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Overview

ggblanket is a package of wrapper functions around the fantastic ggplot2 package.

The primary objective is to simplify ggplot2 visualisation.

Secondary objectives relate to:

  • Scope: cover the most useful 80% of what ggplot2 does
  • Design: produce well-designed visualisation by default
  • Alignment: use conventions generally aligned with ggplot2.

It is intended to be useful for all levels of experience from beginner to expert.

How it works

To simplify ggplot2 visualisation, the ggblanket package provides:

  1. Over thirty gg_* wrapper functions to plot a single geom
  2. A single col argument to colour and fill by a variable
  3. A facet argument to facet by a variable
  4. An additional facet2 argument to facet by a second variable
  5. A pal argument to customise colours
  6. Prefixed arguments to customise scales, guides, titles and faceting
  7. Default titles converted with snakecase::to_sentence
  8. Pretty default numeric limits
  9. Horizontal plots with y labels in order etc
  10. A pal that generally inherits to subsequent geoms
  11. Access to other geom_* arguments via ...
  12. A theme argument to customise the look and feel
  13. A gg_theme function to create a quick theme
  14. Compatibility with the ggtext package to adjust titles etc with markdown
  15. Compatibility with the patchwork package to join plots together
  16. Compatibility with the ggiraph package to make interactive plots
  17. A hack to use other non-supported aesthetics
  18. A base from which to create custom plot functions with your own defaults
  19. Ability to work with multiple geom layers, if care is taken
  20. Compatibility with many other non-supported geoms with gg_blank

1. Over thirty gg_* wrapper functions to plot a single geom

ggblanket supports the majority of geoms in ggplot2.

Each gg_*function wraps a ggplot2 ggplot(aes(...)) function with the applicable ggplot2 geom_*() function.

All aesthetics are within the ggplot function, and therefore will inherit to any subsequent geom’s added by default.

Always pipe in your data, so that you can access variable names from the Rstudio autocomplete.

See the reference for the full list of functions available.

iris |>
  mutate(Species = str_to_sentence(Species)) |> 
  gg_point(
    x = Sepal.Width, 
    y = Sepal.Length, 
    col = Species)

2. A single col argument to colour and fill by a variable

ggblanket merges the col and fill aesthetics of ggplot2 into one concept represented by the col argument. In ggplot2 language, this argument always represents both colour and fill.

penguins |> 
  gg_histogram(
    x = body_mass_g, 
    col = species) 

3. A facet argument to facet by a variable

Faceting is treated essentially as if it were an aesthetic, where users just provide an unquoted variable to facet by.

If a single facet (or facet2) variable is provided, it’ll default to a “wrap” layout. But you can change this with a facet_layout = "grid" argument.

penguins |> 
  tidyr::drop_na(sex) |>
  mutate(sex = str_to_sentence(sex)) |>
  gg_violin(
    x = sex, 
    y = body_mass_g, 
    facet = species)

4. An additional facet2 argument to facet by a second variable

A facet2 argument is also provided for extra functionality and flexibility.

If both facetand facet2 variables are provided, then it’ll default to a “grid” layout of facet by facet2. But you can change this with a facet_layout = "wrap" argument.

penguins |>
  tidyr::drop_na(sex) |>
  mutate(sex = str_to_sentence(sex)) |> 
  gg_density(
    x = flipper_length_mm,
    col = sex,
    facet = species,
    facet2 = island)

5. A pal argument to customise colours

The pal argument allows the users to pick the vector of colours they want.

These arguments work in the same way regardless of whether a col variable is specified or not.

penguins |> 
  mutate(sex = str_to_sentence(sex)) |> 
  group_by(species, sex) |> 
  summarise(body_mass_g = mean(body_mass_g, na.rm = TRUE)) |> 
  gg_col(
    x = species, 
    y = body_mass_g, 
    col = sex, 
    position = position_dodge2(preserve = "single"),
    pal = c("#1B9E77", "#9E361B"))

6. Prefixed arguments to customise scales, guides, titles and faceting

These prefixed arguments are designed to work with the Rstudio autocomplete to help you remember and find the adjustment you need.

Determine whether what you want to change relates to x,y, col or facet, and then type this prefix and press the tab key to access the list from autocomplete. Then use arrow keys, and press tab again to select.

