NPR Visuals' rig for deploying daily graphics projects in responsive iframes.
JavaScript Python HTML CSS Shell


What is this?

dailygraphics is a framework for creating and deploying responsive graphics suitable for publishing inside a CMS with pym.js.

How This Works

In addition to big, long-term projects, the NPR Visuals team also produces short-turnaround charts and tables for daily stories. Our dailygraphics rig offers a workflow and some automated machinery for creating, deploying and embedding these mini-projects, including:

  • Version control (with GitHub)
  • One command to deploy to Amazon S3
  • A mini-CMS for each project (with Google Spreadsheets)
  • Management of binary assets (like photos or audio files) outside of GitHub

Full Blog Post: Creating And Deploying Small-Scale Projects

Related Blog Posts

Things We've Built Using Dailygraphics

This codebase is licensed under the MIT open source license. See the LICENSE file for the complete license.

Please note: logos, fonts and other media referenced via url from this template are not covered by this license. Do not republish NPR media assets without written permission. Open source libraries in this repository are redistributed for convenience and are each governed by their own license.

Also note: Though open source, this project is not intended to be a generic solution. We strongly encourage those who love dailygraphics to use it as a basis for their own project template. We have no plans to remove NPR-specific code from this project.


The following things are assumed to be true in this documentation.

  • You are running OSX.
  • You are using Python 2.7. (Probably the version that came OSX.)
  • You have virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper installed and working.
  • You have your Amazon Web Services credentials stored as environment variables locally.

For more details on the technology stack used with this project, see our development environment blog post.

What's In Here?

The project contains the following folders and important files:

  • etc -- Miscellanous Python libraries.
  • fabfile -- Fabric commands for automating setup and deployment.
  • graphic_templates -- Folder templates for different graphic types.
  • templates -- HTML (Jinja2) templates, to be compiled locally.
  • -- A Flask app for rendering the project locally.
  • -- Global project configuration for scripts, deployment, etc.
  • -- Flask views for rendering graphics.
  • -- Flask views for rendering graphics templates.
  • -- Flask views for configuring OAuth (for Google Spreadsheets).
  • package.json -- Node requirements.
  • -- Code supporting template rendering.
  • requirements.txt -- Python requirements.

Bootstrap The Project

Node.js is required for the static asset pipeline. If you don't already have it, get it like this (requires brew):

brew install node

Then set up the project like this:

git clone
cd dailygraphics
mkvirtualenv --no-site-packages dailygraphics
pip install -r requirements.txt
npm install

You'll now need to create a folder to hold the graphics created and deployed by this rig. This is configured in app_config.GRAPHICS_PATH and defaults to ../graphics.

NPR users: Graphics are stored in a separate, private repository, and app_config.GRAPHICS_PATH points to that folder. You will need to separately git clone that repository.

All other users: You can choose to keep your work in a separate version-controlled repository, as we do, or you can change the app_config.GRAPHICS_PATH to point to a folder inside of dailygraphics.

Using A Stable Version

The master branch of project is in active development by NPR at all times. If you would like to use a [more] stable version, we suggest checking out a tagged version (0.1, etc.). We will periodically tag releases, which will be synchronized to the CHANGELOG so you will know exactly what improvements you will get if you migrate to a new tagged version.

To see available tagged versions, run:

git tag -l

To use a tagged version run, for example:

git checkout 0.1.0

To upgrade to a newer tagged version just check it out:

git checkout 0.2.0

When upgrading from one tagged version to another, please be sure to update your Python requirements:

pip install -Ur requirements.txt


The dailygraphics project configuration defaults are specific to NPR. If you want to use it in your newsroom you should fork this repository and update with your own configuration.

At a minimum you will want to change REPOSITORY_URL, PRODUCTION_S3_BUCKETS, STAGING_S3_BUCKETS and ASSETS_S3_BUCKET. (ASSETS_S3_BUCKET must be different from the other buckets.)

Google OAuth

The default configuration assumes that you want to use NPR's copytext rig to pull content from a Google Spreadsheet. If you do not want to use Google Spreadsheets at all, delete all instances of from the template folders inside graphic_templates. You can skip the OAuth steps below.

As of April 2015, we've changed our approach to authenticating with Google to sync Google Spreadsheet data. Now, dailygraphics relies on OAuth authentication. This approach is more secure (username and password are no longer stored in environment variables) and works for accounts with two-factor authentication enabled.

