needs proper getters and setters. As a result that is how the method id filled:

public FilterProperty[] getProperties() {
        return new FilterProperty[]{
            FilterProperty.createProperty(this, Boolean.class, "useRegex")

    public boolean isUseRegex() {
        return useRegex;

    public void setUseRegex(boolean useRegex) {
        this.useRegex = useRegex;

When the useRegex value will be changed (through a checkbox for example), the system will be notified and re-execute the filter.

Provide a UI

The getPanel() method in MyFilterBuilder can return a user interface for the filter. One can find existing filters user interface code in the FiltersPluginUI module. The panel is needed to configure a Filter instance, already created. That's why the getPanel() method gives the Filter. Cast this filter to MyFilter, it cannot be anything else and configure settings. When settings are modified, use properties to set the new value. Below is an example of a simple panel, with a checkbox to set the useRegex property which we defined earlier.

public class MyFilterPanel extends javax.swing.JPanel implements ItemListener {

    private MyFilter filter;
    private javax.swing.JCheckBox regexCheckbox;

    public MyFilterPanel(MyFilter filter) {
        this.filter = filter;

        regexCheckbox = new javax.swing.JCheckBox("Use Regex");


    public void itemStateChanged(ItemEvent e) {
        FilterProperty useRegex = filter.getProperties()[0];

It is important to set the value to the FilterProperty, not to MyFilter directly.


Create a CategoryBuilder

Category builders are typically designed to build a filter that work on Attributes. For example, the AttributeRangeFilter works with all attribute columns. That means a FilterBuilder has to be created for each column, under a category (e.g. a folder). The following example shows how several AttributeRangeFilterBuilder (which implements FilterBuilder) are created, one per attribute column. The AttributeUtils helps to know if a column is a numerical one.

@ServiceProvider(service = CategoryBuilder.class)
public class AttributeRangeBuilder implements CategoryBuilder {

    public Category getCategory() {
        return new Category("Range", null, FilterLibrary.ATTRIBUTES);    //The 'Range' folder will be in the 'Attributes' folder

    public FilterBuilder[] getBuilders() {
        List<FilterBuilder> builders = new ArrayList<FilterBuilder>();
        AttributeModel am = Lookup.getDefault().lookup(AttributeController.class).getModel();
        for (AttributeColumn c : am.getNodeTable().getColumns()) {
            if (AttributeUtils.getDefault().isNumberColumn(c) || AttributeUtils.getDefault().isDynamicNumberColumn(c)) {
                AttributeRangeFilterBuilder b = new AttributeRangeFilterBuilder(c);
        for (AttributeColumn c : am.getEdgeTable().getColumns()) {
            if (AttributeUtils.getDefault().isNumberColumn(c) || AttributeUtils.getDefault().isDynamicNumberColumn(c)) {
                AttributeRangeFilterBuilder b = new AttributeRangeFilterBuilder(c);
        return builders.toArray(new FilterBuilder[0]);

Provide an icon

Simply return an icon in the FilterBuilder implementation.

Custom Properties

Properties natively supports all Java types, as well as Range and AttributeColumn. For other types you may have to register a property editor to guarantee serialization to work. Serialization is used to write and read properties values, when a Gephi project is saved. Implement a property editor class and register it:

  • Create a new class that extends java.beans.PropertyEditorSupport and fill getAstext() and setAsText() methods.
  • Register this editor by doing java.beans.PropertyEditorManager.registerEditor() method.