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How To Give Your Web Applications A Facelift With WebCharts3D To Make It A Blockbuster

Give your Web app a facelift with WebCharts3D to make it a blockbuster

You can create a sophisticated application that implements complex algorithms, but in many cases you sell its GUI part to your users. The presentation layer of plain vanilla HTML/JSP-based Web applications is usually pretty basic unless you use specialized software. Today we are testing the charting engine WebCharts3D 5.0 from GreenPoint.

Let me introduce myself: I am a Java developer with basic JSP skills and a stopwatch on my desk. My task is to show you how you can create a Web page in less than 20 minutes that retrieves the sales data from an external data source and displays them as a chart using WebCharts3D.

To set the scene, I downloaded and installed the beta version of the Tomcat 5.5 servlet container from Apache (http://jakarta.apache.org/tomcat/). Actually, WebCharts3D comes with an embedded Web server that can be used for test purposes, but I decided to use a commercial-grade server. I've also created a plain comma-delimited sales_data file with the annual sales data in a cross-tab form:

John		2002	7171.30
Alex 2002 5921.00
Mary 2002 6273.00
Sam 2002 5092.00
John 2003 2980.30
Alex 2003 3928.00
Mary 2003 8905.00
Sam 2003 3093.90
John 2004 5095.30
Alex 2004 2000.00
Mary 2004 2870.00
Sam 2004 4900.90
I spent the next five minutes downloading and installing WebCharts3D 5.0 from www.gpoint.com.

Start WebCharts3D, and you'll see its Designer screen with a large variety of charts to choose from (some of them are shown in Figure 1). You can select one of the following: bar, pie, radar, dial, statistical, and Gantt charts.

Designing a Chart
Every chart consists of two parts: a style and a model (remember the MVC paradigm?). Internally, both style and model are generated in XML format.

For this demo I've selected one of the flavors of a 3D bar chart (it's the third icon in the first row in Figure 1). This opened the screen shown in Figure 2. On the right side you can modify multiple properties of the chart starting with colors to event processing.

To populate the chart with the data from our sales file just go to the XML Model tab, check the Crosstab box, press the button "Import From File" and select our sales_data file. You'll see the table with our data and XML with hard-code sales values. Switch to the tab Design again to make sure that the chart is populated with our data.

Since we don't want to create charts with hard-coded data, go to the tab CodeView, press the Options button, and select the model "Imported File" (for databases you'd select the model "Database Query"). The Designer immediately generates the JSP code as shown in Listing 1.

Please note that the line myChart.linkTo() points at my sales_data file as the data source.

You can immediately see how the chart will look in your Web browser. Let's launch the embedded server: select the Console tab at the bottom of the Designer's screen and press the Start button and wait a second for the message "Server Started on port 8802." To see your Sales chart just open your Web browser and enter the following URL: http://localhost:8802 as in Figure 3.

The next code snippet shows how you can get the data from a database using the JDBC-ODBC bridge:

Connection dbConn = DriverManager.getConnection("jdbc:odbc:...",
"admin" , "User Password");
myChart.linkTo(dbConn,"select ProductName, Sales from Sales",false, false);

Note the links at the bottom of the screen in Figure 3. You've guessed it right! For example, press the PDF link, and see your chart in Adobe Acrobat Reader if you have it installed.

Flash and SVG-Animated Charts Some of the chart formats can be animated. To animate our sales chart using the Flash file format just select the SWF or SVG link while watching the chart in the embedded HTTP server (or set the chart type to SWF or SVG). You'll see how the bars start growing one after another. You can change their order of appearance by setting the Morphing attributes of your chart elements in the Designer. The charts can grow vertically or horizontally, you can add a blurring effect, and set the length and quality of your movie by playing with the framesCount and framesPerSecond properties. You can animate the entire chart or by row or by column. You can control the time of the animation, pauses between fazes, etc. If you want to get a "wow" from your users, add the animation to your charts.

Deploying the Sales Chart Under Tomcat
Just follow the simple steps below to deploy our chart under Tomcat (the process is literally the same in any J2EE-compliant servlet container):

  1. Copy ws50.jar into the WEB-INF\lib directory to make WebCharts3D-supporting classes available to Tomcat.
  2. Create the file getImage.jsp in the root directory of the Web server. This file is used internally to retrieve the generated image temporarily stored on the server. Go to Designer's File | Setup menu, select the Server tab and enter the application home directory, which in the case of a default Tomcat installation is C:\Program Files\Apache Software Foundation\Tomcat 5.5\webapps\ROOT
  3. Restart Tomcat.
  4. In the Designer's CodeView tab press the Save button and save the generated code shown in Listing 1 in Tomcat's root directory as sales.jsp. In the real world you'd copy and paste this code into one of your existing JSPs.
  5. Point your browser at http://localhost:8080/sales.jsp and you'll see a screen as in Figure 4.
The yellow box is a cool feature called annotation - not to be confused with Java 5.0 annotations - that shows the underlying data as you move a mouse pointer over the chart. If you know Swing, it's similar to tooltips. Figure 4 shows the default annotation, but you can change the text the same way you'd change any other chart property.

The Web page is ready and my stopwatch shows that the entire process including the WebCharts installation took about 20 minutes. Of course, I've only demonstrated a small part of the WebCharts3D functionality, but the result is pretty impressive.

More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs (http://yakovfain.com) and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain

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Most Recent Comments
Sri Lakshmanan 07/29/05 08:41:07 AM EDT

I've looking for Java charting packages that REALLY are 3D instead of just 2D made to look like it has perspective. A wireframe grid type chart with 3 d coordinates similar to the graphs that sophisticated packages like SPlus or Matlab would be awesome. Alas when we talk about 3D with Java charting packages , we really do not mean it has complete 3 D capability

Omar 07/20/05 08:50:10 AM EDT

C'mon, where were all the images you promissed along the article... I think it would be *more* instructive if you were showed different examples with the sales_database that you use as an example [maybe a flash example].

Java Developer's Journal 07/18/05 12:50:07 PM EDT

How To Give Your Web Applications A Facelift With WebCharts3D To Make It A Blockbuster
You can create a sophisticated application that implements complex algorithms, but in many cases you sell its GUI part to your users. The presentation layer of plain vanilla HTML/JSP-based Web applications is usually pretty basic unless you use specialized software. Today we are testing the charting engine WebCharts3D 5.0 from GreenPoint.

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