Following the steps in this blog post, you will need to:

  • Set up a Google API application for your organization
  • Save the client environment variables in your .bash_profile
  • Authenticate with Google.

You should only need to do this once.

NPR users: The environment variables you need have already been generated, so you can skip the first step. Contact Alyson, David or Chris for more information.

Run The Project

A Flask app is used to run the project locally. It will automatically recompile templates on-demand.

workon dailygraphics
fab app

Visit localhost:8000 for a list of graphics in the repo. Click on the graphic you are working on to view it. Alternately, visit http://localhost:8000/graphics/$SLUG in your browser to view the specific graphic you are working on.

Terminal shortcut

Do you use iTerm2? Here's a sample AppleScript to automatically launch a three-paned terminal window (one for the dailygraphics machine, one for the local webserver, and another for the separate graphics repo).

June 3rd, 2016: If you are using iTerm v3 then use this updated AppleScript. iTerm has made a non-backwards compatible change to their Applescript syntax

You can save this locally, customize it to match your own configuration and add an alias for it to your .bash_profile.

alias dailygraphics="osascript ~/PATH-TO-FILE/iterm_dailygraphics.scpt"


Do you get an error that looks like this when you run the webserver?

Fatal error: local() encountered an error (return code 1) while executing 'gunicorn -b --debug --reload app:wsgi_app'


It's possible that the webserver is already running silently in the background. Here's how to fix it.

Add A New Graphic

dailygraphics includes starter code for a few different types of graphics (and we're slowly adding more as we go). Running any of these commands will create the folder $SLUG within your app_config.GRAPHICS_PATH folder. Within the new folder will be a child_template.html file and some boilerplate javascript files. child_template.html is a Jinja template that will be rendered with a context containing the contents of, and the COPY document for that graphic. It also will clone a new Google Spreadsheet for you to use for text and data.

Build out your graphic in child_template.html, and put your javascript in js/graphic.js.

Image Type Fab command
Basic graphic Very basic new graphic fab add_graphic:$SLUG
Bar chart Bar chart fab add_bar_chart:$SLUG
Grouped bar chart Grouped bar chart fab add_grouped_bar_chart:$SLUG
Stacked bar chart Stacked bar chart fab add_stacked_bar_chart:$SLUG
Column chart Column chart fab add_column_chart:$SLUG
Stacked column chart Stacked column chart fab add_stacked_column_chart:$SLUG
Stacked grouped column chart Stacked grouped column chart fab add_stacked_grouped_column_chart:$SLUG
Block histogram Block histogram fab add_block_histogram:$SLUG
Line chart Line chart fab add_line_chart:$SLUG
Slopegraph Slopegraph fab add_slopegraph:$SLUG
Dot chart Dot chart fab add_dot_chart:$SLUG
Locator map Locator map fab add_map:$SLUG
State grid map State grid map fab add_state_grid_map:$SLUG
Table Responsive HTML table fab add_table:$SLUG
Issue Matrix A table comparing a list of candidates' positions on various issues fab add_issue_matrix:$SLUG
Animated photo Animated photo (GIF alternative) fab add_animated_photo:$SLUG

Note: $SLUG should be URL-safe, e.g., lowercase and with dashes instead of spaces and no special characters.

Here are some examples:

  • Good: my-project-name
    Bad: My-Project-NAME
  • Good: my-project-name
    Bad: my project name
  • Good: my-wonderful-project
    Bad: my wonderful project!

NPR users: For added clarity, append the current date or known pubdate to your slug name, YYYYMMDD-style. For example: my-project-name-20150415

When you create a new project, dailygraphics will check against your local projects and the projects published to production to make sure that the $SLUG you've chosen does not already exist.

Clone Old Graphic

Sometimes we just want to reuse an old graphic but we want to profit from the dailygraphics rig to create the associated spreadsheet just like it would do with a new graphic from its template.

We have created a Fabric task for this precise purpose it will search for a given slug in our graphics and graphics-archive repositories and clone it creating a new ready-to-work-on graphic.

fab clone_graphic:$OLD_SLUG,$NEW_SLUG

It requires one parameter $OLD_SLUG: the graphic slug we are trying to clone. The second parameter is optional, if given, it will be used to generate the new graphic slug, if it is not provided the new graphic slug will be derived from the $OLD_SLUG replacing the date at the end of the slug with the current date or appending the current date at the end, in case a date was not found at the end of $OLD_SLUG

Examples if today was 20160705:

fab clone_graphic:my-project-name-20150415,my-new-project-20160706
// Results in my-new-project-20160706
fab clone_graphic:my-project-name
// Results in my-project-name-20160705
fab clone_graphic:my-project-name-20150415
// Results in my-project-name-20160705
fab clone_graphic:my-wrong-project-name-20150415
// Results in an error if not found in graphics or graphics-archive repos

Deploy To S3

When it's time to publish your graphic, it's better to deploy a specific graphic rather than the entire repo, to minimize the risk of publishing edits that aren't yet ready to go live.

