This article explains the use of chart control from the basic on how to install the required software for making the development environment and finally with a very good example on both web and windows applications.
In this article we are going to see how to use the new charting control with visual studio 2010. Chart controls are introduced with Visual Studio 2008 as a patch in Service Pack 1. Chart controls provide a rich user interface for showing the numbers in a much graphical format where most of the end users are eager to look into. Prior to chart controls, developers need to check out for third party tools, some open source libraries or use HTML and GDI+ to draw some graphical image as a chart for the end users which requires more user code and time consuming.
Microsoft as introduced this control with much aware of the present scenario of showing the data in image rather than a grid view or some data viewer controls. Chart control introduced by late September 2009 as a separate service pack 1 with visual studio 2008. In Visual Studio 2010, Microsoft added the control in-build which provides developers much easier to use the control. This control can be used in both windows and web application to show the rich user data in a good graphical format.
Chart control offers wide variety to choose the best format required by the end users to view the data. Some of the types of charts available with the control are as follows: PIE Chart, LINE Chart, BAR Chart, BUBBLE Chart, PYRAMID Chart etc. Microsoft has a count of around 35 distinct chart type in the latest version of the visual studio. Also the control provides most of the features required to make the chart more attractive like providing lines, labels, trend lines etc. The controls API provides option to make the sorting filter, grouping, searching, merging, splitting and exporting to the required format making the control more robust for the developers to use it across the requirement.
In this article we will see on using the Chart control in both Visual Studio 2008 and Visual studio 2010 versions starting from the beginner to the experts. Also we will see some good examples on using this control in Web application and a windows application to see how flexible the control is used. Microsoft has not provided any Wizard to customize the data chart by giving the data source, customizing the size, look and color of the data, all these things need to be handled by the developer to bind and use the required data format as such.
Since Microsoft provides this chart as a free control along with the visual studio, developers no need to think much on the third parties or the open source tools for charting with the application which gives an advantage to go over this control and use it wherever required. Here we will see on how to download, install and use this control in both visual studio 2008 and visual studio 2010 versions. Since Visual Studio 2008 requires a separate download, we will see on the steps on where to download and install the application so that the control will be available in the tool box of the VS 2008 version.
Downloading & Installing for Visual Studio 2008:
Microsoft Chart control released as a standalone application with the Visual Studio 2008 Service Pack 1. In order to use this control in VS 2008 version we need to download the control and the libraries from the Microsoft URL (See below for the list of downloads with URL).
Microsoft Chart Control - http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyId=130F7986-BF49-4FE5-9CA8-910AE6EA442C&displaylang=en
(Check below for the download and installation process)
Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Chart Controls Add on - http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?familyid=1D69CE13-E1E5-4315-825C-F14D33A303E9&displaylang=en
Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Chart Controls Add on helps to add the control to the toolbox and gives the intellisense support for the chart application.
Microsoft Chart Control Samples - http://archive.msdn.microsoft.com/mschart
Microsoft Chart control samples are number of samples on both windows and web application which provides a very good start for the beginners to start and use the control
Microsoft Chart control is the mandatory download remaining 2 things are for our reference purpose which helps to build a very good chart application. Once you downloaded these software’s from the links provided we need to install and setup the development environment in order to start developing a charting application. We will see in detail on how to install and configure the above 3 downloads one by one.
Microsoft Chart Control - Installation:
Click on the link above will open the window as shown in the below screen. Click on download (Mschart.exe) and save in your local machine
Now double click on the Mschart.exe file to install the application. When we install this exe the binaries will be placed in the Global Assembly Cache (GAC) and also will be placed in the ProgramFiles\Microsoft Chart Controls\Assemblies. Since the files are placed in GAC we can used it globally without placing the dll’s in each and every BIN folder. When we publish the project in the server there we no need to install the exe instead we can use the binaries moved to the publish bin folder.
Once you double click the Mschart.exe it will open the window as shown below. It shows that we need the prerequisite of .net framework 3.5 with SP1. Click Next to proceed further.
