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.netCHARTING
by Mike McIntyre | Published  09/19/2003 | Reviews Software Reviews | Rating:
Mike McIntyre

I am a system architect, developer, and project manager for aZ Software Developers, LLP.

I feel very lucky because my work at aZ Software Developers allows me the time to be an active mentor, trainer, and coach in the Microsoft .NET technical community.

DevCity is my favorite community site. Click to see my DevCity profile -> Mike McIntyre

 

 

View all articles by Mike McIntyre...
.netCHARTING
Quick Facts
.netCHARTING 2.0
Corporate Web Solutions Ltd.
Web: www.dotnetcharting.com
Single Domain Price: $395
Quick Facts: This is high performance charting engine with a very large set of features for: controlling the aesthetic look of charts, accessing data, and manipulating the data used in charts.

.netCHARTING for Microsoft® ASP.NET is a high-quality native Microsoft.NET charting component.

Like any good ASP.NET charting component, .netCHARTING does a good job plotting points. More importantly, it has some unique features and outstanding flexibility that produce some very visually appealing results.

During the product review process I found that .netCHARTING's capability to deliver stunning results lies in its balanced mix of aesthetic conveniences, database integration, and data manipulation capabilities.

There is a bonus benefit in this product. If you have developed charts for ASP.NET, you will appreciate how few lines of code are required to produce excellent charts with .netCHARTING.

The steps I took to review .netCHARTING version 2.0 were

  1. explore the resources at the www.dotnetcharting.com web site;
  2. download and configure the .netCHARTING distribution package;
  3. explore the Help system;
  4. explore the samples and chart gallery;
  5. view and experiment with sample web pages;
  6. test .netCHARTING in a new ASP.NET project;
  7. test product support; and
  8. summarize my findings

Explore the Resources at the www.dotnetcharting.com web site

The .netCHARTING web site is small and to the point. I explored it from top to bottom in about 45 minutes.

I learned what chart types are available through the Gallery link found on the Overview page.

This product has been adopted by some major companies. See the Clients link on the Overview page.

On the Overview page I found the "Ease of Use" link that leads to a quick walkthrough that provides a first exposure to how to code with the .netCHARTING component.

The Features page took the longest time to explore. If you have used some of the other ASP.NET charting components as I have, you will be likely be surprised by the number of features and the unique features in .netCHARTING.

Download and Configure the Distribution Package

The next step I took was to download the .netCHARTING distribution package from the web site, unzip it, and configure it for use on my IIS server.

After it is unzipped the entire directory can be copied/configured to a directory of your choice within your web server's root directory or, simply tie it to the web server through a virtual directory. The Help file in the distribution package has instructions for each approach.

The download, unzip, and configuration took 10 minutes.

Explore the Help System

.netCHARTING's Help application has an Overview section that lists all product features.

The Installation section of Help includes the distribution package configuration instructions mentioned previously in this review.

The Developer's Documentation section is very complete and includes one or more code snippet examples for each property, method, and event contained in the component.

Explore the Samples and Chart Gallery

Next I browsed the distribution package that by now I had installed as a web site on my web server.

Here are just few sample .netCHARTING output screenshots:

click for a full-sized image click for a full-sized image
click for a full-sized image click for a full-sized image
click for a full-sized image click for a full-sized image

The Samples and Gallery web site home page explains the contents of the .netCHARTING distribution package:

  • Samples are provided in both C# and VB.NET in 3 categories
  • Select a samples link above to jump to a specific set of samples
  • Feature samples demonstrate a specific feature or functionality of the product
  • Gallery samples show some the different charting types and variations possible
  • Classic samples include those samples provided with previous versions of .netCHARTING
  • Don't miss the full product documentation which includes detailed developer information

For this review I was interested in the VB.NET samples.

I started to view the Sample and Gallery web pages and as I did I got curious about the code that was generating them. I opened the distribution package's physical directory so I could open each examples .aspx source code immediately after viewing that sample on the Samples and Gallery web site.

View and Experiment with the Sample Web Pages

I found this to be the best way to learn how to use this product. After taking a look at most of the examples and the gallery I started making copies of their source code so I could tinker and experiment.

