This is the technical documentation for Tangram’s JavaScript API.

In the process of constructing a map, Tangram mirrors much of the structure of the 3D scene and the yaml file itself in JavaScript objects. Most of the properties and functions on these objects are used internally by the library, but a few are designed to be referenceable and modifiable, to allow easier design and interactivity. The top-level scene object, and the methods for querying and modifying it comprise Tangram’s JavaScript API.


The scene object is the interface for controlling your Tangram scene at runtime. It is available as a property of the Tangram Leaflet layer (which is returned by the Tangram.leafletLayer() function that is used to initialize the map).

> layer = Tangram.leafletLayer({ scene: url, ... });
> layer.scene
<- Scene {initialized: true, ...}

The methods and properties below are accessed through this scene object.


This contains a deserialized, runtime JavaScript object version of the scene file which can be modified on the fly:

> scene.config
<- Object {cameras: Object,
           lights: Object,
           background: Object,
           styles: Object,
           sources: Object}

Each object contains sub-objects which correlate to each element’s subelements and attributes, including any assigned default values for properties which weren’t specified in the scene file.

> scene.config.cameras
<- Object {camera1: Object,
           camera2: Object}
> scene.config.cameras.camera1
<- Object {type: "perspective",
           focal_length: Array[5],
           vanishing_point: Array[2],
           active: true}

After changes are made to the config object, calling scene.updateConfig() will update the scene with the changes, and automatically trigger a scene.rebuild().


Returns the active camera.

getFeatureAt(pixel, { radius })

Simple object-picking may be enabled by setting any layer’s interactive parameter to true. This will enable Tangram’s “feature selection” capability for objects in that layer. These objects can then be queried with the getFeatureAt() function, which takes pixel coordinates within the map view in the form { x, y }.

An optional radius value may be passed, interpreted as pixels. Default radius is zero.

The method returns a promise containing the feature (if any) at those pixel coordinates (if multiple features are drawn at that location, only the top-most one is returned). The promise resolves with a selection object:

{ feature, changed, pixel, leaflet_event }
  • feature: when present, will contain the feature’s properties from the original data source; if feature is undefined, no feature was found.
  • changed: a flag indicating whether the selected feature changed since the last query
  • pixel: the XY location within the map container where the event occurred, in the form { x, y }
  • leaflet_event: the Leaflet event that triggered the selection

In addition to the scene.getFeatureAt() method, the radius parameter may be set when creating or configuring the Leaflet layer:

  • Leaflet layer instantiation:

    layer = Tangram.leafletLayer({
       scene: 'path/to/scene.yaml',
       events: {
          click: clickHandler,
       selectionRadius: 10 // radius of 10px

  • Leaflet layer interface for setting selection handlers:

    layer.setSelectionEvents (events, { radius: 5 }) // radius of 5px

When using a radius, the feature closest to the center point will be returned. As with existing feature selection, only features marked as interactive: true will register.

load(scene_url, { base_path, file_type })

Loads the specified scene by URL and rebuilds the geometry. If no arguments are specified, the current scene will be reloaded.

scene_url is the path to a scene file. By default, relative paths within this file (for images, fonts, or other resources) are relative to this URL. For example, for a scene loaded from, an image texture.png referenced in that scene file would resolve to

Other options may be passed inside an object.

base_path is an optional argument specifying an alternate base URL for resolving relative paths in the scene file. It is primarily useful for development and debugging.

scene.load(scene_url, { base_path: '' });

file_type is an optional argument to support cases where zipped files may be loaded locally, such as from a blob URL.

Using Scene.load():

scene.load(zip_blob_url, { file_type: 'zip' });

Using Tangram.leafletLayer:

layer = Tangram.leafletLayer({
   scene: zip_blob_url,
   sceneFileType: 'zip',


Reloads and rebinds textures in the scene.

Textures will only be reloaded if any of the texture definition’s parameters changed, or if the texture is tied to a DOM element.


Queries the tiles which intersect the viewport and returns the features contained in those tiles. (For querying a single feature at a given pixel location, see scene.getFeatureAt().)

The query method has the following signature and default parameters: queryFeatures({ filter = null, visible = null, unique = true, group_by = null, geometry = false })

queryFeatures() will query the features from tiles that currently intersect the map viewport.

The method returns a promise with an array of matching features, e.g. queryFeatures().then(features => console.log(features)); will print the matching features to the console. (An array is the default return type, see group_by below for an alternate format.)

Each returned result will have a properties field for that feature. See the geometry option below to include feature geometry with the results.

Optional parameters described below will further limit the set of features returned.

Because tiles usually include some area outside the viewport, the queryFeatures() method can be thought of as roughly querying the visible area, but results may include some nearby features as well. This effect can also be caused by tile over-zooming, for data sources with a max_zoom.


An optional filter object can be provided, using the same syntax used for selecting features for styling in layers. If no filter is provided, all features will be returned (subject to other parameters defined below).

