Draggable circular packing in d3.js

This post describes how to build a draggable circular packing with d3.js. It is possible to drag a circle on the chart, with position of every other circles updating automatically. See more circular packing example in the dedicated section.

Circular packing section


  • This post follows the most basic circular packing, have a look to it first.

  • It just shows how to add a dragging features to the nodes.

  • Each time you use your mouse to drag one of the circle, a set of functions are triggered to run the simulation algorithm and position the circles at a position respecting the force constraints.
<!DOCTYPE html>
<meta charset="utf-8">

<!-- Load d3.js -->
<script src="https://d3js.org/d3.v4.js"></script>

<!-- Create a div where the graph will take place -->
<div id="my_dataviz"></div>


// set the dimensions and margins of the graph
var width = 450
var height = 450

// append the svg object to the body of the page
var svg = d3.select("#my_dataviz")
    .attr("width", 450)
    .attr("height", 450)

// create dummy data -> just one element per circle
var data = [{ "name": "A" }, { "name": "B" }, { "name": "C" }, { "name": "D" }, { "name": "E" }, { "name": "F" }, { "name": "G" }, { "name": "H" }]

// Initialize the circle: all located at the center of the svg area
var node = svg.append("g")
    .attr("r", 25)
    .attr("cx", width / 2)
    .attr("cy", height / 2)
    .style("fill", "#19d3a2")
    .style("fill-opacity", 0.3)
    .attr("stroke", "#b3a2c8")
    .style("stroke-width", 4)
    .call(d3.drag() // call specific function when circle is dragged
         .on("start", dragstarted)
         .on("drag", dragged)
         .on("end", dragended));

// Features of the forces applied to the nodes:
var simulation = d3.forceSimulation()
    .force("center", d3.forceCenter().x(width / 2).y(height / 2)) // Attraction to the center of the svg area
    .force("charge", d3.forceManyBody().strength(1)) // Nodes are attracted one each other of value is > 0
    .force("collide", d3.forceCollide().strength(.1).radius(30).iterations(1)) // Force that avoids circle overlapping

// Apply these forces to the nodes and update their positions.
// Once the force algorithm is happy with positions ('alpha' value is low enough), simulations will stop.
    .on("tick", function(d){
          .attr("cx", function(d){ return d.x; })
          .attr("cy", function(d){ return d.y; })

// What happens when a circle is dragged?
function dragstarted(d) {
  if (!d3.event.active) simulation.alphaTarget(.03).restart();
  d.fx = d.x;
  d.fy = d.y;
function dragged(d) {
  d.fx = d3.event.x;
  d.fy = d3.event.y;
function dragended(d) {
  if (!d3.event.active) simulation.alphaTarget(.03);
  d.fx = null;
  d.fy = null;


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