Friday, June 5, 2009

Exploring the ASP.NET 3.5 Chart Controls

The new Chart Controls for .NET Framework 3.5 enables ASP.NET and Windows Forms developers to easily create rich and professional-looking data visualization solutions. The Chart Controls currently contains 25 different chart types with 3-D support for most of them, and all of these, available for FREE. Amongst the other features found in 3rd party charting controls, the Chart Controls for .NET framework provides feature like DataBinding, Data Export, support for Financial and Statistical data, State Management, Streaming, Serialization and much more.
To get started, download and install the following in the order given below:
Microsoft Chart Controls for Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 – assemblies containing the Chart Controls (ASP.NET and Windows Forms)
Microsoft Chart Controls Add-on for Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 – Add as a control in the Visual Studio toolbox and provides IntelliSense for Chart controls.
Once you have downloaded and installed these components, open Visual Studio 2008. In the Data tab on the Toolbox, observe the new ‘Chart’ control.
Chart Toolbox
To get started, let us create a sample application using the Chart control:
Step 1: Drag and drop the Chart control from the Toolbox to the Design surface of Default.aspx. You will see a ‘Column chart’ which looks similar to the following:
Sample Chart
If you click on the ‘Source’ view of the page, you find the following mark up added to the page:
<%@ Register Assembly="System.Web.DataVisualization, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35"
Namespace="System.Web.UI.DataVisualization.Charting" TagPrefix="asp" %>
<asp:Chart ID="Chart1" runat="server">
<asp:Series Name="Series1">
<asp:ChartArea Name="ChartArea1">
By default the ChartType is ‘Column’. In order to change the Chart Type to either Line, Bar, Pie or any of these 25 chart types; with the Chart control selected, go to the Properties window > go to ‘Series’ > Click on the ellipse button(…) > in the ‘Series Collection Editor’, click on the ‘ChartType’ to view and select a different chart type as shown below:
Series Coll Editor
For this demonstration, we will keep the ChartType to the default ‘Column’.
We will be binding the chart to some data. For this purpose, we will be using the SqlDataSource.
Step 2: Click on the smart tag or right click Chart > Show Smart Tag > Choose a DataSource > New Data Source… > Select Database. We will keep the default ID for SqlDataSource, SqlDataSource1 and click OK.
Step 3: On clicking OK, you will be presented with a ‘Configure Data Source’ wizard. Click on ‘New Connection’ to open the ‘Add Connection’. Type your ‘Server Name’ and ‘Select a database Name’ to connect to. Over here, I have typed (local) as the ServerName and the database I am connecting to is ‘Northwind’. Click on ‘Test Connection’ to make sure that there are no errors connecting to the server. Click Ok.
Step 4: In your ‘Configure Data Source’, click Next. An option will be displayed for saving the connection string to the configuration file. Select the checkbox ‘Yes, save this connection as:’ , type a name for the connectionstring ‘NorthwindConnectionString’ and click Next.
Step 5: In the ‘Configure Select Statement’ > select ‘Specify a Custom SQL Statement or stored procedure’ > click Next
SQL Data Src
Type the SQL query to ‘list the count of products in a category’ as shown below:
SELECT CategoryName, COUNT(*) AS ProductCount FROM Products JOIN Categories ON Products.CategoryID = Categories.CategoryID GROUP BY CategoryName
Click Next > Finish.
Step 6: Select the Chart control > Go to the Properties window > ChartAreas property and click the ellipse (…) button to open the ChartArea collection editor. Go to the ‘Axes’ property in the ChartArea Collection Editor and click the ellipse (…) button to open the Axis collection editor as shown below:
Axis Coll Editor
Set the ‘Title’ of the X axis to ‘Categories’ and the ‘Title’ of the Y axis to ‘Product Count’. Click OK to close the Axis Collection Editor and an OK again to close the ChartArea Collection Editor.
With the Chart control selected, go to the Series property in the Properties window and click the ellipse (…) button to open the Series collection editor. Go to the Data Source section and add the XValueMember as ‘CategoryName’ and YValueMembers to ‘ProductCount’. Also set the ‘IsValueShownAsLabel’ to True to display the value of ProductCount on the columns. Click OK.
Series Coll Editor
Step 7: With the properties set, run the application. You will see a chart as displayed below:
Final Chart
I am sure all we developers who have used 3rd party Charting solutions in the past, are going to welcome this awesome control from Microsoft. The best part is that it is available for FREE. For the ASP.NET MVC developers, here’s an article that would interest you Combining ASP.NET MVC and ASP.NET Charting Controls.
I hope you liked the article and I thank you for viewing it.

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