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Editor's Note: How to do more with Dundas Software Products

I would like to welcome you to the first Dundas Software technical newsletter! This monthly newsletter contains the latest information on the Dundas Product Line, including new and cool features, updates, and add-ons. The most common asked questions and solutions to problems are also included to help you get the most out of our products. My goal, and the goal of this newsletter, is to get this information to you so that you can spend your time developing instead of asking questions or creating features that have already been implemented. This month we have some great new add-ons, as well as information on our products that we have wanted to share for a while.

I'm also interested in your feedback on what you would like to see each month, such as add-ons, integration, data analysis, or any questions you may have. You can send your feedback to technical.newsletter@dundas.com. Feel free to write to us as well if you have created a useful add-on that others could benefit from, and we will post it.

Terrence Sheflin

In this Issue: March 13th, 2006


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Dundas Chart for .NET Six Sigma Add-on

The newest add-on made by Dundas Software is Six Sigma Charting. Six Sigma is a popular methodology in the business world that has gained global recognition. Developed in 1986 by Motorola, companies such as Ford, Microsoft, Siemens, 3M, Seagate, and many others benefit from it and have had billions of dollars in savings because of it. Although Six Sigma began in the manufacturing industry, it is now being used in areas such as healthcare, banking, insurance, construction, telecom, and has applications in many other fields. Dundas Software has implemented a number of the powerful Six Sigma charts including:

  • P-Chart
  • C-Chart
  • NP-Chart
  • S-Chart
  • R-Chart
  • XBAR-Chart
  • Individuals Chart

The add-on is easy to use regardless of the source of your data or the desired look of the Chart. These simple steps outline the typical cycle from installation to usage:

  • Add the class to your project.
  • Put your data in an array. Typically, you will need one array per data set. So all the x-values would be in one array, while the y-values would be in a different array.
  • Call one of the Chart functions to create the desired Chart.

There is also a sample provided to show how to use the add-on, what the output of the different Chart functions look like, and how data coming from a data source is modified into a format usable by the add-on.

Dundas Chart for .NET Digital Filter Add-on

Dundas Software has created a Digital Signal Processing (DSP) add-on for its charts. So, what exactly is DSP and how it can be useful to you? To answer this, imagine that you have a graph full of erratic data, and you wish to know how much the data is fluctuating. The easiest way to determine the fluctuation is to do a visual analysis, but this is difficult on the raw data. DSP provides a solution to the problem, as it filters the data and shows you only the general change, making it easier to analyze.

The usefulness of DSP in the signal processing field is obvious and does not need to be elaborated on, but its usefulness in other fields does need emphasizing. Consider financial charting, where a chart is often difficult to analyze visually due to its large amount of market data. However, if you put a financial chart through various DSP filters, you can then easily see long term trends, short term trends, or data that has all trends removed. This kind of filtering is invaluable, and is easy to do with our add-on. To make it easier to learn how to use the add-on, there is a full sample with source code demonstrating some simple use cases, as well as instructions for installation.

Tips n' Tricks Chart | Gauge | Diagram

General Tips

Did you know that your Chart or Gauge can be made into a template?
Both Dundas Chart for .NET and Dundas Gauge for .NET contain the class Serializer that enables you to create a template of your chart or gauge. Serialization has a number of useful applications, one of which is the easy transportation of your Chart or Gauge to another application. The Serialized copy, when loaded again, will look exactly as it did when it was saved into its Serialized form. Another useful application is the easy transportation of the look of one Chart to many Charts. An easy way to do this in Visual Studio during design time is to right click our chart and use the Create/Load template options. Serialization can save, as well as appearance, the data within a chart, allowing for a complete snapshot of the Chart at run-time. By default, the Serialized copy is saved in an XML format. However, the format of the output can be changed from XML to a binary format, by setting the Serializer.Format property to SerializationFormat.Binary. The binary format has the advantage of saving and loading faster than the XML format.
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Our products work with Ajax!
Dundas Software Products can be easily used in conjunction with Ajax with no modification, as the output is image based. Ajax, or Asynchronous Javascript + XML, is a way of getting information from the server without a post back, allowing for a more fluid user experience. Although Ajax has been around for a long time in various forms, it has recently become popular. There are a number of different ways to use our products with Ajax, but one simple way is to:

  • Create an ASPX page that contains a Dundas Software product, and set the ImageType property to an image type compatible with the HTML image tag (e.g. Jpeg).
  • Create an ASPX page that will return the name of the created image as text in its HTML content.
  • Call the page and perform the update using Ajax (JavaScript).

