APEX Plugin – Body Chart

Recently I had an inquiry via my website asking whether I was able to create a selectable body chart APEX plugin for a physiotherapy practice so they could easily highlight joint pain and record information against these selected areas. One of the challenging requirements was to allow fine grained selectivity of 16 areas on each hand, whilst working within a very limited budget.

Initially I was hesitant, since I had never done this, but I recalled reading a number of blogs in the past which described using Raphael.js, an open source SVG drawing library which easily allowed you to hook in javascript events on mousenter, mouseout etc. to obtain the details of the selected area and add colour fills. So armed with this knowledge I thought I would take a risk and give it a go as I could see the potential for other uses, and to my surprise it was actually a lot easier than I expected it to be.

Below is a Youtube video to give you an understanding of how the plugin works and here’s where you can demo the plugin in action.

The following blog post should provide you the necessary javascript code example for you to build the map. I used it as my starting point for the item plugin and I found it really easy to follow. Since the post covers most of the javascript side the rest of the post will focus on creating the actual supporting JSON and SVG outline image as I found this to be the most troublesome and time intensive part of the task.

These are the high level steps which I performed.

  • Hand draw an outline on a piece of paper
  • Scan the outline into a jpeg or other image format
  • Open in Adobe Illustrator and use the “Live Trace” feature, ensuring that your divided sections remain intact e.g.
  • Save the file as SVG and select the “Convert to Outline” option
  • Open in Notepad++ or an equivalent editor
  • Extract the “d” value from the Paths which should look something like the following:
  • Each of these paths need to defined in a single JSON object which Raphael.js will draw e.g.
    apex.svgMaps = apex.jQuery.extend({}, {
       BodyMapPaths: {
          "part1": {
             name: "Frontal Region",
             "path": "M145.044,18c0,16,0,32,0,48c-10.667,0-21.333,0-32,0c0-16.333,0-32.667,0-49c4.292-2.042,8.513-4.153,14-5C134.863,12.181,140.377,14.667,145.044,18z"
          "part2": {
             name: "Occipital Region",
             "path": "M406.044,48c-0.716,2.715,4.716-0.715,4,2c0.92,5.92-1.711,8.289-2,13c-2.35,1.65-5.688,2.313-6,6c-14.333,0-28.667,0-43,0c-0.512-2.822-2.178-4.488-5-5c-1.203-3.796-2.128-7.872-3-12c-1.053-3.719,3.372-1.961,4-4c-2.062-22.062,6.979-33.021,24-36C398.786,12.745,409.515,27.321,406.044,48z"

    Note: in order to work out what body part each path was I opened the svg file in notepad++ and replaced the path XML with insert statements and loaded the data into a database table. I then performed an update post load to give each path a name/id the rownum sequence so I could identify what it was on hover to then perform the name translation. e.g.

        "SEQ"             NUMBER,
        "ID"              VARCHAR2(4000 BYTE),
        "NAME"            VARCHAR2(4000 BYTE),
        "DESCRIPTION"     VARCHAR2(4000 BYTE),
        "B_PATH"          VARCHAR2(4000 BYTE),
    -- Load the data before updating the null columns with the row numbers e.g.
    INSERT INTO svg_bodymap_parts(b_path) VALUES('M111.044,19c2.331,13.669,0.335,31.665,1,47c-4.021,0.688-5.708-0.958-9-1c-2.524-3.143-2.982-8.351-4-13c-1.053-3.719,3.373-1.961,4-4C101.946,34.569,104.587,24.876,111.044,19z');
    INSERT INTO svg_bodymap_parts(b_path) VALUES('M146.044,20c7.416,4.326,10.279,17.154,8,28c-0.715,2.715,4.715-0.715,4,2c0.36,6.693-1.135,11.532-4,15c-3.22-0.22-4.231,1.769-8,1C146.044,50.667,146.044,35.333,146.044,20z');
    -- Set a unique identifier for each path
    SET seq = rownum-1
    ,   name = 'part'||rownum
    ,   id = 'part'||rownum
    -- Extract data in JSON format since we will store it in
    -- a static javascript file since the image will never change
    SELECT '"'||id||'":{name: "'||name||'", "path":"'||b_path||'"},' json
    ORDER BY seq

I did have some issues getting all the selectable areas traced properly in Adobe Illustrator and it’s not the prettiest of outlines but it provided the customer everything they needed and they were quite satisfied. You could always outsource this part to an experienced graphic designer to get a higher quality image produced.

