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d3 process map

This is a PHP web application that displays a directed acyclic graph in a modern web browser using d3.js. It is designed for illustrating the relationships between objects in a process.


Data manipulation and reporting process:

Default dataset

Co-occurrences of Les Miserables characters:

Les Mis dataset


  • Hover over a node to see that object's relationships. (Unrelated objects and links will be made partially transparent.)
  • Click on a node to show the documentation for that object.
  • Click the "View list" button to view the documentation for all objects (good for printing).

Data format

The application can display one or more datasets located in the data/ folder. Each dataset gets its own folder. There are two datasets bundled with the application (one for each of the examples above). Switch between datasets by appending ?dataset=folder-name to the URL. If no dataset name is given, the dataset in the default folder will be displayed.

Each dataset should contain the following files:

  • objects.json
  • config.json
  • *.mkdn (one per object)


An array of data objects to be displayed as graph nodes, each with the following properties:

  • name: The name of this object
  • type: The type of this object (e.g. view, table, etc.)
  • depends: An array of object names that this object depends on.
  • group (optional): This could be thought of as a "subtype".


A JSON object which contains the following fields:

  • title: The page title.
  • graph: The parameters for the graph and the d3.js force layout.
    • linkDistance: The link distance for the d3.js force layout.
    • charge: The charge for the d3.js force layout.
    • height: The height of the graph, in pixels. (The width of the graph is determined by the width of the browser window when the page is loaded.)
    • numColors: The number of colors to display (between 3 and 12).
    • labelPadding: The padding inside the node rectangles, in pixels.
    • labelMargin: The margin outside the node rectangles, in pixels.
  • types: Descriptions of the object types displayed in this graph, each with a long and a short field that describe the object type for documentation and for the graph legend, respectively.
  • constraints: An array of objects that describe how to position the nodes. Each constraint should have a type field whose value should be either 'position' or 'linkStrength', and a has field that specifies the conditions an object must meet for the constraints to be applied.
    • Position constraints: These constraints should have the properties weight, x (optional) and y (optional). On each iteration of the force layout, node positions will be "nudged" towards the x and/or y values given, with a force proportional to the weight given.
    • Link strength constraints: These constraints should have the property strength, which is a multiplier on the link strength of the links to and from the objects that the constraint applies to. This can be used to relax the position of certain nodes.


Each object can have a Markdown file associated with it for additional documentation. The syntax is standard Markdown with one addition: object names can be enclosed in {{brackets}} to insert a link to that object.

If an object's name contains a slash (/), replace it with an underscore (_) in the documentation filename.

Other details

The code uses a d3.js force layout to compute object positions, with collision detection to prevent nodes from overlapping each other.

Nodes are colored by the ColorBrewer Set3 scheme, with colors assigned by the combination of the object's type and group.

To ensure that the arrows on the ends of the links remain visible, the links only extend to the outer edge of the target object's node.

Browser support

Works in recent versions of Chrome and Firefox. Other browsers have not been tested, but Internet Explorer doesn't stand a chance until at least version 9.


A graph of how University of Texas Computer Science students interact with each other on Facebook.




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