Bringing Matplotlib to the Browser

Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions

General

  • Does mpld3 work for large datasets?

    Short answer: not really. Mpld3, like matplolib itself, is designed for small to medium-scale visualizations, and this is unlikely to change. The reason is that mpld3 is built upon the foundation of HTML’s SVG, which is not particularly well-suited for large datasets. Plots with more than a few thousand elements will have noticeably slow response for interactive features.

    Big data visualization requires specialized tools which do careful automatic data summarization and/or take direct advantage of your system’s GPU. There are a couple other Python projects that are making great headway in this area:

    • Bokeh is a project which targets browser-based graphics, and recent releases are beginning to do big data in the browser the right way.
    • VisPy is another effort to provide easy visualization of large datasets. It is based on OpenGL, with plans to add a WebGL backend.
  • What matplotlib features are not supported?

    matplotlib is a complicated system, and there are lots of small corner cases that are difficult to render correctly in d3. mpld3 correctly handles a large majority of matplotlib plots, but some pieces remain unsupported either because they have not yet been implemented, or because there are fundamental difficulties preventing their inclusion.

    We keep a list of unsupported features at https://github.com/jakevdp/mpld3/wiki#mpld3-missing-features. If you find something missing that’s not on that list, please feel free to add it.

  • Can I use mpld3 without matplotlib?

    Yes! The client-side interface of mpld3 is a pure JavaScript library, which builds figures based on a well-defined JSON specification. This specification was designed with matplotlib in mind, but there’s nothing stopping you from generating the JSON from another source, or even editing it by hand. Unfortunately, at the moment, this JSON spec is not well-documented, but we hope to address that in the future.

  • Can mpld3 render to HTML5 canvas rather than SVG?

    At the moment, mpld3 only renders to SVG via D3, not to canvas. However, the mpld3 JSON output is not specific to the display protocol, so it would be possible to create a canvas backend on top of the mpld3 architecture.

    If you’re interested in a Python to canvas visualization package, you might check out the Bokeh project.

IPython Notebook

  • Why does IPython notebook freeze when I run an mpld3 example?

    Short answer: This most often happens when someone uses mpld3.show() within the IPython notebook. Instead, you should use mpld3.display() or mpld3.enable_notebook(). See the Quick Start Guide for a description of the various mpld3 functions.

    Long answer: like matplotlib’s plt.show() function, mpld3.show() does not play well with the IPython notebook. mpld3.show() generates an HTML representation of a figure, then launches a local web server and attempts to open a browser page to display it. This behavior is nice when running a stand-alone script, but is generally not what you want within the IPython notebook, which is already in a browser window! Try mpld3.display() or mpld3.enable_notebook() instead; these are specifically designed for embedding figures within the IPython notebook.

    If you accidentally use mpld3.show() within the notebook, you will have to interrupt the kernel (Kernel → Interrupt) to be able to continue.

JavaScript

  • Where is the mpld3 JavaScript library located?

    There is a local copy of the mpld3 library bundled with the package, which you can find in mpld3/js/mpld3.v0.2.js where v0.2 indicates the library version, and matches the version of the mpld3 Python package. This local copy is used with the command mpld3.show, so that no internet connection is needed. Online copies of the library can be found at https://mpld3.github.io/js/mpld3.v0.2.js. This is automatically used within the IPython notebook, and commands like mpld3.save_html(), mpld3.fig_to_html(), etc.

  • How can I use mpld3 without an internet connection?

    To use mpld3 without an internet connection, you need to use a local version of the mpld3 and d3 libraries. Outside the IPython notebook, you can use the mpld3.show() function, which automatically uses local copies of the JavaScript libraries.

    Inside the IPython notebook, both the mpld3.enable_notebook() and mpld3.display() functions take a boolean keyword local. Setting this to True will copy the mpld3 and d3 JavaScript libraries to the notebook directory, and will use the appropriate path within IPython (/files/*.js) to load the libraries. Be aware, though, that currently local=True will fail for some use-cases of the notebook. See the documentation of the above functions for details.

Troubleshooting

  • Why is the notebook behavior breaking when I update mpld3?

    Short answer: you must make sure that your notebook is pointing to the correct JavaScript libraries. The best way to do this is to follow the following steps:

    1. Clear all the output in the notebook (This can be done via the toolbar, with Cell → All Output → Clear)
    2. Save your notebook
    3. Close the notebook window
    4. Re-open the notebook window

    Long answer: mpld3 is a bit more complicated than the average Python package, especially when it is used in the IPython notebook. You must keep in mind that there are two distinct components which interact: the Python library, and the JavaScript library.

    If you have an IPython notebook that uses mpld3 and you update the library, you must make sure that your notebook is using both the updated Python package and the updated JavaScript package. Using the updated Python package can be as simple as restarting the kernel and running the notebook again. However, because the JavaScript library is referenced in the output cells, loaded on page load, and cached by the browser, it is very easy to find yourself using old versions of the JavaScript library even if you’re using the newer version of the Python library.

    If you have any strange notebook issues after updating mpld3, then it is best to wipe the output, restart the browser, and start again from a clean slate. This can be done using the steps outlined above.

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