22. Export Your Data

22.1. Raw Data Export


To use data from Cytoscape networks in an external application, the data has to be exported. As a Cytoscape network consists of a number of different types of data, there are options in Cytoscape for each exportable data type. These options (Network, Table, Styles) can be found on the File → Export submenu (shown above).



The first option on the Export menu is Network, which is used to export network data. Network data includes the nodes and edges in the network, and also will include data attributes and visual information if the chosen format supports it (like XGMML). Network data can be exported in a number of formats, including:

  • SIF (Simple Interaction Format)
  • NNF (Nested Network Format)
  • GraphML
  • PSI-MI Level 1 and 2.5
  • Cytoscape.js JSON (can be used with Cytoscape.js, a tool described in future sections)

The default format is SIF, which is a simple tab-delimited network format that provides node names and edge interactions only. You can choose the format using the dialog drop-down box. A file name is automatically suggested based on the network name and selected format, with the file path defaulting to the current working directory. You can change the suggested file name/path using the text box or Browse button. Press OK to export with the selected options.



The Table option is used to export any of the data tables that are available in the current Cytoscape session. This includes the node, edge, and network tables that can be seen in the Table Browser, as well as any unassigned tables. The only currently supported file format currently for export is CSV (comma-separated value).

The export dialog for Table has only two selectable options - the table to export and the file name (file type is always CSV). A file name is suggested based on the name of the selected table with the path defaulting to the current working directory. As in Network, the suggested file name can be changed using the Browse button or the text field. Press OK to export the selected table with the given file name.



The Styles option is used to export one or more visual styles available in the current Cytoscape session. Supported formats include Style XML (which can be imported by 3.x versions of Cytoscape) or Cytoscape.js JSON (which can be used with Cytoscape.js, described in future sections).

Style export has three options - the export format (as described above), the style(s) to export, and the file name (a suggestion will be made based on the current directory and file type). As in Network → Table, the suggested file name can be changed using the Browse button or the text field. The list of styles is a multiple-selection list - one or more can be selected using Ctrl/Cmd-click (to select multiple discontiguous elements) or Shift-click (to select a contiguous element range). Press OK to export all selected styles with the given file path.

22.2. Exporting for Publication

When you finish your data analysis and visualization, you can publish your data to share the results. Cytoscape has several options to do this, with most options suitable for Cytoscape users and other options suitable for programmers wanting to create unusual or complex network viewers. These are further explained below.

  • A session file
  • A static image
  • An interactive web application
    • CyNetShare
    • Full web application
    • Simple network view (for web application developers)

As a Session File

The easiest way to share your results with others is simply saving everything as a session file (which is a zipped session archive). You can save your current session by clicking the Save Session icon. You can save to a thumb drive, a shared file system, or even a cloud drive directory such as Dropbox. If you save to a shared drive, beware not to have two people work on the same session file with Cytoscape at the same time, as unpredictable results may occur.

As a Static Image


Cytoscape can generate publication-quality images from network views. By selecting File → Export as Image..., you can export the current network view into the following formats:

  • JPG
  • PNG
  • PS (Post Script)
  • SVG
  • PDF

The image export dialog has a variable number of options based on the file format selected, with file type and file name always being selectable. PNG and JPEG have options for scaling, while other formats only have a single option, Export Text as Font. The file name is suggested based on the name of the selected table with the path defaulting to the current working directory. As in raw data export, the suggested file name can be changed using the Browse button or the text field. Press OK to export an image with the given file name and parameters.

We recommend using PDF for publications because it is a standard vector graphics format, and it is easy to edit in other applications such as Adobe Illustrator.

Known Issues

For PDF export, there is an option to Export text as font. This option does not work for two-byte characters such as Chinese or Japanese. To avoid corrupted texts in the exported images, please uncheck this option when you publish networks including those non-English characters.

As an Interactive Web Application (New in 3.2.0)

The Web is an excellent platform for data sharing and collaboration, and Cytoscape provides a number of ways to publish your network on the web, with each choice representing tradeoffs between ease, simplicity, and customization options. All solutions leverage the cytoscape.js drawing library, and so enable not only viewing but also Cytoscape-style interactive browsing of networks and attributes.

The simplest choice is CyNetShare, where you save your network (and optionally a style) on a public file system, then interactively view the network in a browser. Like Google Maps, you can generate and publish a URL that allows collaborators to also view your network.

Alternatively, Cytoscape can generate an entire web site showing a single page containing the viewer with your network pre-loaded. You can load this directly onto your own web server to become part of your web site.

Finally, Cytoscape can generate the skeleton of a web site for further customization by JavaScript programmers.

These features are available as Export menu items under the File menu, and are described in sections below.

For example, here is a network in Cytoscape:


Here is the same network as an interactive web visualization:


Note that web browsers can render small networks (e.g., 1000 nodes) quickly and effectively, but attempting to render large ones (e.g., 5000 nodes) will take a very long time.

A word about exporting styles to interactive web applications: Our web applications are based on the cytoscape.js display library, which renders a subset of Cytoscape styles. For more information, see the Export Styles to Cytoscape.js section below.

Sharing via CyNetShare

CyNetShare is a browser-based web application that renders JSON-formatted networks and attributes saved in public directories. Optionally, you can specify visual styles that the web application will use to draw your network as it appears in Cytoscape. CyNetShare is similar to Google Maps in that once you have loaded your network and have tweaked its appearance to suit your needs, you can have CyNetShare generate a new URL that you can e-mail or post as a link on your own web site. That URL will bring up CyNetShare preloaded with your network for anyone to see.