Click on the license agreement to proceed further as shown in screen below.
Installation process will start and components will be installed one by one and we can see the progress as shown in the screen below.
Once the installation is completed we can see the final message as shown below which indicates that the software has been installed successfully.
We can find the Chart control in the toolbox as shown in the screen below.
Now we are ready with the development environment where we have the chart control installed and tested completely. These are the above steps we need to follow for setting up a development environment for using the Chart Control with Visual Studio 2008 version. As i said earlier since Visual Studio 2010 version is inbuilt provided with this control we no need to follow the above steps for the Visual Studio 2010 version. Now we will see some samples on using the different charts available.
.Net framework 4.0 developers can omit the steps which we are done for the downloading and installation process since the control is available in build in the latest framework. Now let us jump start to see the example of using this chart control.
We have downloaded some samples from the msdn archive (3rd download). Let us see the samples by opening the project and running the same. We need to navigate to the place where we downloaded the samples and open the solution as shown in the screen below
It will open the solution will pre-loaded samples as shown in the screen below
Now we will build the solution and execute the project to see the result. To do this press F5 you will see the output in IE as shown in the screen below. When its building the project we can see the different chart type build as shown in the screen below.
The left side menu contains the different types of charts and for binding data and some common features required to be used for developing the application as shown in the below screen
Each chart type is given with a tree view menu which has different types inside it like with normal chart view, 3D chart view and some other properties which developer need to take care as per their requirement. On selecting each chart the sample will be opened in the right side portion with the code as well for C# and VB.net as shown in the below screen
With this help of data and the code developers can make use to develop a chart with ease. Now we will create an application and develop our own chart task for a windows and a web application.
Chart Control in Web Application:
This section we are going to see how to use the chart control in a web application. We are going to create a new application in C# and name it as WebDashboard as shown in the below screen
Now once the project solution is opened you can drag and drop the chart control as shown in the screen below
If we want to change the chart type as per our interest we need to select the tab which appears at the top right corner of the control as shown in the screen below
In our example I have selected the Doughnut type as shown in the below screen
Here we have an option to select the data source as well, say if we want to use an XML as a source for the chart we can directly provide the xml path which takes data and show the result in the chart view. In our example we will fetch the data from the database and show the result in a chart. For getting the data from the database using Wizard we can configure the data source as shown in the screen below.
Just follow the below steps to configure the data source.
Here the pop up shows the list of data source providers available, since in our example we are going to get the data from SQL Server we are going to select SQL from the list available as shown in the screen below
Now click on ok to do the configuration of the server and the database from where we need to pull the data for the chart. It will open a window for taking the connection as shown in the screen below
Here I have connected to a Northwind database in my local server to fetch the data for the chart. To make a new connection use the New Connection button at the right side and fetch the connection. Once the connection is selected click on NEXT will go to the next window where we need to select the table from which we need to pull the data as shown in the screen below
Here we can select as per the requirement on the different table or a combination of tables with joins as per the requirement. Here I have select a product table which has some basic product details as shown in the screen below
Now once we selected the data required from the window click on NEXT button will move to the next screen where we can run the query and test the result set which we are going to show with the pictorial representation using the Chart control as shown in the screen below
Now once everything is configured we need to click on the FINISH button to complete the configuration and we can see some configuration popups in the base version as shown in the screen below
The X value member and the Y value member are the places where we need to provide the x axis and y axis like data upon which the chart will be created. Here in our sample we are going to select Product name and Product Id as shown in the screen below
Now we are half done with the configuration, to see some sample result we will execute the project. To execute the solution press F5 we can see the screen with the chart on to it as shown in the screen below
This is our expected output out of the chart control which we tried to create of. Now we will do some enhancements on making the chart as 3D and some good look and feel to make the end users very attractive. To do some enhancements just select the chart and go to properties and go to the Chart Areas as shown in the below screen
Select the tool box will open the configuration window for the chart as shown below
This is the window where we need to make the configuration enhancements for making the chart look better to the end users. We will see the major properties used in order to make the chart looks presentable. First enable 3D view as shown in the below screen
Now we need to select the Inclination on how much the 3D view should be shown to the user, best option to show the chart in 3D view to the user will be something around 30 to 60. Here we will select 50 and we can see the inclination in the background chart as shown in the screen below
Next section is the Rotation; we need to set the rotation something between 30 to 70 to show the major of our output in the chart as per our requirement. Here in our example we have set it to 50 and we can see the change in the chart as shown in the screen below
Next property is the Back Color, we can change the background color of the chart as per the requirement using the property as shown in the screen below
Once we are done with these configuration click on OK button to complete the first section of the configuration and we can see the changes straight forward on to the chart as shown in the screen below
Now we will move on to some other properties to enhance the look of the chart. Now again go to the properties of the chart control and go to the Legends section as shown in the below screen
Clicking on the tool box will open the window as shown in the screen below. Here we need to configure for the Legends to show on to the chart.
