RGraph is a JavaScript charts library based on HTML5 SVG and canvas. RGraph is mature (over 15 years old) and has a wealth of features making it an ideal choice to show charts on your website.

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Get the latest version of RGraph (version 6.17) from the download page. There's also older versions available, minified files and links to cdnjs.com hosted libraries.

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RGraph can be used for free under the GPL or if that doesn't suit your situation there's an inexpensive (£129) commercial license available.

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HOWTO: Make a scrolling Line chart


Creating a scrolling Line chart is not an entirely simple affair if you're new to RGraph but this explanation should help to make everything clearer. There's some example code shown and documented below. Browser timings are not perfect so the chart may not show exactly the amount of points that you want - an important thing to take into consideration is the amount of time required to draw the chart - which may be a few milliseconds.

View example on CodePen
    // A global used by the button that changes the color
    state = {};
    window.onload = (function ()
        // Refresh rate (in milliseconds - remember that there's 1000ms per second)
        var delay = 40;
        // Number of points shown on the chart
        var points = 1200;
        // Create the array with all the values set to null
        for (var data=[],i=0; i<points; ++i) {
            data[i] = null;

        // Maximum Y value on the chart
        var max = 100;
        // Minimum Y value on the chart
        var min = 0;
        // Halfway between the minimum and maximum
        var num = (( (max - min) / 2) + min);

        // Generate the labels that are across the X-axis
        var labels = ['60s', '55s','50s', '45s','40s','35s','30s','25s','20s','15s','10s','5s','0s'];
        // The increase/decrease of each iteration
        var delta = 2;

        // Create the chart. The data used is the empty array from
        // above - so nothing gets drawn on the chart yet.
        var obj = new RGraph.Line({
            id: 'cvs',
            data: data,
            options: {
                yaxisScaleMax: max,
                tickmarksStyle: null,
                linewidth: 1,
                shadow: null,
                backgroundGridVlines: false,
                backgroundGridBorder: false,
                backgroundGridColor: '#eee',
                xaxisTickmarksCount: 5,
                axesColor: '#666',
                textColor: '#666',
                xaxisLabels: labels,
                xaxis: false,
                colors: ['#a00'],
                filled: true,
                filledColors: 'Gradient(white:red)',
                marginLeft: 35,
                textSize: 14
        state.object = obj;

        // This is the main draw function that is called multiple
        // times per second to update the chart with new data. It:
        // 1. Clears the canvas so that it's ready to be drawn on again
        // 2. Shifts a piece of data off of the rear of the Line chart internal data
        //    variable
        // 3. Pushes  a new piece of data onto the end of the same array
        // 4. Draws the chart again
        function draw()
            // Clear (NOT reset) the canvas

            // Generate a random number between -5 and 5 and add it to the num
            // variable. Adding a small change instead of generating a whole new
            // number results in a gentler change.
            num += RGraph.random(-1 * delta, delta);

            // Limit the num variable to min - max
            num = Math.max(min, num);
            num = Math.min(max, num);

            // Remove a number from the front of the data array

            // Add the new number onto the end of the data array
            // Draw the chart
            // Call this function again after the delay (using setTimeout NOT setInterval)
            setTimeout(draw, delay);


Fetching new data using AJAX

Fetching new data by ajax is dependent on network speed and the responsiveness of the computer providing the data - amongst other things. So as a result of this if you go down the route of an updating chart that fetches new data via ajax you will need to reduce the frequency of updates (eg 1 per second).

Taking this into consideration though - it is feasible to make a queue-like system, where the ajax requests happen independently of the chart update and put data into an array (a queue) and the chart updates take data from this array every time it's drawn.

Or perhaps something like this: http://www.rgraph.net/canvas/howto-update.html

Another option is to use WebSockets to spawn a separate process - which again could update a queue. Though it adds needless complexity to the whole thing.

Using colors to indicate a threshold

In the demos, there's a demo of a scrolling chart that shows different colors above/below a threshold. The method used in this demo is quite involved and requires two charts to be created along with the clipping feature of the canvas tag. A much simpler option is to use gradients with (for example) 10 instances of the first color and then 10 instances of the second color. With this many colors the vertical space allocated to each color is small - and the change from one color to the next will be small too. The more colors that you use the smaller the graduation will be. It comes across as a bit of a kludge, but because it's much simpler than using two charts/canvas tags and clipping it's worthy of trying first.

    colorsFill: 'Gradient(green:green:green:green:green:green:green:green:green:green:rgba(255,0,0,0.75):rgba(255,0,0,0.75):rgba(255,0,0,0.75):rgba(255,0,0,0.75):rgba(255,0,0,0.75):rgba(255,0,0,0.75):rgba(255,0,0,0.75):rgba(255,0,0,0.75):rgba(255,0,0,0.75):rgba(255,0,0,0.75))'

An alternative way by creating the gradient manually

An alternative is to create the gradient manually - using the canvas gradient functionality directly. Similar to css gradients, it allows you to set the color-stop positions precisely - affording you a little extra control. By using this method the change from red to green is a little more defined. As an aside - with this method, you don't need to call the RGraph internal function parseGradients.

var gradient = obj.context.createLinearGradient(0,0,0,250);
obj.set('fillstyle', gradient);