This example will return all restaurants in the pois layer in the visible tiles:

scene.queryFeatures({ filter: { $layer: 'pois', kind: 'restaurant' } });

Filters used with this method support an additional parameter, $source, which can be used to specify a data source name to filter features by. For example, filter: { $source: 'mapzen' } will only return features from the “mapzen” data source. (This parameter is not relevant for filters in layers because the data source is already explicitly selected by the data block.)


By default, all features in the tile source data will be returned, regardless of whether they were rendered in the scene or not.

If visible: true, the query will be restricted only to features that were rendered in the scene. Note that this means the feature matched a visible draw group within layers, and was not culled by collision detection (in the case of points or labels). It does not guarantee, however, that the feature is visible from any given view position; it may be drawn but underneath another feature with a higher order value, or it may be behind another 3d object such as a building.

Example: scene.queryFeatures({ filter: { $layer: 'landuse', $geometry: 'polygon' }, visible: true }) will return all visible landuse polygons.

If visible: false, the query will be restricted only to features that were NOT rendered in the scene. This is useful for providing feedback on data that is related to the scene but which you don’t want to actually visualize, or for understanding which features were not drawn due to collision (lack of available space on screen).

Example: scene.queryFeatures({ filter: { $layer: 'pois' }, visible: false }) will return all POIs that were not drawn.


The unique parameter indicates whether (and how) duplicate features should be included in the results. Valid values are true (default), false/null, a string providing a single feature property (id), or an array of feature properties (['kind', 'operator'])

The default value, true, will limit features to those that are entirely unique, meaning it will exclude features with identical properties (and if the geometry: true option described below is also set, features with identical geometry will be excluded as well). This is useful for avoiding duplicate features that may be included in multiple tiles, such as building polygons in Mapzen’s vector tiles.

A false or null value will return all features, without any regard to their properties or geometry.

A single string, or array of strings, will only return features that are unique with regard to the named feature properties (and geometry if geometry: true). For example, unique: id will avoid features with duplicate ids in the results, and unique: ['kind', 'operator'] will only return a single feature for each unique combination of kind and operator property values.


The group_by parameter can be used to group results by one or more unique property values. Valid values are false/null (the default), a string providing a single feature property (kind), or an array of feature properties (['kind', 'kind_detail']).

When grouping properties are specified, the queryFeatures() results will be an object (still returned via a promise), where each key is a unique value according to the grouping criteria, and the value of each key is an array of results for that key.

When a single property is provided for grouping, the results key will be the value of that property.

Example: queryFeatures({ filter: { $layer: 'pois' }, group_by: 'kind' }) will return results like:

{ station: Array(8), jewelry: Array(19), bus_stop: Array(5)... }

When multiple properties are provided the grouping, the results key will be a stringified object for each unique combination of values.

Example: queryFeatures({ filter: { $layer: 'pois' }, group_by: ['kind', 'kind_detail'] }) will return results like:

  '{"kind":"restaurant","kind_detail":"chinese"}': Array(8),
  '{"kind":"restaurant","kind_detail":"french"}': Array(4),
  '{"kind":"restaurant","kind_detail":"indian"}': Array(3),

The caller can optionally use JSON.parse() to parse these stringified grouping keys for additional processing.


By default, queryFeatures() does not return feature geometry, nor consider geometry when determining if a feature is unique (see unique parameter above). Only type and properties will be returned in the query results.

When geometry: true, an additional geometry property will also be returned, containing the feature’s geometry (as a GeoJSON geometry object).

Including feature geometry in the result can be useful for further visualizations outside of Tangram, such as with Leaflet markets or SVG paths, or even direct exports of raw GeoJSON.

Use Cases

Here are a few examples of ways the queryFeatures() parameters can be used.

Get a list of unique subway lines in tile data

scene.queryFeatures({ filter: { $layer: 'transit', kind: 'subway' }, group_by: 'ref' }).then(results => {

["1", "2", "3", "4", "5", "6", "W", "R", "J", "Z", "PATH", "E", "C", "A", "D", "B", "Q", "N"]

Get a count of visible POIs by kind, each time new tiles are rendered

  view_complete: function() { // when new tiles are rendered
    scene.queryFeatures({ filter: { $layer: 'pois' }, visible: true, group_by: 'kind' }).then(results => {
      for (let key in results) { 
        results[key] = results[key].length;

  "station": 6,
  "cafe": 20,
  "bank": 5,
  "restaurant": 34,
  "convenience": 10,
  "place_of_worship": 5,
  "bus_stop": 5,
  "hotel": 10,
  "museum": 1,
  "pub": 3,
  "bar": 2,
  "hospital": 1

Add Leaflet markers for visible restaurant POIs

scene.queryFeatures({ filter: { $layer: 'pois', kind: 'restaurant' }, visible: true, geometry: true }).then(results => {
  results.forEach(feature => {
    L.marker([feature.geometry.coordinates[1], feature.geometry.coordinates[0]]).addTo(map);

screen shot 2017-06-12 at 1 43 48 pm

Add Leaflet polylines (SVG) for major roads

scene.queryFeatures({ filter: { $layer: 'roads', kind: 'major_road' }, unique: false, visible: true, geometry: true }).then(results => {
  results.forEach(feature => L.geoJSON(feature, {
    style: function () {
        return { color: 'red' };

screen shot 2017-06-12 at 1 48 01 pm


Rebuilds the current scene from scratch.


