Aaron Sumner


Getting Started with D3: A book report

I recently inherited some code at work that makes good use of the D3 visualization library for Javascript. I'm admittedly not the biggest Javascript fan, but I also recognize that it's now the de facto language of the web. And D3 is the library for people who want to do heavy-duty visualizations–in other words, not just bar and pie charts.

Getting Started with D3 by Mike Dewar is a short but sweet introduction to D3. In about 90 pages, you'll have a solid understanding of how to use D3 to create pretty visuals of your data. As it turns out, it's not as difficult as I was fretting–in fact, I've already picked up some ideas on how to make the code I inherited work a bit better.

My hands-down favorite thing about this book is its use of actual data to create visualizations of real-world situations–in this case, data provided by New York City's public transit system. I also like that the book doesn't require its readers to be Javascript experts–but then, that might be a selling point of D3, too. If you understand the basics of jQuery, you can pick up D3's style of chaining methods together to build rich data visualizations. Dewar clearly outlines each step of the process to show how any given visualization is built from a series of D3-related functions. That said, you may want to find some supplemental information on SVG to get the most out of D3–you can create some visuals using just Javascript and CSS, but SVG awareness will help your visualizations really shine.

All in all, I strongly recommend Getting Started with D3 for anyone looking to create high-quality data visualizations for the modern web. It's a quick read that will bring you up to speed quickly on a well-done Javascript library with lots of potential.

Note: I wrote this review for O'Reilly's Blogger Review Program. It's a pretty nice deal: Get a free e-book to read, share a review in your blog, get another free book to read. Sign up for yourself to take advantage of this deal, and watch for more book reports in my blog.

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