Available arguments are:

  • *_breaks: Adjust the breaks of a scale
  • *_expand: Adjust the padding beyond the limits on a scale
  • *_include: Include a value within a scale
  • *_labels: Adjust the labels on the breaks of a scale
  • *_limits: Adjust the limits on a scale
  • *_trans: Transform a scale (e.g. “log10”, “sqrt” or “reverse”)
  • *_title: Add a title
  • *_sec_axis: Add a secondary x or y axis
  • *_grid: Add or remove a x or y gridline
  • col_continuous How to colour a continuous variable (e.g. “steps”)
  • col_rescale: Rescale a continuous col variable non-linearly
  • col_legend_place: Place to put the legend (e.g. “r”)
  • col_legend_ncol: Number of columns to arrange legend elements into
  • col_legend_nrow: Number of rows to arrange legend elements into
  • col_legend_rev: Whether to reverse the legend
  • facet_layout: Whether the layout is to be “wrap” or “grid”
  • facet_scales: How facet scales are to be treated
  • facet_space: Whether facet space is to be allocated proportionally
  • facet_ncol: How many columns to wrap facets into
  • facet_nrow: How many rows to wrap facets into
  • clip: Whether to clip to the panel (“on”) or not (“off”)
penguins |>
  gg_jitter(
    x = species,
    y = body_mass_g,
    col = flipper_length_mm,
    col_continuous = "steps",
    y_include = 0,
    y_trans = "sqrt",
    y_breaks = scales::breaks_width(1500), 
    y_labels = scales::label_number())

7. Default titles converted with snakecase::to_sentence

This will make quicker to get to a plot that has titles that are good for external people to see, and will often work nicely for your snakecase column names.

For titles that you need to change manually, you can change manually using x_title, y_title, or col_title.

To remove titles, you can use x_title = "" within the gg_* function and equivalent for the y and col titles.

penguins |>
  group_by(species, sex) |>
  summarise(
    flipper_length_mm = round(mean(flipper_length_mm, na.rm = TRUE), 0)) |>
  gg_tile(
    x = sex, 
    y = species, 
    col = flipper_length_mm, 
    width = 0.9,
    height = 0.9,
    pal = rev(pals::brewer.rdbu(9)), 
    col_legend_place = "r",
    col_rescale = c(186, 215, 222),
    x_labels = snakecase::to_sentence_case,
    title = "Average penguin body mass",
    subtitle = "Palmer Archipelago, Antarctica",
    theme = gg_theme(plot_background_pal = "white",
                     axis_line_pal = "white", 
                     axis_ticks_pal = "white")) +
  geom_text(aes(label = flipper_length_mm), col = "#232323", size = 3.5) 

8. Pretty default numeric limits

The default x and y scales have been designed to create symmetry.

If the y is numeric, the y limits will default to the max of the y breaks with zero y expanding. It will do similar with the x scale, if y is character/factor/logical and x is numeric.

To revert to the min/max of the data, use *_limits = c(NA, NA) or *_limits = c(lubridate::NA_Date_, lubridate::NA_Date_).

storms |>
  group_by(year) |>
  filter(between(year, 1980, 2020)) |>
  summarise(wind = mean(wind, na.rm = TRUE)) |>
  gg_line(
    x = year,
    y = wind,
    x_labels = scales::label_number(big.mark = ""),
    y_include = 0,
    title = "Storm wind speed",
    subtitle = "USA average storm wind speed, 1980\u20132020",
    y_title = "Wind speed (knots)",
    caption = "Source: NOAA") +
  geom_point()

9. Horizontal plots with y labels in order etc

When plots are horizontal, ggblanket ensures y labels are in order.

The position of bars, pal, colours and legend elements will generally be in the right order too.

penguins |>
  tidyr::drop_na(sex) |> 
  group_by(species, sex, island) |>
  summarise(body_mass_kg = mean(body_mass_g) / 1000) |>
  gg_col(
    x = body_mass_kg, 
    y = species, 
    col = sex, 
    facet = island,
    width = 0.75,
    col_labels = snakecase::to_sentence_case, 
    position = "dodge")

10. A pal that inherits to subsequent geoms

The pal is generally inherited to subsequent geom layers regardless of whether there is a col argument.

It does this because ‘under the hood’, dummy col and fill aesmthetic variables are added, and a colour scale is then added with the legend turned off.

Note alpha does not inherit.

penguins |>
  gg_boxplot(x = species,
             y = body_mass_g,
             width = 0.5,
             pal = "#1B9E77", 
             outlier.colour = NA) +
  geom_jitter()

11. Access to other geom_* arguments via ...

This relates to all other arguments other than the mapping argument with aesthetics.