Also one of the labour intensive tasks was performing an English translation of the paths one by one, and there were 190 paths (a path is a selectable area/shape). Add to this a review process which meant I had to repeat this step all over again after having to add more selectable areas to the body.

An SVG image is outputted top to bottom left to right, which means a change at the top of the image will change the sequence of all paths below. I’d strongly recommend that if you are going to build a similar plugin that you get the image outline correct the first time especially if you have outsourced the map to a graphic designer. As it will reduce your costs and associated headaches.

To give you an idea of the amount of time required to build the plugin, I was able to produce the entire solution in just under 4 days which included the initial prototype, drawing the image and converting to SVG, client meetings, a review process, creating the jQuery plugin, creating the APEX plugin, testing across IE6-9 Firefox Google Chrome, and producing documentation.

Of course the amount of time may vary depending upon how familiar you are with javascript and creating APEX plugins but the good news is that once you’ve done the process once it will be much easier second time around.

  1. That’s really impressive. You’ve inspired me to do something similar in one of my projects. Great work!

  2. Mark Lancaster says:

    Very nice work Matt.

    I’ve been planning to experiment with Raphael.js, now I’m inspired.


  3. This is really cool stuff !

    Congrats on that!

  4. Jeff Kemp says:

    Brilliant stuff. I like your “Pain Notes” as well. “Works in IT”

  5. mnolan says:

    Thanks for all the kind comments guys.

  6. David Christopher says:

    Wow that is amazing — fantastic work!

  7. Great job Matt! Always impressive to see what is possible with APEX and WEB 2.0.

  8. Florian Klein says:

    Amazing work. I’m trying something similar. At the moment I’m struggling with ie9 not doing document.getElementByID so i can’t attach the canvas to the correct region. Is your Plugin generic? Maybe I can buy a use-license or something like that?

  9. Tony Bowers says:

    Very impressive. I’m working on an Image Map app in APEX. Not as impressive as yours, but it consists of hundreds of image maps which will be used for quality inspections. I just hit a snag. How do you pass the APP_SESSION information in your hotspot href tags? Tony

    • mnolan says:

      Hi Tony

      I’m not sure how your coding your map but I don’t use any href’s, I use onclick events on each path and grab APP_SESSION using


      I’ll then use apex.jQuery.ajax to send the data back to the server. If you can provide a little more information then I might be able to offer some better advice.


  10. Scott says:

    I am a newcomer to Apex and really like your body chart plugin.

    I need to take some data from a table and display it as clickable points in a rectangle. I have figured out how to use javascript and raphael to draw a simple rectangle with a diagonal line from lower left corner to upper right corner. I can fill the top with one color and the bottom with another. I have even figured out how to make the clickable circles for the data points.

    But, I can’t see how to use all this in Apex. I really liked your body chart post, but I don’t see where to tell Apex to use Raphael.js, or where to put the javascript calls to make the rect or how to create the clickable points from the table data.

    Does anyone know of a Apex and Raphael demo that goes step by step?

    Thank you.

    • mnolan says:

      Hi Scott

      Apologies but I don’t have the time to give you a step by step overview, the frustration you’re experiencing is an important part of the learning process just don’t give up.

      You should just be able to add the raphael.js file to your APEX page template and then use a dynamic action say “Page Load” to execute the javascript to create your svg drawing.

      If you’re still stuck, inspect the HTML of the demo pages you find and inspect the javascript/files to see whats going on. You’re going to have to get your hands dirty ;)