Requests an update to the drawn map. If the map contains animated elements, this happens once per frame automatically. If not, it happens whenever the map view changes (pan, zoom, etc.).

screenshot({ background = 'white' })

This queues a screenshot request, returning a Promise that fulfills when the screenshot is available.

The promise resolves with an object containing three properties:

  • url: a data URL of the Canvas contents, suitable for loading into an <img> or opening in a new tab/window.
  • blob: a Blob of type image/png, suitable for saving to a file, either manually or with a third-party library such as FileSaver.js.
  • type: the string png.
scene.screenshot().then(function(screenshot) {; });

The optional background parameter allows a background color to be set for screenshots. The default is “white”. This may be any color value, including transparent.

scene.screenshot({ background: 'transparent' }).then(s =>


Sets the active camera to the camera specified by name, as named in the scene file.

setDataSource(_string_ name, _object_ config)

Loads a new source object (see sources), returning a Promise which fulfills when the source is loaded.

If name doesn’t match an existing source, a new source object will be created. The source object must follow the sources specification.

scene.setDataSource('osm', { type: 'TopoJSON', url: '{z}/{x}/{y}.topojson' });

This source object can be used in situations where the data to be drawn is inside a JavaScript variable, instead of in a separate file:

var geojson_data = {};
scene.setDataSource('dynamic_data', { type: 'GeoJSON', data: geojson_data });


Enables feature selection for all features, regardless of their interactive setting in the scene file.


Enabling or disabling introspection at run-time will cause the scene to rebuild automatically to reflect the new setting.

For more about using feature selection, see getFeatureAt().

[JS-only] An introspection parameter is also available on the Leaflet layer:

layer = Tangram.leafletLayer({
   scene: '...',
   introspection: true,

startVideoCapture(), stopVideoCapture()

startVideoCapture() uses MediaRecorder functionality in Chrome and Firefox to capture a WebM-encoded movie of a Tangram map. startVideoCapture() will return false on other browsers.

stopVideoCapture() returns a promise that will resolve with an object containing three properties:

  • url: a data URL to the video, suitable for opening in a new tab/window.
  • blob: a Blob of type video/webm, suitable for saving to a file, either manually or with a third-party library such as FileSaver.js.
  • type: the string webm.
scene.stopVideoCapture().then(function(video) {
    saveAs(video.blob, 'tangram-video-' + (+new Date()) + '.webm');


Re-parses the scene.config object and triggers scene.rebuild() which also redraws the scene, updating data sources, cameras, lights, rendering styles and shaders, and reloading textures. If updateConfig({ rebuild: true }) is specified, geometry will also be rebuilt (necessary in cases where scene.config.layers have been modified).



Tangram provides a number of event handlers and emitters.

error and warning

The error event is fired when an unrecoverable error occurred while processing the scene. The callback is passed an object with type, message (text error message), error (JS error object), and url (the URL from which the scene was loaded) properties.

The warning event is fired when a recoverable issue occurred while processing the scene. The callback is passed an object with a type, which indicates the scope of the issue (e.g. textures, sources, etc.), along with additional type-specific properties.

    error: function (e) {
        console.log('scene error:', e);
    warning: function (e) {
        console.log('scene warning:', e);

hover and click

These two selection event handlers tie into Leaflet’s existing event handlers as convenient shortcuts, and are the preferred way to access the feature picking functionality. They are passed the same selection object returned by direct calls to scene.getFeatureAt().

They can be configured in two ways:

  • When creating the Leaflet layer:

An events object can be passed with other leaflet layer options. hover and/or click properties can be set to a callback function:

var layer = Tangram.leafletLayer({
   scene: 'scene.yaml',
   events: {
      hover: function(selection) { console.log('Hover!', selection); },
      click: function(selection) { console.log('Click!', selection); }
  • Updated after Leaflet layer creation:

Selection events can be added, changed, or removed after layer creation with a call to layer.setSelectionEvents(events). It takes the same events object as above:

   hover: onTangramHover,
   click: onTangramClick

Or, to remove an event, layer.setSelectionEvents({ click: null });.

To activate the feature picking functionality for a particular layer, set the interactive parameter.


This event handler can be used to catch ‘load’ events, which are fired when the scene was loaded. The event callback is passed an object with a config property, containing the just-loaded scene config object.

    load: function (e) {
        console.log('scene loaded:', e);


This is a render state event emitter which fires when the view enters “resting state”, meaning new geometry has rendered, and no further tiles are loading. For example, when a scene is loaded, a view_complete event will fire when all tiles have loaded and the initial map view has been drawn. If the view is then zoomed in a level, another view_complete event will fire when the next zoom finishes rendering.

view_complete can be subscribed to like other scene events:

    view_complete: function () {
        console.log('scene view complete');