2.13.0 • Public • Published

React Flow Diagram


Batteries included React Component for renderizing, creating and editing diagrams.

{{Animation gif that shows some of the features}}


  • The data is the source of truth
  • Can add custom Components as entities
  • Continous feedback while editing
  • Configurable grid, snap to grid (or no grid at all)
  • History, undo, redo; keyboard shortcuts
  • Panel for adding new Entities, with drag or click
  • Automatic arrow placement
  • Labels for arrows

Missing features (currently working on)

  • Editable arrow labels (From the UI, you can always edit the model)
  • Panning, zooming (viewport and camera as separate concepts)
  • Editable arrow paths (From the UI, you can always edit the model)
  • Select several entities
  • Copy and paste entities
  • Alignment tools


It's easier to see the an example already working to explain what we need to add. Pull react-flow-diagram-example and follow along; consider it a finished state of following these instructions. You can also use this repo as a starting point for your own implementation.

Let's assume a fresh create-react-app (which the example is created from) strucure, then:

yarn add react-flow-diagram

And we'll also add styled-components for our custom entities, although this is not a requirement. You can just add classNames to elements and use regular css or any css transpilation language.

yarn add styled-components

in /src/ we create a /CustomDiagram/ following a standard of Grouping by features

And in it we create:


The star of the show, the model that holds the data that will be represented as a diagram.

You don't need to conciously know the structure of the model, since you can always start a diagram via the UI, save it and resume from the UI without ever touching the model. But you may need this information for your specific use case.

The structure held in the model const can be defined in flow types as (you don't really need to know flowtype to grasp this):

type EntityState = Array<EntityModel>;

model is an array with EntityModels representing each entity

type EntityType = string;
type EntityModel = {
  id: EntityId,      // unique identifier of the Entity
  type: EntityType,  // type of entity, according to your custom entity components
  width: number,     // width
  height: number,    // height
  x: number,         // x position
  y: number,         // y position
  name: string,      // label of the entity
  linksTo?: Links,   // reference to other entities
  custom?: Object,   // custom data for you to extend functionalities

The id of an EntityModel is an EntityId; which is just a string

type EntityId = string;

The linksTo attribute is optional (an entity may not link to anyone) and holds a Links type, which is an array of Link

type Links = Array<Link>;
type Link = {
  target: EntityId,      // Id of another entity which is being linked to
  edited: boolean,       // whether or not the link was autogenerated or was edited by the user
  points?: Array<Point>, // Array of points that define the position of the link
  label?: string,        // link label
  color?: string,        // link color (currently not implemented)

The points attribute is also optional (as well as any attribute ending with ?) and holds an array of Point

type Point = {
  x: number,  // x position
  y: number,  // y position

Check model-example.js to see who this all pans out.


In this file we have two configuration objects, config which deals with diagram configurations and customEntities which holds references to our custom components that represent each type of entity.

config can be defined as:

type ConfigState = {
  entityTypes: ConfigEntityTypes, // Size of entities
  gridSize?: number,              // optional grid size

ConfigEntityTypes is an object being used as a Map whose keys reference the types of entities.

type ConfigEntityTypes = {
  [EntityType]: {
    width: number,
    height: number,

It's recommended to find an entitiy size that is a multiple of the grid size; however you're free to choose any positive number.

customEntities can be defined as:

type CustomEntities = {
  [EntityType]: {
    component: ComponentType<DiagComponentProps>,
    icon: {
      path: Element<*>,
      size: number,

The component attribute holds a reference to a React Component that will be provided DiagComponentProps props. The creation of your custom components is covered in {{TODO: Link to create custom entitiy components section}}

type DiagComponentProps = {
  model: EntityModel,
  meta: MetaEntityModel,
  setName: SetNamePayload => EntityAction,

You can use this props to get information about the component, and setName method to change the name of the component.

