If you have ever tried to integrate charting or graphing
into an application, you know how difficult it is to create this
functionality from scratch. Luckily, there are a number of third-party
tools available for Visual Studio.NET, including Chart FX for .NET
(ChartFX). Unlike some of the other third-party tools or components
that are simply older COM components with a .NET wrapper around them,
ChartFX was written from the ground up using C# when Visual Studio.NET
was first released and can be used in both Windows and Web
applications. You can use ChartFX with both Visual Studio.NET 2002 and
2003 and the company has announced support for the upcoming Visual
Studio.NET 2005 release, formerly code-named "Whidbey".
The installation of ChartFX was simple and automatically
created a program group with the product documentation and sample
files. Using some of these sample files will allow you to get familiar
with some of ChartFX's features and capabilities.
To add charting to your own applications, open Visual
Studio.NET, create a new project and then look in the Toolbox for a
section marked "ChartFX DevStudio", as shown below in Figure A.
|Visual Studio interface|
This section contains all of the different ChartFX tools that were
installed and to add a chart to your application, simply drag and drop
the Chart tool from the toolbox to your form. This will open the
ChartFX for .NET Wizard shown below in Figure B, which will guide you through creating your graph or chart.
The first step in creating a new chart or graph is to pick the type
of object you want to create. ChartFX supports a wide range of business
and scientific graph formats, including
- Surface Control
You can preview these graphs using either a "detailed" or
"graphical" view, with the graphical view showing you what the
resulting chart or graph would look like. Once you have selected the
type of graph, the next step is to select the colour palette. There are
a number of preset palettes for you to choose from, which should make
it easier to have a consistent interface across your application. The
third step in the wizard is where you control the visual elements
within the chart or graph, including the borders, legends, etc. and
finally, the last step of the wizard is for miscellaneous formatting
options, like setting the main and series titles.
Once you have formatted your chart or graph using the wizard
you can then preview your application to see how the chart will look.
At this point, ChartFX will use sample data to display your graph as it
will appear. The next step is to actually tie your chart into the
back-end data within your application. This sounds complicated, but
ChartFX makes it easy. ChartFX can use data stored in XML files, text
files, collections, arrays, etc. or you can use the API to specify what
data should be used in the chart or bind directly to an ADO.NET data
set. The documentation for the product is well organised and written
and there are walkthroughs, examples and sample applications that you
can use to come up to speed on the different binding methods and
formatting your chart programmatically.
As a whole, the product might be a little expensive but is a
welcome addition to a .NET developer's toolkit and will appeal to both
novice and experienced developers looking for an easy to use charting
ChartFX for .NET
Company: Software FX
Price: Starting at AU$1440
System Requirements: .NET Framework Final Release
(Build 1.0.3705 or above), .NET Development IDE, such as: Visual Studio
.NET Release Version (Build 7.0.9466 or above) or Borland C# Builder