Chart FX for .NET
By David Mack
When you share information you want to make it easy to understand the data. Sometimes the best way to do that is with a chart or a map. Chart FX for .NET provides exactly that functionality in a tool that s automatically integrated into Visual Studio.NET. It provides charts that can be used in WinForms or WebForms. It provides all the standard charts you would expect to better share your information: line, pie, bubble, and gantt plus some you might not have imagined.
The installation is painless and easy to follow. Chart FX will appear in your Visual Studio Toolbox. Simply start by dragging the Chart FX control onto your WinForm or WebForm. The wizard (see Figure 1) automatically pops up and walks you through the type of chart you want to use. You can control the border style, color palette, axis labels, and chart titles. It s easy to make changes if you don t like how the chart looks once you run it against the actual data. You can access the properties of the control or you can run the wizard again by right-clicking on the control.
Figure 1: The Chart FX for .NET Wizard.
The data used to populate the charts can be pulled from an ADO dataset, XML file, array, collection, or even a flat text file. You can let Chart FX do the work and populate the chart based on your ADO dataset. Simply pass the dataset to Chart FX, set a property for the chart to get its information from the dataset, and you re done. If you want more granularity over what goes into the chart, you can use the API and event handlers to control the data.
The server-side component allows you to control how the chart looks before it s actually displayed in the browser. If the browser in use doesn t support .NET formats then it can generate a .jpeg to display the information. If your target browser is Internet Explorer you can take advantage of the client-side components. That means you can actually let users interact with the charts. The installation of the client-side component is transparent to the user. Chart FX supports browser detection so you can tailor your content to take advantage of browser features when they are available.
I would like to point out the help that s available for this product. The Web site does a good job of getting information to the user. There is a huge amount of information in the online forums, and it seems to be well monitored by the Software FX developers and tech support. I especially liked the documentation that shipped with the product. It s organized in such a way that you can quickly jump to a specific area. Searching within the help is also easy to do. The example source code is easy to follow and adapt for your own purposes. In addition, there are slideshows that walk you through the various charts supported. All that said, the learning curve is relatively short despite all the flexibility and power the tool provides.
If you are looking for a simple, easy to use tool for charting and graphing, you can t do much better than Chart FX for .NET.
David Mack is a technical lead for the National Intelligence Division of Titan Systems and an independent consultant. He has more than 10 years of experience in object-oriented programming. Reach him at mailto:[email protected].
Web Site: http://www.softwarefx.com