We referenced EntityModel before, and MetaEntityModel can be defined as:

type MetaEntityModel = {
  id: EntityId,
  isAnchored: boolean,
  isSelected: boolean,

Which is information that only matters while interacting with the components on the UI. You wouldn't need to save this information. A HOC Entity component will deal about positioning, selection, context menus and more for you, so you just need to focus on the specific features of your custom Entity.


On index we define our custom Component that initializes seting throguh componentWillMount and passes customEntities to the Diagram Component

import React from 'react';
import {
  store as diagramStore,
} from 'react-flow-diagram';
import model from './model-example';
import { config, customEntities } from './config-example';
class CustomDiagram extends React.PureComponent {
  componentWillMount() {
    diagramOn('anyChange', entityState =>
      // You can get the model back
      // after modifying the UI representation
  render() {
    return <Diagram customEntities={customEntities} />;
export default CustomDiagram;

We dispatch a setConfig and setEntities action to the diagramStore, and on anyChange we can get a hold of our modified entityState

event and task folders

We'll cover this in the next section:

Creating our own Entities

This component does not come with any custom entities, and you must create your own. However on react-flow-diagram-example we have two examples of custom entities, namely task and event.

Let's take a look at the task entitiy as an example.

In the task folder we see two files:

Let's start with...


Our custom component will be visually rendered on the UI in such a way that it uniquely identifies a specific concept. We can take for example BPMN's elements or UX flow diagrams. Perhaps in the future we'll include Packs with custom entities for these types of use cases, but for now you'll have to create your own.

Our entity can also deal with user interaction such as changing the name and whatever interaction you may come up with, with the possibility of using already present information in the EntityModel or adding your custom data to custom object field.

There are no specific requirements for the component. What we do need to know is that the component will be provided DiagComponentProps props, which encompasses:

type DiagComponentProps = {
  model: EntityModel,
  meta: MetaEntityModel,
  setName: SetNamePayload => EntityAction,

More details about EntityModel in the model-example.js section and MetaEntityModel in the config-example.js section.

setName is a connected action that takes the propery SetNamePayload and returns EntityAction. The return of the function can be ignored since the important aspect is the side effect that sets the name of the entity.

type SetNamePayload = { id: EntityId, name: string };

A usage example in component.js is:

handleKeyPress = (ev) => {
  switch (ev.key) {
    case 'Enter':
      this.props.setName({ id:, name: });
    case 'Escape':
      this.setState({ name: });
    // no default


We also need to provide an icon which will be used in the Panel for adding new elements and in the contextual menu for each entity to quickly add new entities.

import React from 'react';
const icon = {
  path: (
    <path d="M14 0H2C1 0 0 1 0 2v12c0 1 1 2 2 2h12c1 0 2-1 2-2V2c0-1-1-2-2-2z" />
  size: 16,
export default icon;

The icon consists of a path SVG React Element and a size that is the same as the size of viewBox SVG attribute. Check the icon component to make this more clear.

The size attribute is provided so you don't need to transform the SVG element to fix exactly the needs of the panel or context menu. If we didn't have the size attribute, the SVG element may overflow or underflow its container.


You can use react-flow-diagram-example as a template of a working implementation and modify it for your own needs.

With time I'll add more examples, namely:

  • Integration with Redux
  • Using the provided flow types

Some History

In a Trailblazer related project I had the task of creating an editing environment surrounding bpmn-js which was the first diagramming library we used. bpmn-js proved to be a feature rich library, but extending to add the features we wanted proved to be practically impossible, coupled with dwindling documentation. It's still a great option if you're not thinking of adding your own types of entites or swerving from the BPMN model at all.

After assessing many diagramming libraries available, my second go after bpmn-js was react-diagrams; which worked pretty well, had modern JS standards and was more extensible. However the source of truth (model) was scattered through many object's internal state and getting to the underlying data proved difficult in many scenarios. In my opinion, the code base was not idiomatic with React principles and it led to me implementing what I felt were many hacks to sync model state with UI representation.

I never set off to reinvent the wheel, I was quite happy with the idea of using a time-tested open source library. But the options available left me making the decission to build another alternative. And perhaps it'll be useful to you too!



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