Before long I had a good 'cut, paste, and adopt' pattern going. This turned out be a very good way to start coding with the product. Later I found it an excellent way to add charts to my test application.

The .netCHARTING distribution package contains a very large collection of C# and VB.NET sample chart web pages and as it turned out for me, these are great building blocks for building .netCHARTING solutions.

It was during my 'tinkering' that I found out how few lines of code are needed to create stunning charts.

Test .netCHARTING in a new Visual Studio.NET ASP.NET Project

After my experiments I created a new Visual Studio.Net ASP.NET project to test .netCHARTING in a project of my own.

Test Data Sources

In this application I created 12 test charts using Microsoft Access, Sql Server, an Excel worksheet, and a DataSet as data sources for the charts.

The Microsoft Access database and the Excel worksheet were easily accessed through OLEDB, SQL Server through the native Sql Client, and the DataSet was passed into the .netCHARTING object as you would expect - as an ADO.NET DataSet.

Test Chart Types and Chart Element Manipulation

To make things easy I copied code from the distribution directory on my web server. I copied code for twelve types of charts. I changed the data source in the code to link each chart to one of my test data sources.

At this point the test charts were working the same as the examples from which I copied the code but were using my data sources.

I started to manipulate the appearance of the charts. I tried these features .netCHARTING:

Axis markers, bind series to different x and y axes, alternating axis grids, background hatch style and color, axis range markers, tick label overrides, per axis formatting, time padding, integrated legend, legend element templates, element force marker, element label template tokens, tool tip template tokens, URL template tokens, element markers, AND... I was out of time with many more features to go.

My test used maybe 10% of the features the product contains to control the appearance and interactivity of a chart built with .netCHARTING.

Using only this small subset of the features the charts were quite stunning.

Test Data Manipulation

I moved on to test data manipulation with .netCHARTING.

The product has the types of basic calculations you would expect in a reporting packing like Sum, Mean, Average, Min, Max, and Running Sum, Running Mean etc. - to name a few.

I tested some of the basic calculations then tried some of the more powerful data manipulation features in the product:

  • Addition of a derived series for an average
  • Add series data automatically from a database
  • Split data from a database to create multiple series.
  • Set a maximum number of elements to chart.
  • Used series data from the Excel worksheet and the Sql server to graph multiple series on the same chart.
  • Multi series drill down.

In addition I tested the axis conversion features which support any number of axis with built in conversion. Transformations proved simple through the built in conversions and also when I used my own conversion functions.

There are many more data manipulation features that I did not have time to test such as data grouping, split by and show other, limit and empty element handling.

Having gained experience with the product I was able to see that data integration and data manipulation are major strengths in .netCHARTING. Using these types of features is time consuming but I found this product made implementing the features pretty easy.

Test Product Support

When I created my own project I seemed to have a problem adding and removing the chart component so I contacted customer support. I got a response within an hour. It turned out to be operator error, just a part of my learning curve.

Summary

I recommend this product be considered by anyone comparison shopping strong ASP.NET charting solutions.

As an experienced developer I found this product easy to use. It worked without any problems in my test application. It is now a strong member of my charting tools collection. I will use this tool first when I need to push the charting envelope in terms of chart appearance and data manipulation.

This product has very simple licensing and very competitive pricing. Rather than try to explain it here and possibly get it wrong I recommend you carefully compare pricing on all the ASP.NET charting components you consider for purchase. In most cases .netCHARTING will lead the pack in terms of competitive pricing, especially in multi-developer/multi-domain scenarios.

Take time when choosing an ASP.NET charting component. It is not a simple task. With the release of .netCHARTING 2.0 there are now five strong charting solutions for ASP.NET (my opinion). A thorough feature and pricing comparison will take several days or more. Comparisons and decisions will vary depending on each person's actual requirements for an ASP.NET charting component.

Serge Baranovsky, DevCity.NET/vbCity.com Developer Community founder:

I use .netCHARTING for almost a year now, and I can honestly say that it is the most time saving ASP.NET component in my collection, and definitely one of the easiest to use. Just over weekend I've put together Ad Statistics Reporting application using .netCHARTING. I was extremely glad I saved time and, what is most important, vbCity advertisers are happy monitoring great looking real-time impressions/clicks reports online!
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