To use CyNetShare:

  1. Select File → Export → Network... to export your network to a public directory. Choose the Cytoscape.js JSON (*.cyjs) export file format.
  2. Optionally, select File → Export → Style... to export your style settings. Choose the Style for cytoscape.js (*.json) export file format.
  3. Use your public directory system to determine direct URLs for the files you exported.
  4. Start CyNetShare
  5. Enter the network’s URL as the Graph URL.
  6. Optionally, enter the style’s URL.
  7. Click the Visualize button.

The CyNetShare User Guide is provided on the CyNetShare web page:

Note that if you specify a style URL, the style is added to the list of styles available in CyNetShare‘s Visual Style dropdown, and you can apply the style by selecting it in the list. CyNetShare’s initial display uses the visual style named “default” – use the Visual Style dropdown to choose the style in effect when Cytoscape generated the .cyjs and .json files.

Note that the mechanics of generating a URL for a file in a public directory system is a fast moving topic. Until recently, systems like Dropbox (and others) allowed users to create a URL that resolved directly to a file – a “direct” URL would be appropriate for use with CyNetShare. As of this writing, some public directory systems (e.g., Dropbox) generate “shareable” URLs instead, which resolve to a web page that allows file download – a “shareable” URL doesn’t work with CyNetShare. Systems that offer “shareable” URLs may offer “direct” URLs as part of their premium (or Pro) package. To tell if your public directory system generates a “direct” URL, have it generate a URL for a file, then paste the URL into the address field of a browser and observe whether the browser displays the file itself (good!) or a download page for the file (bad!).

Hint: if Dropbox generates a “shareable” link that looks like https://www.dropbox.com/s/w5e7towcchuvdeu/cynetworm.cyjs?dl=0, you may be able to create a “direct” link by changing the dl=0 to dl=1: https://www.dropbox.com/s/w5e7towcchuvdeu/cynetworm.cyjs?dl=1.

A simple strategy for always getting a “direct” URL is to store your file in a public directory served up by a web server, if you have access to one – a URL served by a web server might appear as: http://myserver.com/~mypublicdir/netstyle.json.

Alternately, you can use Gist to create a shareable document having a “direct” URL. To try this:

  1. Use Cytoscape to generate your network as a .cyjs file on your local disk
  2. Use an editor to open the file and copy its contents to the clipboard
  3. Use a web browser to surf to Gist
  4. Paste the contents into a Gist document
  5. Select Create public Gist
  6. Select Raw to place the “direct” URL into your browser’s address field
  7. Use that URL with CyNetShare

Generating a Full Web Application

The full page export option is designed for users who want to publish their network as a complete single-page application. Cytoscape creates a zip archive containing a complete JavaScript-based web application that works as a basic viewer (like CyNetShare) for Cytoscape-generated network visualizations. You can unzip the archive onto a web server (or your PC) and view the network via a web browser on PCs and tablets.


To generate an entire web page for all networks in the session as a zip archive, select File → Export as Web Page.... The following dialog will appear:


This simple dialog has only two options - the file name and the type of web export (full, simple network view, or JSON). For full web application, we use the default. The file name is suggested based on the name of the selected table with the path defaulting to the current working directory. As in raw data export, the suggested file name can be changed using the Browse button or the text field. Press OK to export a web archive with the given file name.

To view the web page, unzip the archive into a folder on your PC or web server. The folder will contain an index.html file, the network data, and other files. You can open the index.html file in your browser (usually from your browser’s File → Open menu item.)

Depending on your browser’s security settings, you may not be able to open the index.html file directly if it is stored on your PC – you may need to start a web server on your PC. An easy way to set up a local web server is by running the Python simple HTTP server. If you have Python installed on your machine, just go into the web archive folder and type:

python -m SimpleHTTPServer 8000

and use your browser to open:


Testing the archive on your PC will serve as an easy test of the web page, but to publish it to collaborators, you should unzip your archive onto a web server.

Here is an example exported file from Cytoscape:


Note that because Cytoscape uses the latest HTML5-based web technologies, it cannot support older or non-conformant web browsers such as Internet Explorer. We strongly recommend using the latest version of modern web browsers such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple Safari.

Generating a Simple Network View (For Web Application Developers)

The Simple Network View export option is designed for users who want to publish their data as a complete single-page application, but are interested in customizing the web viewer application themselves. Cytoscape creates a zip archive containing a partial JavaScript-based web application based on the cytoscape.js library and including simple “boilerplate” code and the current network view. The user can create a custom viewer by customizing this code.


To generate a web page for a single network view as a zip archive, select File → Export as Web Page ... as before, but this time choose the Simple viewer for current network only format as below:


Everything else works as before, though this time the viewer will only include the current network. Press OK to proceed with the export.

For instructions on testing the customized web application, see Generating a Full Web Application above.

Customize Export Template (For Web Application Developers)

The code generated by Cytoscape for the Full Web Application and the Simple Network View web applications is minimalistic. While you can directly modify this code yourself to create your own page design or add new features, the modifications will apply to a single exported network. If you are a web application developer, you can change the application code generated for all exports by editing HTML5 template code resource files in your ~/CytoscapeConfiguration/web directory:


In this folder, you can find full and simple sub directories corresponding to Full Web Application and the Simple Network View described above.


To build these project, you need the following tools installed:

  • Node.js
  • gulp
  • grunt
Full Export Template

This is an AngularJS based web application built with grunt (at least for now – we have plans to migrate to gulp). Source code and more documentations are available here:

* https://github.com/idekerlab/cyjs-full-export

To build the project into dist directory, type:

Simple Export Template

This template is generated by a simple gulp project. The source code is available here:

To build the project into dist directory, type:

Use Your Custom Templates for Export

Once you have your own builds, you can deploy your templates by replacing the contents of full and simple with your own builds.