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Migrating from v2 to v3

This guide will help users migrating their applications from sigma v2.* to v3.*.

Exports endpoints

Sigma v3 is built using Preconstruct, and there are only 5 endpoints now:

  • "sigma" exports the main Sigma class, and the other utility classes Camera, MouseCaptor and TouchCaptor;
  • "sigma/rendering" exports everything rendering related, from the programs to the related classes and types;
  • "sigma/settings" exports the Settings interface, the DEFAULT_SETTINGS collection and the validateSettings and resolveSettings utility functions;
  • "sigma/types" exports all remaining sigma specific types (for TypeScript only);
  • "sigma/utils" exports all kind of various utility functions.

Also, the node.image program is no more exported from sigma, but must be imported from another dedicated package: @sigma/node-image.


Sigma v3 has been developed to handle various limitations of sigma v2's nodes and edges programs. Basically:

  • Programs were very hard to maintain and to develop, with a lot of boilerplate
  • There were various optimizations we wanted to implement, such as picking and instanced rendering, that would require breaking changes, at the time
  • Coordinate systems translations where messy and poorly documented, and becoming harder and harder to maintain

So, we refined it completely from scratch, to handle all those issues.

Existing programs

Breaking everything in the programs was the opportunity to rename existing program, to better fit what they do:

  • edge-fast becomes edge.line (since it uses the WebGLRenderingContext.LINES drawing method)
  • edge becomes edge.rectangle (as edges are rendered as rectangles, using two WebGLRenderingContext.TRIANGLES)
  • node-fast becomes node.point (since it uses WebGLRenderingContext.POINTS)
  • node becomes (as nodes are rendered as circles, carved inside WebGLRenderingContext.TRIANGLES)
  • node-image becomes @sigma/node-image, a new satellite package


A node program must extend the NodeProgram classe, and an edge program must extend the EdgeProgram classe. Those two classes are designed so that only specific code remains in the programs, without all the boilerplate.

The best to do to understand how to write programs for sigma v3 is to read the existing programs. The simplest ones are edge.line and node.point.

Some insights, though:

  • To help with TypeScript inference, uniforms are generally defined outside the program, and given as generics;
  • Every programs now have a getDefinition method, that returns various data that help sigma properly initializing the related WebGL program;
  • Programs also must have a processVisibleItem, that feeds the Float32Array with the data related to a given item;
  • Finally, programs also provide a setUniforms method, that sets the proper uniform values.


In sigma v3, the collision detection is no more handle with CPU-based computation. The two main issues were:

  • The quad-tree index for nodes was hard to maintain, and only handled disc nodes;
  • The ad-hoc code that handled edges collisions was slow, and only handled linear edges.

The picking work as following:

  • In addition to the visible layers, two more layers are rendered, where each node and edge is drawn with a unique color, that represents its ID;
  • To know what is at a given pixel, we look at the related picking layer, and if it is a colored pixel, then we instantly know what item it belongs to.

There are two main costs, though:

  • Everything is rendered twice;
  • Every program must handle rendering for both modes ("normal" and "picking").

To handle picking within a program, here are the things that must be taken into account:

  1. In addition to the color, the ID must also be stored into the data transferred to the CPU. The processVisibleItem receives the ID, properly encoded as a 4 bytes value (as the color), as its first argument.
  2. In the vertex shader, the color given to the fragment shader must be the item color for the normal layer, and the ID for the picking layer. This is done using the PICKING_MODE macro defined constant:
// For picking mode, we use the ID as the color:
v_color = a_id;
// For normal mode, we use the color:
v_color = a_color;
  1. In the fragment shader, in the picking layer, pixels should either remain uncolored or colored with the given color. There should be no antialiasing. Indeed, if the color is changed, it might become the ID of another item.

Instanced rendering

In sigma v2, there were a lot of repeated data transmitted to the GPU. For instance, to render an edge as a rectangle, all the required data were written four times. To fixe this issue, sigma v3 uses instanced rendering. Basically, there are now two different buffers: one that carries data related to each item (node or edge), and another that carries data related to each vertex. Then, the program will handle those buffers to send to the vertex shader both the item related data and the vertex related data.

All programs do not use instanced rendering. For instance, node.point does need it, since there is only one vertex per node. Basically, every program that use the WebGLRenderingContext.TRIANGLES method should probably use instanced rendering.

So, to use instanced rendering, the getDefinition method of a program must provide a CONSTANT_ATTRIBUTES array, shaped as the ATTRIBUTES array, but with attributes that are related to each vertex, and a CONSTANT_DATA that stores an array of data for each vertex. The simplest program that uses instanced rendering might be It is certainly a good program to read to better understand how to write a program using instanced rendering.

Canvas labels and hovered nodes rendering

Finally, the way sigma handles canvas renderers for nodes and edges labels and hovered nodes have been updated:

  • Each program class can provide its own canvas renderers (an optional drawLabel method, and an additional optional drawHover only for node renderers). This allows programs that render different shapes to have custom labels rendering (such as @sigma/edge-curve for instance).
  • Programs that do not provide their own drawLabel or drawHover methods rely on the defaultDrawEdgeLabel, defaultDrawNodeLabel and defaultDrawNodeHover settings. This allows overriding canvas renderers for all "classic" programs (ie. circle nodes and straight edges) all at once.

Other breaking changes

TypeScript generics

In sigma v3, the Sigma class accepts the same generics as its carried Graph instance. This helps to have reducers or other helpers written with the proper node and/or edge attributes.


Some settings have been updated:

  • enableEdgeClickEvents, enableEdgeWheelEvents and enableEdgeHoverEvents disappear and are all replaced by the single enableEdgeEvents setting;
  • labelRenderer, hoverRenderer and edgeLabelRenderer disappear and are respectively replaced by defaultDrawNodeLabel, defaultDrawNodeHover and defaultDrawEdgeLabel;
  • zoomToSizeRatioFunction and itemSizesReference are added to handle cases where nodes grow linearly with the zoom and all items sizes and positions are in the same coordinates system.