All arguments and can be identified through the help on the relevant ggplot2::geom_* function.

Common arguments to add are size, linewidth and width.

Additionally, you can use the colour or fill arguments to turn off part of the ggblanket col aesthetic (e.g. colour = NA or fill = NA), or fix it to single colour.

penguins |>
  tidyr::drop_na(sex) |>
  gg_smooth(
    x = flipper_length_mm,
    y = body_mass_g,
    col = sex,
    linewidth = 0.5, #accessed via geom_smooth
    level = 0.99, #accessed via geom_smooth
    col_legend_place = "t",
    col_title = "", 
    col_labels = snakecase::to_sentence_case, 
    colour = "white") #accessed via geom_smooth

12. A theme argument to customise the look and feel

This allows you to utilise the simplicity of ggblanket, while making content that has your required look and feel.

By using the theme argument, your theme will control all theme aspects, but with some magic relating to the legend and gridline removal within the gg_* function.

However, if you want your theme to adjust everything, then just add your theme as a layer instead (e.g. + theme_grey()).

penguins |>
  mutate(sex = str_to_sentence(sex)) |> 
  gg_point(x = bill_depth_mm,
           y = bill_length_mm,
           col = sex,
           facet = species, 
           pal = c("#1B9E77", "#9E361B"), 
           theme = theme_grey())

13. A gg_theme function to create a quick theme

The gg_theme function allows you to modify the default theme by changing text size, colours, margins, among other.

It includes arguments for adjusting text, background colours, axis lines, ticks and gridlines.

There is also a void = TRUE argument that is useful for maps.

storms |>
  group_by(year) |>
  filter(between(year, 1980, 2020)) |>
  summarise(wind = mean(wind, na.rm = TRUE)) |>
  gg_col(
    x = year,
    y = wind,
    x_labels = scales::label_comma(big.mark = ""),
    x_expand = c(0, 0),
    theme = gg_theme(
      text_size = 11,
      plot_background_pal = "white",
      panel_background_pal = "white"))

14. Compatibility with the ggtext package to adjust titles etc with markdown

If you wish to have a markdown title, make sure the face is plain, and then add the applicable theme layer with element_markdown.

nc <- sf::st_read(system.file("shape/nc.shp", package = "sf"), quiet = TRUE)

nc |>
  gg_sf(col = AREA,
        col_legend_place = "b",
        col_breaks = scales::breaks_width(0.1),
        pal = pals::brewer.reds(9),
        title = "**Bold** or _italics_ or <span style = 'color:red;'>red</span>",
        theme = gg_theme(title_face = "plain")) +
  theme(plot.title = ggtext::element_markdown())

15. Compatibility with the patchwork package to join plots together

As ggblanket output objects are ggplot’s, it works fine with the patchwork package to join plots together.

p1 <- diamonds |> 
  gg_point(
    x = carat,
    y = price)

p2 <- diamonds |> 
  gg_bin2d(
    x = carat,
    y = price,
    caption = "Source: Diamonds Association",
    theme = gg_theme(caption_hjust = 1))

p1 + p2

16. Compatibility with the ggiraph package to make interactive plots

By using the powerful gg_blank function, you can then use then access the interactivity of ggiraph.

When using gg_blank, be sure to change the stat to that which will be in your subsequent layer, so that the scales are built appropriately.

ggblanket also provides a add_tooltip function to create a column of variable names and values, which can then be used for the tooltip. Note this approach only works where the stat = identity.

df <- iris |>
  tibble::tibble() |>
  add_tooltip(Sepal.Width, Sepal.Length, Species)

df |> 
  head(1)

p <- iris |>
  add_tooltip(tidyselect::contains("Sepal"), Species) |>
  mutate(id = row_number()) |>
  gg_blank(x = Sepal.Width,
           y = Sepal.Length,
           col = Species,
           facet = Species, 
           theme = gg_theme("helvetica"),
           facet_labels = snakecase::to_sentence_case) +
  ggiraph::geom_point_interactive(aes(tooltip = tooltip, data_id = id))

ggiraph::girafe(
  ggobj = p,
  width_svg = 5,
  height_svg = 3.25,
  options = list(
    ggiraph::opts_tooltip(use_fill = TRUE, use_stroke = TRUE),
    ggiraph::opts_hover(css = "fill: #d62728; stroke: #d62728"))
)

