ChartingControl.NET 1.6 for ASP.NET 2.0
Simple to Use, Inexpensive, and Easy to Deploy
By Steve C. Orr
There are many third-party charting controls available for .NET development. Many are big, fancy, expensive software systems offered by major brand name software companies. They can be difficult to deploy, often involving complex dependencies and GAC registration requirements that may be difficult (if not impossible) to deal with when deploying to shared Web servers. Such charting packages often have steep learning curves that can involve a developer tinkering for many days to get moderately complex charts to appear as desired. Licensing is often nefarious, too, with headaches often being caused by such things as trying to figure out if the control used by developer 1 on project A using server X can be legally used by developer 2 on project B using server Y. And good luck getting management to sign off on the large price tags frequently associated with such systems.
With that in mind, I m pleased to introduce you to ChartingControl.NET, which provides a development experience exactly opposite of the description above. It s simple and inexpensive, has a small footprint, and couldn t possibly be any easier to deploy.
The free demo download of ChartingControl.NET is quick and simple, with the zip file weighing in at just over 6 megabytes. There is no setup program, however, so setting things up requires a few basic manual steps that I d prefer to be automated. There are two sample projects included, a fairly thorough help file, and the dependency free ChartControl.dll.
After creating a new Web application and adding the charting control to your toolbox, it can be dragged onto any Web form for a reasonably rich design-time experience, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: With a variety of useful configuration options, ChartingControl.NET presents a smooth design-time experience.
The smart tag allows customization of the most common grid properties, and of course the standard Visual Studio property window can be used if preferred to set any of the 80 editable properties available there. Alternatively, the settings dialog box shown in Figure 2 is a convenient way to configure settings and to input static or test data.
Figure 2: The settings dialog box for ChartingControl.NET is a useful way to configure a graph.
There are 39 chart types, including many variations of bar graphs, pie charts, line graphs, radar charts, and even geographic maps. The output for the majority of the charts is absolutely beautiful, rivaling many charting controls that cost several times as much. While the charts render as images by default, simply setting the UseFlash property to true will cause most charts to render as flash animations, with bars and lines dropping and bouncing into place. The animations are highly customizable through a variety of property settings, although I wish there were a way to get the animations to finish faster than is currently allowed.
Unlike some competing charting controls, individual bars, lines, and other data points can have their own labels, tooltips, and click events for rich interactive feedback and drilldown functionality.
A basic ASPX declaration for ChartingControl.NET is shown in Figure 3. While most properties can be configured in the source view shown in Figure 3 or in the design-time windows shown in Figures 1 and 2, they can also be set at run time with intuitive syntax such as that shown in Figure 4.
runat="server" BackColor="#DDDDDD" EllementOpacity="230" EllementsStartupAnimationDuration="1" Height="379px" Type="StackedSurface3D" Width="471px">
Figure 3: A basic ASPX declaration.
'Set the chart type
Chart1.Type = ChartType.Multibars3D
'Set the Y-axis data series values
Chart1.Labels = "Date"
'Set the title of the chart
Chart1.GraphTitle = "Title of the chart"
'Bind the chart to a data source
Chart1.DataSource = MyDataTable
Figure 4: Properties can be set at run time with intuitive syntax.
As you can see, the syntax is reasonably simple for anyone familiar with .NET and computerized chart creation.
All About ChartingControl.NET
ChartingControl.NET was developed in pure C# code. Its small footprint, lack of dependencies, and ability to be deployed outside the GAC makes it great for deploying to shared Web servers to which you may not have complete control.
While this review covers the ASP.NET 2.0 version of the control, there is also a 1.1 version, as well as Windows forms versions of the charting control. For the paltry price of only US$250 you get a fully licensed copy of the control that can be reused universally across any or all of your company s applications. The full source code to the control can also be purchased, although it costs about 10 times as much.
The free demo of the control is fully functional, although it displays a notice across the front of every generated chart that says Not for production environment (as shown in Figure 5).
Figure 5: The fully functional demo of ChartingControl.NET displays beautifully rendered charts altered only by a trial notice displayed across the front.
Well Worth the Price
The performance of ChartingControl.NET is snappy and scalable. Its intuitive design-time experience and beautiful chart output could easily be appealing to virtually any .NET developer. ChartingControl.NET may be a little rough around the edges, such as a few typos in the documentation and property names, but these minor nitpicks can be easily overlooked by budget-minded software developers.
Outside Software, Inc. has quite an impressive initial control on their hands. Because this is the company s only control, you can expect focused support like few other companies could hope to provide. This includes free lifetime support, beginning with 60 days of priority e-mail support (send to mailto:[email protected]). It also includes free access to minor version upgrades. An online forum or FAQ would be nice additions to their Web site, although the online user guides and product documentation are ample.
If you re in need of a good, solid charting control that won t burglarize your budget, I suggest you download the free ChartingControl.NET demo now and take it for a test drive.
Steve C. Orr is an ASPInsider, MCSD, Certified ScrumMaster, Microsoft MVP in ASP.NET, and author of the book Beginning ASP.NET 2.0 AJAX (Wrox). He s been developing software solutions for leading companies in the Seattle area for more than a decade. When he s not busy designing software systems or writing about them, he can often be found loitering at local user groups and habitually lurking in the ASP.NET newsgroup. Find out more about him at http://SteveOrr.net or e-mail him at mailto:[email protected].
Web Site: http://www.chartingcontrol.net
Price: Starts at US$250