We have implemented a chart using this method which is available online.
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Developing is easier with 5 different ways to data-bind
Dundas Software Products have 5 different ways to data-bind to make them extremely flexible, as we are aware that data comes in various forms. Often it is necessary to write a lot of code to manipulate your data into a form usable by supplied data-binding functions, something we help you to avoid. In the Dundas Software help documentation, you can find a lot of information on the different data-binding methods available, and when to use them. Search for "DataBind", and then follow the link to the "Data Binding Techniques" article, which also contains a decision tree to assist you in making your choice between the available functions.

Full Dashboards with source code available
Dashboards present a large amount of data in several different ways, using charts and gauges, to make visualization of data easy and intuitive. Dashboards are useful when the information you want to display is too detailed or in too much quantity to use a single chart or gauge. You can make a Dashboard easily and quickly with our products, and we have a section devoted to Dashboards complete with live demos available on our website, to show you how they can be useful to you.

The full source code to these demos is available in the Dundas Chart for ASP.NET package. If you do not have this yet, you can download an evaluation copy which includes the full source to the Dashboards.

Need more than one Chart in a Chart Picture? That's why Chart Areas exist
A Chart Picture, which is the Dundas Software Chart Control, is composed of one or more Chart Areas. Frequently we get asked: What exactly is a Chart Area? A Chart Area is a rectangular area that is used to draw the Series, Labels, Axis, Grid Lines, Tick Marks, and everything else that is contained within the actual graphical portion of the chart.

You can think of a Chart Area as just the graph, not the Legend or any extras. Chart Areas are powerful because they allow more than one Chart to be displayed in a Chart Picture, which gives you better control over your charts and how they look. One example of the usefulness of Chart Areas is the property AlignWithChartArea, which can be found in the ChartArea class. This property allows you to align two or more Chart Areas together so that they match up visually within the control. This property, however, only works when the charts are in the same Chart Picture.

Calculated Values: How to use a pointer to indicate Maximum, Minimum, Average or Rate of Change
The term Calculated Values does not mean anything when all you want to do is have a pointer show the maximum value of your data, but it is the term used to describe this action. Our gauge makes it easy to have a range that shows maximum and minimum values by pointers, and it is achieved through Input Values. Calculated Values are added to Input Values, and are formulae applied to your input. Calculated Value Average, for example, will always contain the calculated average of the Input Values to which it was added. A pointer's value can then be set to this Calculated Value, thus having a pointer show the average of the input. There are a number of choices available for Calculated Values including Average, Maximum, Minimum, Linear Formula and Rate of Change. There is a sample in the gauge package called "Calculated Values" that has full source code and shows how to take advantage of this powerful feature.

State Indicators can be images
In our weather sample, we have a gauge that shows information on the weather and changes images based on the input. It may seem like this was a difficult task to complete using a Gauge, but it is actually very simple using State Indicators. State Indicators change color based on a finite number of options, but why limit the output to a color? The property Image allows you to set an image for the State Indicator, and the property ImageTransColor sets which color in the image is transparent, while ImageTransparency sets the transparency level for the entire image giving you more control over how the output is rendered. Using an image in a State Indicator within your gauge can be an easy way to customize different states and make the data easier to understand.

Grouping vs. Combining Elements
We often get asked what the difference is between grouping and combining elements, and which is better to use. Grouping elements creates a Group Element which serves as a container for the elements. This means operations applied to the Group Element get applied to all of the elements within it, but the elements are still separate entities. Thus, you can still access the individual properties of each of the elements within the group and change them if desired.

However, if you do not require the elements to be separate entities, then combining is better choice. The Combine operation creates a new Shape Element which is the combination of the original elements, but the original elements are deleted. The Combined Element has the advantage of being much more efficient than the Group Element as it only needs to keep properties for itself, and when operations are applied, they are applied to the shape primitive. While a Combined Element can be decomposed, it will be decomposed into Primitive Elements, not the original shapes.

Thus, if you need to group elements but keep them as separate entities, use the Group operation. However, if you want the elements to combine and become a new element, and you will never need them to be separate entities again, use the Combine operation.

Dundas Q & A Chart | Gauge | Diagram

Chart for.NET

Q. How can a Dundas Chart for ASP.NET write images outside of the root folder?
A. Sometimes the option to write images within the root folder of an application is not available, and thus you want to write them outside of the root in a different directory.