To deploy a specific graphic:

fab staging deploy:$SLUG
fab production deploy:$SLUG

You can deploy multiple graphics with a single command by passing the slugs as a comma-separated list (no spaces). To deploy multiple graphics at once:

fab staging deploy:$SLUG1,$SLUG2
fab production deploy:$SLUG1,$SLUG2


Deploy the project to production. Visit$SLUG, and on that page should be an iframe with your graphic inside of it, and an embed code below the graphic. Paste the embed code into your page. (Some CMSes treat code snippets like this as a separate "HTML asset.")

Connecting To A Google Spreadsheet

This section describes usage of NPR's copytext rig for syncing text from a Google Spreadsheet.

When you create a new graphic, dailygraphics will by default clone our dailygraphics copy spreadsheet template. To use a different spreadsheet (either in your graphics templates or in a particular project), update the file in your graphic's folder with the ID of your spreadsheet:


Run this command to pull down the latest copy of the spreadsheet:

fab update_copy:$SLUG

Alternately, while you are developing your graphic locally, you can append ?refresh=1 to your graphic's localhost URL to refresh the spreadsheet every time you refresh the page. (It can be a little slow, though, so it might be most efficient to do this only when you’re actively working on the spreadsheet.)

To pull down all spreadsheets in the dailygraphics repository, run:

fab update_copy

The deploy process will always pull down the latest spreadsheet and render the contents to your page.

Note: Your published graphic will not automatically update every time your spreadsheet updates. It will only update when you deploy (or redeploy) it. For projects that seldom change, this is usually fine. Consider another solution if you need dynamic updates.

If you do not want want to use the copytext spreadsheet for a given project, you can either set COPY_GOOGLE_DOC_KEY to None or delete the file entirely.

Open Linked Google Spreadsheet

Want to edit/view a graphic's linked google spreadsheet, we got you covered.

We have created a simple Fabric task open_spreadsheet that requires a graphic slug. It will try to find and open the graphic's linked google spreadsheet on your default browser. In order to find the graphic it will first try on the graphics path defined in app_config.GRAPHICS_PATH and then on the graphics-archive path defined in app_config.ARCHIVE_GRAPHICS_PATH

fab open_spreadsheet:$SLUG

Using Jinja Filter Functions

A library of Jinja filter functions for common tasks (ordinal, AP date format, etc.) is included with each graphic.

If your graphic requires complex number formatting or other nuanced presentation, you may need to write a custom filter function. This is supported through each project's file. To add a custom filter function, simply define it and add it to the list called JINJA_FILTER_FUNCTIONS, like so:

def percent(value):
    return unicode(float(value * 100)) + '%'

    JINJA_FILTER_FUNCTIONS = base_filters.FILTERS + [percent]

Then you will be able to use it in your template like this:

<td>{{ row.value|percent }}</td>

See the table graphic template for a more complete example.

Storing Media Assets

(Note: this section describes usage of NPR's assets rig. This is optional and you don't need to use it in order to use dailygraphics.)

Large media assets (images, videos, audio) are synced with an Amazon S3 bucket configured in app_config.ASSETS_S3_BUCKET in a folder with the name of the project. This allows everyone who works on the project to access these assets without storing them in the graphics repository, giving us faster clone times and the ability to open source our work.

When you use one of the supported fab commands to create a new graphic (e.g., fab add_graphic:$SLUG), your graphic folder will include an assets folder. Files stored here will not go up to GitHub, but will sync with S3.

Syncing these assets requires running a couple different commands at the right times. When you create new assets or make changes to current assets that need to get uploaded to the server, run fab assets.sync:$SLUG. This will do a few things:

  • If there is an asset on S3 that does not exist on your local filesystem it will be downloaded.
  • If there is an asset on that exists on your local filesystem but not on S3, you will be prompted to either upload (type "u") OR delete (type "d") your local copy.
  • You can also upload all local files (type "la") or delete all local files (type "da"). Type "c" to cancel if you aren't sure what to do.
  • If both you and the server have an asset and they are the same, it will be skipped.
  • If both you and the server have an asset and they are different, you will be prompted to take either the remote version (type "r") or the local version (type "l").
  • You can also take all remote versions (type "ra") or all local versions (type "la"). Type "c" to cancel if you aren't sure what to do.

