Review: Graphics Server .NET

Graphics Server .NET 2.5
Graphics Server Technologies, LP
Seattle, Washington
(206) 625-6900

Graphics Server .NET is a 100% managed code charting package for .NET. It includes controls for both Windows Forms and WebForms (all in the same package, so you get them all for one price). This version also adds "widgets", which are a set of controls that will help you pump up your display of single or multiple values. Widgets can look like guages, meters, stop lights, led bars, thermometers, and even clocks. Graphics Server .NET includes a full object model for widgets, so you can do things like add additional needles to a guage or change the background color and styling.

The charting and graphic component is very powerful as well, with support for all manner of charts - bar charts, pie charts, bubble charts, radar charts, surface charts, and plenty more. You've got full control over all the look and feel bit, and there are a series of designers hosted in Visual Studio that let you change much of this interactively, without setting properties by hand. You can also save and recall chart templates, so if you come up with a look and feel that fits in with your own application it's easy to apply it consistently everywhere you need a chart.

Underneath it all there's an object model that's pretty powerful: a Chart object can be hooked up to multiple SeriesComponent objects, and you can share SeriesComponent objects between more than one chart so that they update in unison. There are also object models to let you manipulate most anything about the chart. The event model lets you create "hot graphs", where mouse clicks on data points send the data back to your application for further processing. It's easy to load data in code, either from arrays or from a standard OLEDB data provider. They also include a random data generator in the package so you can see what a chart looks like without the bother of hooking up your own data. Another feature I like is the conditional marker support. Not only can you set up a chart so that, say, all points with a value under 10 are colored red, but you can determine your own arbitrarily complex conditions for the coloring by implementing an interface.

One interesting note is that the properties of a chart can easily be exposed to end users at runtime, either as old-style property pages or as a property grid. This makes it easy to let the users of an application alter colors, scales, or even chart types as they try to better understand the data. It also offers an easy way to interactively prototype a chart so you can find something that looks good with your particular data.

You can download an evaluation version to check it out further - and in fact they'll even provide an hour of developer consultation to help you implement your own needs with the package. They also have a whole boatload of samples online so you can get a sense of the power of their components. Their licensing model is also worth mentioning: license per developer, with no server license, even for the Web components. Overall, this is a well-done .NET package that should get you up and running quickly.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.


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