To do this, you must create a virtual sub folder for your web application, map it to a location outside your root folder, and then set the ImageURL property to a URL pointing to this virtual folder.
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Q. What is the best format to render a vector image with Dundas Chart for ASP.NET?
A. Dundas Chart for ASP.NET Enterprise version provides the option to render the chart's image in SVG format. The advantage of rendering in SVG comes from its vector format that makes it possible to do many vector image specific modifications, including scaling and close-to-screen printing. With the professional version of Dundas Chart for ASP.NET, it is generally the PNG image format that is best for screen display and print results.
read more »

Q. How can I render Dundas Chart for ASP.NET in a Web Handler?
A. To render a chart in a Web Handler, a number of steps have to be taken. They involve creating a Web Handler by implementing the interface IHttpHandler, placing it in the Web Handler file in the Bin folder of the application's root folder, and then adding the httpHandlers tag to Web.Config.

Note that when rendering a chart in a Web Handler, it can only be rendered as an image or binary stream.
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Q. How can I force the Chart to change labels when zooming into different date subintervals, such as years, months, or weeks?
A. Dundas Chart for .NET contains a utility class called DefineIntervals which does exactly this. To use this utility, an instance of DefineIntervals is created, and then its firstZoom and lastZoom properties are used to define the level of zooming. As well, it allows for customization of AxisLabel for each zooming interval through the property CustomizeLabel.
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Q. Which browsers are supported by Dundas Chart for ASP.NET?
A. Dundas Chart for ASP.NET will work in all current browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Netscape, and Safari. Because the Chart can be outputted as an image, any browser that is able to display an image can view the chart. The only current limitation is that the Smart Client feature will only work with Internet Explorer 5.01 and above.
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Chart for Reporting Services

Q. How do I deploy Dundas Chart for Reporting Services to SQL Server?
A. This is done in three steps:

  1. Copy the file, DundasRSChart.dll to the ReportServer bin folder of SQL Server, usually found at "C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL.x\Reporting Services\ReportServer\bin"
  2. Copy the installed program from our tools directory RSChartInstaller.exe to the SQL Server machine and run it. Select the button “Configure Server”.
  3. Deploy your reports.

Gauge for .NET

Q. My Gauge is heavy on memory and processor utilization. What is happening?
A. General guidelines on how to improve the performance of Dundas Gauge for .NET is in the Help documentation, in the article titled "Performance and Optimization". One possible way to reduce the CPU usage is to change the value of RefreshRate, a property of the Gauge Container, which in some cases has a huge impact on performance of the Gauge.
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Q. Is it possible to have the pointer move from minimum to maximum in a delayed motion rather than instantly?
A. Yes. To do this you use the dampening feature built into Dundas Gauge. This feature allows the pointer to be dampened while moving to its new location, giving it a smoother look. To use this functionality, the DampeningEnabled and DampeningSweepTime properties within the Pointers class must be utilized. It should be noted that while this approach works for Windows Forms, it will only work for ASP.NET if you are using Smart Client to render the control.
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Diagram for .NET

Q. What techniques should I use to ensure that the file-size of a diagram created in Diagram Editor is as small as possible?
A. There is a direct correlation between the size of the diagram on disk and its loading time: the bigger the diagram the longer it will take to load. Therefore reducing the size of a diagram is the first step that should be taken when improving performance.

One way to reduce file size is to have similar elements on a diagram share base styles. Element style has the largest impact on the size of an element's properties, so if a number of elements have the same style you should create a separate style object in the document's styles bag, and use that as a base style for the elements.

Another way is to use the Combine operation instead of the Group operation in situations that require complex drawing. Combine creates a shape element, which is more lightweight than a group of contained elements, which is what the Group operation does.
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Q. I have created a web application with Dundas Diagram for ASP.NET, but when I run it I get an "UnauthorizedAccessException" with the following error message: "Access to the path "{application specific path}" is denied". What should I do?
A. If the web host control uses a rendering method other than binary streaming, a diagram image will be required to be written to the file system. When an ASP.NET application is executed, the default owner of this process is the user ASPNET (IIS_WPG for Window 2003 Server). By default, the ASPNET or IIS_WPG user does not have file system write privileges, but it is required. This is a security feature of ASP.NET and is not unique to the Dundas Diagram for ASP.NET product. To solve this problem, the folder mentioned in the path must have the user ASPNET or IIS_WPG added to it. The newly added user also must then have write access given to them.
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