260 King Street East
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Phone: 800 663-4723
Fax: 416 594-1919
Toshiba Satellite Pro 4600, 866MHz Intel Pentium III processor, 20GB Disk, 256MB of memory, Windows 2000 w/ Service Pack 2
Platforms: Any platform with JDK 1.1, 1.2 support
Pricing: $3,999US (2CPU License) including GSS.
It's often said that "a picture is worth a thousand words" - and I've generally found this to be true. In fact, it's often easier for users to digest numeric data when it's displayed in picture form, such as with a chart or graph. Business analysts have long understood this concept and often choose to display raw data in graphic form to make it easier to understand. With the popularity of Java servlets and JavaServer Pages, it's now possible to dynamically display this very same data on the Web. Sitraka Software is one of the premier software vendors in the Java components market. They market a powerful dynamic-charting component called JClass ServerChart, which is perfect for generating colorful charts and graphs for the Web.
JClass ServerChart is a charting and graphing component that's written entirely in Java. Developers can use the ServerChart Beans within popular IDEs to enhance Java client applications (or applets). They can also use these same beans within servlets and JSP to build highly visual, dynamic Web page applications featuring charts and graphs. ServerChart allows you to set chart properties programmatically, and also instantiate and extend the JClass ServerChart objects within code. The software supports all the popular chart formats including Plot, Scatter Plot, Area, Stacking Area, Bar, Stacking Bar, Pie, Hi-Lo, Hi-Lo-Open-Close, and Candle. You can also create custom charts by manipulating one of these standard formats.
Installing and Using ServerChart
Sitraka makes the JClass ServerChart software available for download from the Sitraka Web site, but I used an installation CD to install and configure it. Although you can use the ServerChart JavaBeans within a Java application on the client layer, the software really shines on the server side. Thus I elected to configure ServerChart to work with an application server on my laptop. It's not difficult to configure any of the popular servlet engines to work with ServerChart. (In fact, JClass even supports the database connection pooling capabilities of IBM WebSphere and BEA WebLogic). However, Sitraka makes it even easier to get started by including a preconfigured version of Tomcat with the ServerChart installation kit. I elected to use the built-in Tomcat server, which made the installation a breeze. It took me about five minutes to get ServerChart running (and this included three minutes trying to get the shrink-wrap off the box). Sitraka continues to impress me with its understanding of the "out-of-the-box experience." Not only is the software easy to use, it's equipped with tons of examples and demonstration charts. Lots of Java software that I review is aimed squarely at the high-end developer, but JClass ServerChart is perfect for both novices and professionals. In fact, Sitraka provides a great HTML-based utility example that you can use to get rolling with ServerChart. I was able to fill in data values (and formatting information) on a simple HTML page and generate a complete bar chart as shown in Figure 1.
JClass ServerChart generates charts in a variety of graphic formats, including PNG and JPEG. Thus the browser client doesn't require any special configuration to view the generated charts and graphs. Although the sample chart that I built was very simple, it's just as easy to build very sophisticated charts with JClass ServerChart. The installation kit includes over a dozen examples of advanced charts, such as the combination line/multibar chart shown in Figure 2.
Sitraka gives you almost complete control over the formatting of the chart object. You can even create image maps that cause your charts and graphs to have powerful "click-throughs" in the display. Thus you could display a summary chart of data to a user, and then allow the user to drill down into the underlying data for each section of the graph. JClass provides a wealth of additional features and functions that are just too numerous to list here.
Sitraka has always impressed me with its product quality - JClass ServerChart is no exception. Dynamic charts and graphs are ideal for many applications, and there's no reason to "reinvent the wheel" by building these components yourself. It's an ideal product for creating charts and graphs. If you're looking to add these features to your Web applications, I suggest you put Sitraka's JClass ServerChart on your shopping list.
JDJ Product Snapshot
Target audience: Java programmers, Webmasters, business analysts
Level: Beginner to advanced
Pros: Feature-rich product, preconfigured servlet support, powerful charting and graphing capabilities, tons of useful examples and demonstrations
Cons: Nothing significant
Jim Milbery [email protected]