Now click on the ADD button at the left bottom will automatically add the legend to the chart and show the result immediately as shown in the screen below. We have many options to configure as per our requirement as shown in the screen below.
Now clicking on OK will load the properties to the chart control. Now we will move on to the next property PALETTE which has many template palettes inbuilt to select it from much suitable one as per our website recommendations. This property is something like of themes applying to the chart as shown in the screen below.
Now we are done with major of the enhancements which are required to provide a rich user experience with the help of pictorial representation of data using our Microsoft Chart control. Now to build and execute the project press F5 and we can see the screen loaded and shown as below
Now we are done with the charting control for a web application, which the above tutorial we can create a chart of our required pattern and create a good rich user attractive chart with the help of the Microsoft Chart Control.
Chart Control in Windows Application:
This section we are going to see how to use the chart control in a windows application. We are going to create a new application in C# and name it as WinDashboard as shown in the below screen
Drag and drop the chart control to the form as shown in the screen below
Now like in web application we will not be popped up with the tool box which has the list of chart types and the data source in build read for customizing. We need to manually do the changes here as per our requirement. We will see one by one which we did for the web application.
Now to select the chart type we need to go to Series and the select the collections as shown in the screen below
We will see a popup which has the list of chart types out of which we will select the Doughnut chart as shown in the screen below
After we select the chart type click on OK button will change the chart image to Doughnut as shown in the below screen
Now we need to select the data source, for that we need to navigate to Datasource in the properties menu and select to add a new datasource as shown in the screen below
It will open the list of data source providers available as shown in the screen below. From here we will select the SQL database
Now select the database option from the list using this provider we are going to connect to the SQL server database. Once selected the database and clicking on NEXT will go to the next screen where we need to do the configuration as shown in the screen below
Here based on the requirement we can select the model from which the data should be pulled. Since we have the direct connectivity with the database we use the data set model to proceed further. Select Dataset and clicking on Next will move to the next screen as shown in the screen below
Here we use the connection to the Northwind Database; else we can make use of the New connection to connect to any new servers locally or to the network to fetch the data. Once we are done with the connection string click on the NEXT button will have the configuration to select the data from the table as shown in the screen below
Since we need to pull the data from the table expand the table node and we can see the list of all the tables as shown in the screen below
Here we need to select the source table; since in our example ProductMaster table is the source we have selected that. Once clicked on Finish button to complete the data source configuration section to proceed further.
Now if we build and execute the application we will see the empty screen with an empty chart as shown in the screen below
The problem here is we have not set the X axis and Yaxis member to make the chart. So to provide the X axis and Y axis we need to go to the SERIES property and select the collections to mark the X axis and Y axis members as shown in the screen below
Once we selected these values now click on the ok button to complete the configuration and now we are ready to build and execute the project. Press F5 to do so and you can see the end result in a much waited chart format in windows application as shown in the screen below
Which is almost looks same like the web application result. So we are done with the windows application chart.
Hope everyone like this article, in our coming series I will explain on the different chart types and on how to get data from different source and binding the chart at runtime etc. Post your comments if any doubts and any feedback so that it will be useful for me to cover in my upcoming articles.