Unfortunately, there is no automatic way to know when a file has been intentionally deleted from the server or your local directory. When you want to simultaneously remove a file from the server and your local environment (i.e. it is not needed in the project any longer), run fab assets.rm:"$SLUG/assets/file_name_here.jpg"

Creating Locator Maps

The new locator map template is designed to simplify creating basic locator maps with D3, TopoJSON and Natural Earth data. It will not create production-ready maps, but it will quickly generate a code-based starting point for a map project.

To generate the necessary TopoJSON file, you will need to install the mapturner library. Mapturner also requires ogr2ogr/GDAL and topojson. See the mapturner docs for set-up information.

(Note: The code in our example is tailored for a map centered on Nepal. You'll want to edit the configuration, JavaScript and LESS accordingly.)

To get started, create a new graphic using that template:

fab add_map:$slug

Inside the project folder, edit the configuration file geodata.yaml to specify the particular layers and data columns you want. Options included:

  • bbox: The bounding box for your map. To get coordinates (x1 y1 x2 y2, space-delimited) appropriate to your project, go to a site like Bounding Box, draw a box around the area you want (with a good amount of margin), and copy the coordinates of that box. (If you're using Bounding Box, choose the "CSV" coordinate output and replace the commas with spaces.)
  • Default layers: countries, cities (for the primary/featured country), neighbors (for neighboring countries), lakes and rivers. The default layers point to Natural Earth shapefiles. mapturner also supports geoJSON and CSVs with latitude and longitude columns.
  • For each shapefile layer, you can specify options to pass to the TopoJSON converter, including:
    • id-property: a column value you want to use as an identifier in the exported TopoJSON file
    • properties: columns you want TopoJSON to preserve in the exported file (by default, it strips out most non-geo data)
    • where: a query to pass in to filter the data returned (for example: where: adm0name != 'Nepal' AND scalerank <= 2)

(See the mapturner docs for more details.)

In your terminal, in the dailygraphics virtualenv, navigate to your project folder. Run mapturner to process your map's geodata:

mapturner geodata.yaml data/geodata.json

In your project js/graphic.js folder, change the PRIMARY_COUNTRY variable at the top from Nepal to the name of your featured country. You will also want to adjust the MAP_DEFAULT_SCALE and MAP_DEFAULT_HEIGHT variables so that your featured country fits onscreen.

Creating Animated Photos

The animated photo template uses the canvid JavaScript library as an alternative to GIFs. With this solution, you composite a "filmstrip" of all the frames in your animation, and canvid plays them back in sequence on a canvas element. See an example on

Benefits of this approach:

  • You can use JPGs rather than GIFs, allowing you to have better image quality and smaller file sizes.
  • You can sub out different-sized images depending on the browser dimensions.
  • You can control playback -- play, pause, reverse, etc.
  • It will autoplay on iOS (unlike a video).

Since it's code-based, it's not quite as portable as a GIF. (So our script that creates the filmstrips also generates a GIF version for social media.) But in the context of a web page that you otherwise control, the benefits are pretty great. (A similar but more code-intensive approach: Filmstrip animations with CSS/JS.)

This template relies on ImageMagick's montage function to create the filmstrip image and animated GIF. If you don't have it, install it with:

brew install imagemagick

To create a new animated photo, run:

fab add_animated_photo:$slug

Add the frames for your animation to img/frames/ (in your project folder). (An image sequence from NASA is in there as an example. You can delete those.) All frames must be the same size.

Then, on the command line, navigate to your project folder and run the image processing script to create filmstrips at three different sizes.


In js/graphic.js, you will need to edit two lines of code.

First, update the number of frames, columns and speed of your animation.

videos: {
    // frames = # of stills
    // cols = # of stills in a row in the filmstrip. in this case,
    //        same as frames.
    // fps = frames per second (animation speed). integers only
    photo: { src: sprite, frames: 8, cols: 8, fps: 2 }

Second, adjust the image aspect ratio (so it scales correctly in the browser). If you do not know the exact aspect ratio (like 16:9, etc.), enter the height and width (in that order) of one of your frames.

