How to add dynamically generated Graphs and Charts to web pages and applications

by admin on April 18, 2011

How to add dynamically generated Graphs and Charts to web pages and applications

Not so very long ago adding a graph or chart to a web page or application required a fair amount of programming knowledge andwas rather time consuming for even the most experienced. Howeverwith the tools available today it is possible for almost anyone to add graphs and charts to web pages. With just a little bit ofHTML, dynamically generated graphs and charts can be added to web pages and/or applications.

Why use Graphs and ChartsThe web is about making information available. Today’s users tend to be in a hurry and require that information is presented to them clearly and quickly. If your web site has a message to convey, which is currently being presented as a table of figures,then it is highly likely that you will benefit from using graphing and charting functionality. With a table of figures most people find it hard to see the meaning immediately, however if those figures are presented as a picture (i.e. a graph) thenalmost all will instantly get the point. What’s more presenting your information graphically is both colorful and adds a touch of professionalism. People tend to have more confidence in information when it is presented in both a pleasing, clear andprofessional manner.

The Easy way to create a graphThere are now many graphing and charting packages on the marketwhich make it very quick and easy for you to build in professional quality graph images. The time saved in using an ‘out of the box’ solution is so great that even the most seasoned professionals are using these packages. In addition most graphing packages are very reasonably priced.Before choosing a package there are a couple of things to consider. For instance do you simply want to present the graphimage to your visitor or would you like some level of interaction. e.g. making certain areas of the graph clickable or pop-up data displays when the mouse passes over certain area’s. Another consideration is the source of your data. Is itheld in a database, file or somewhere else. Ideally you would want a graphing package that is capable of fetching the data directly from the source itself.

Which Graphing packages are availableAt the time of writing there are many graphing solutions on themarket which fall into the following technology categories:-

– Java Applet Graphing Solutions

This type of software, in addition to the standard graphical    capabilities, also provides interactive features like    clickable link area’s and mouse-over popup displays. These    solutions can be installed on any web server without any    server side configuration or set-up.

– Java Servlet Graphing Solutions

These solutions are powerful server side functionality.    Although probably not for the beginner they are very    beneficial to the ‘web application’ developer.

– Flash Graphing Solutions

The Flash environment provides some very sophisticated    graphics capabilities which has lead to some of the best    looking graphing solutions. Unfortunately the technology    can only work when the user has flash installed on their    browser. Although becoming more widespread there is still    a very large proportion of browsers which cannot view    flash content.

– PHP Graphing Solutions

These are probably the easiest solutions to use and    implement. With these solutions it’s possible for a    complete novice to add graphing functionality to their    web page and applications. But make no mistake they are    also very powerful offering very good graphic results.    Most web servers today can run this software without any    further configuration.

– ASP.NET Graphing Solutions

Again these solutions offer some very good graphical results.   At the time of writing the number of web servers capable of    running these packages is far less than those of other    categories.

Creating a Graph

With the right software package the process of adding a graph toweb page involves little more than the following:-
1) Inserting a small piece of HTML into your web page.     (usually the code is provided and all you have to do is       ‘copy and paste’)
2) Setting some values in a configuration file     (e.g.. setting things like graph colors and titles etc.)
3) Setting some values telling the graph where to acquire the      data from

Although this is fairly straight forward sometimes a problem maybe encountered. A big advantage of using a good professional package is that help is at hand. If you get stuck at any stage then simply ask for help from the software provider, a good onewill always be happy to help. Contrary to popular belief good software companies answer requests for technical help in both atimely and helpful manner.

Check out the ‘Learn More Links’ below and try out some of graphing packages today.(they are free to try and you will be amazed how easy it all is)
About the Author: Patrick OBrien is the founder and creator of Jpowered.com, a site providing powerful software solutions to web designers and developers. 

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