17. A hack to use other non-supported aesthetics

gg_* functions do not directly support aesthetics of alpha, size, linewidth, shape, and linetype. However, you can use gg_blank. The hack is to make your additional aesthetic equivalent to the col aesthetic. If you do not want things to be coloured by the aesthetic, you need to make the pal the same colour for each of the values in the col aesthetic. You will need to make the titles of the legend equivalent, so that the legend can be merged into one. The examples below demonstrate how this works for an alpha aesthetic.

p1 <- penguins |>
  gg_blank(
    x = flipper_length_mm,
    y = body_mass_g,
    col = species,
    pal = rep(pal_viridis_mix(1), 3), 
    x_breaks = scales::breaks_pretty(3),
    col_legend_ncol = 2) +
  geom_point(aes(alpha = species)) +
  labs(alpha = "Species") +
  scale_alpha_manual(values = c(0.1, 1, 0.5))

p2 <- penguins |>
  gg_blank(
    x = flipper_length_mm, 
    y = body_mass_g, 
    col = species, 
    x_breaks = scales::breaks_pretty(3), 
    col_legend_ncol = 2) +
  geom_point(aes(alpha = species)) +
  labs(alpha = "Species") +
  scale_alpha_manual(values = c(0.1, 1, 0.5))

p1 + p2

18. A base from which to create custom plot functions with your own defaults

You can easily create powerful custom functions. This is because the ... argument can allow you to access all arguments within the ggblanket gg_* function (and applicable ggplot2::geom_* function).

gg_point_custom <- function(data, x, y, col, 
                            size = 3, 
                            shape = 17,
                            pal = pals::brewer.dark2(9), 
                            col_title = "", 
                            col_legend_place = "t",
                            ...) {
  data |> 
    gg_point(x = {{ x }}, y = {{ y }}, col = {{col}}, 
             size = size, 
             shape = shape,
             pal = pal, 
             col_title = col_title, 
             col_legend_place = col_legend_place, 
             ...)
}

iris |>
  mutate(Species = str_to_sentence(Species)) |> 
  gg_point_custom(
    x = Sepal.Width,
    y = Sepal.Length,
    col = Species, 
    title = "Edgar Anderson's iris data",
    subtitle = "Iris sepal length by width and species",
    caption = "Edgar Anderson, 1935")

19. Ability to work with multiple geom layers, if care is taken

For all plots with multiple geom’s, you will need to think about if there is any desired drawing order you want, and if so choose the gg_* function that permits this order.

For plots where some geoms have acol aesthetic and some do not, you must choose a gg_* function that relates to one of the layers with a col argument. Or, if this conflicts with the desired drawing order, then choose gg_blank with the col argument.

Once you know what gg_* function you are going to use, then you might need to use the *_include argument to adjust the x or y scale if it will not include all of the range needed by subsequent layers.

If subsequent layers need to not require all of the aesthetics from the gg_* function, use the inherit.aes = FALSE argument in the geom_* function.

df <- data.frame(
  treatment = factor(c(1, 1, 2, 2)),
  response = c(1, 5, 3, 4),
  group = factor(c(1, 2, 1, 2)),
  upper = c(1.1, 5.3, 3.3, 4.2),
  lower = c(0.8, 4.6, 2.4, 3.6)
)

df %>%  
  gg_col(
    x = response,
    y = treatment,
    col = group,
    position = "dodge",
    x_include = max(.$upper),
    width = 0.66, 
    pal = c("#1B9E77", "#9E361B")) +
  geom_errorbar(
    aes(xmin = lower, xmax = upper, group = group),
    col = "#7F7F7F",
    position = position_dodge(width = 0.66),
    width = 0.1)

20. Compatibility with many other non-supported geoms with gg_blank

You may or may not be able to work with other non-supported geom’s by using gg_blank, depending on what the stat is in the function. If the stat is “identity” or another stat used by ggblanket, it can work gg_blank and that stat referenced. For other stat’s, it depends on the nature of the stat. If the stat is creating something to do with the col aesthetic, then gg_blank will not work.

iris |>
  mutate(Species = stringr::str_to_sentence(Species)) |> 
  gg_blank(
    x = Sepal.Width,
    y = Sepal.Length,
    col = Species,
    facet = Species,
    col_legend_place = "r",
    col_labels = snakecase::to_sentence_case) +
  ggdensity::geom_hdr(colour = NA) +
  labs(alpha = "Probs") +
  theme(legend.title = element_text(margin = margin(t = 5)))