// multiply by height, width of original image
height: Math.floor(containerWidth * 1614/1500),

Creating An ai2html Graphic

The ai2html template uses an open-source script called ai2html to convert Illustrator graphics to HTML and CSS and display them in our responsive dailygraphics template.

To use this template, you'll need to install ai2html as an Illustrator script. Copy the latest version of the script here into the Illustrator folder where scripts are located. For example, on Mac OS X running Adobe Illustrator CC 2015, the path would be: /Applications/Adobe Illustrator CC 2015/Presets.localized/en_US/Scripts/ai2html.jsx

You only need to install the script once on your machine. To check whether you have it installed, open Adobe Illustrator and look for the "ai2html" command in File >> Scripts.

To create a new ai2html graphic, run:

fab add_ai2html_graphic:$slug

The basic project includes an Illustrator file in assets, which you'll use to create your graphic. The three artboards in the file are the three breakpoints for your graphic, allowing you to create custom versions for mobile, tablet and desktop-sized screens. (If you want to change the width of these artboards, you'll need to adjust the media queries in css/graphic.less.)

You can only use fonts that are supported on our website, so make sure you are using the correct typeface and weight. Here's a list of supported fonts. (For users outside of NPR, refer to the ai2html docs to learn how to customize your fonts.)

Create your graphic within Illustrator, referring to the ai2html documentation for help. When you're ready to export, run File >> Scripts >> ai2html. The resulting graphic will appear within the base template when you load your graphic!

Working With Carebot

This section is relevant to NPR users of the dailygraphics rig.

Carebot is a grant-funded project to measure and report more meaningful analytics around stories and story elements (like graphics). This branch of dailygraphics includes test code that the Carebot team has developed to measure 1) how long a dailygraphics embedded project is visible onscreen and 2) how far users have scrolled down the length of a story. Carebot is still a work in progress, and the code we've implemented so far is likely to change.

We have created a CAREBOT_ENABLED configuration option on dailygraphics It allows you to switch Carebot on or off on your graphics. Since carebot-tracker is being served directly by NPR from a CDN you do not need to add any new javascript files to this repo.

CAREBOT_ENABLED is set to True by default on, change it to False on your fork to disable Carebot.

If CAREBOT_ENABLED is set to True, new graphics created using the usual fab add[type of graphic]:$slug process will have the latest Carebot code. However, older graphics may need to be retrofitted as needed before being published.

How To Add/Update Carebot Code In An Existing Graphic

Copy the pymChild analytics code from the onWindowLoaded function of dailygraphics/graphic_templates/graphic/js/graphic.js to the same spot in the js/graphic.js file for your project.

pymChild.onMessage('on-screen', function(bucket) {
    ANALYTICS.trackEvent('on-screen', bucket);
pymChild.onMessage('scroll-depth', function(data) {
    ANALYTICS.trackEvent('scroll-depth', data.percent, data.seconds);

These are the two custom messages that carebot-tracker will fire on the parent page. If CAREBOT_ENABLED is False this code on your graphic will not be executed.

Adding a new graphic template

To create and use a new graphic template, you will need to follow several steps:

First, choose a suitable existing template and copy its folder. For example:

cd graphic_templates
cp -r line_chart scatterplot

Second, open the COPY Google Spreadsheet for the pre-existing graphic template ("line_chart" in the example above). Make a copy of this document and adjust the headline in the copy to match the new chart type. Be sure to make this new spreadsheet public. (Share > Get Shareable Link > Can View). Copy the key for the new spreadsheet from the URL and paste it into the for your new template.

Third, modify the new template to render your new chart type. Remove any dependencies you don't need for this graphic type. You can test your graphic template using the local server, for instance: http://localhost:8000/templates/scatterplot/?refresh=1

Before you can use your new template you'll also need to add a fab command. In fabfile/ scroll down to the tasks for creating graphics and add a task for your new template, like this:

def add_scatterplot(slug):
    Create a scatterplot.
    _add_graphic(slug, 'scatterplot')

Finally, commit your new graphic template and your fabfile changes. Your new graphic template is now ready to use.

Keeping the graphics directory clean

If you are working with multiple users who are creating/deleting graphics, you may find that you end up with folders for deleted graphics containing only their copytext and other, uncommitted files. If this is bothering you, run:

git clean -dn

This will list folders with no committed files. To permenantly delete those folders, run:

git clean -df