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Editor’s note: Contributor Chris Howell is an independent contractor. Follow him @enigmaticit
Collabion Charts for SharePoint is a product that can be installed within your SharePoint farm and deployed to web applications/site collections of your choice. Collabion Charts for SharePoint provides a wide selection of charts that can be configured by end users to create dashboards of information.
Collabion Charts for SharePoint
Collabion Charts for SharePoint supports creation of charts from a number of different data sources including:
- SharePoint Lists and List Views
- CSV file
- Microsoft SQL Server Database
- Oracle Database
- Business Data Catalog
- Microsoft Office Excel File
Collabion Charts for SharePoint can be used with:
- WSS 3.0
- MOSS 2007
- All versions of SharePoint 2010 including Foundation Server
This review has been conducted using the free trial version of Collabion Charts for SharePoint. The version reviewed is shown as v 126.96.36.199. I installed and configured the product in a SharePoint 2010 environment hosted under a CloudShare ProPlus account.
A trial version of Collabion Charts for SharePoint can be downloaded from the product web site after providing some registration information.
At the time that I downloaded the trial version, the file was only 7.7 MB in size and contains the installation files and a PDF relating to installation, migration and upgrade.
Administrative access to the server is required to install the product.
Setup for Collabion Charts for SharePoint to leverages the SharePoint Solution Installer that is available on CodePlex.
Collabion Charts for SharePoint Installation Checks
Provided all of the checks pass, you can proceed to selecting the Web Applications/Site Collections the product is to be deployed to:
Select Web Applications/Site Collections to deploy Collabion Charts for SharePoint to
The next step of the wizard is feature activation and after that has completed OK, the wizard can be closed.
This is the end point for any administrative access to the server. It is now over to the end user to configure the charts they need within their sites.
Once Collabion Charts for SharePoint has been deployed to the site where the user wants to use it, the next step is to edit a page and add the Collabion Charts for SharePoint web part:
Collabion Charts for SharePoint Web Parts
After you insert the web part into a page, you will see the following and will need click the link to launch the Charts Wizard:
Need to configure web part
The Charts Wizard is available to run you through the wide variety of configuration options that are available. The key steps at the start of the wizard are defining:
- Data Source
- Data Provider
- Data Fields
- Filter Data
- Group & Drilldown
As above, Collabion Charts for SharePoint supports a number of different data providers and the first action is to define the source:
Select Data Provider
In preparing this review, I tried the product with data within a SharePoint List and the content of a CSV file stored within a document library.
Depending on the data provider selected, you will have different configuration options. The screen below shows the additional configuration settings needed to read from the CSV file:
Data Provider Configuration Options
After you enter the required information, you can test the settings by clicking on "Connect". If the connection is successful, you can the click on "View Data" to see the content of the CSV file.
For the purposes of the review I’ve used an export of data from my Garmin cycle computer:
View CSV Data
Once the Data Provider is defined, you can move on within the wizard to selecting the Data Fields that are to be represented within the chart:
Select Data Fields
The next step in the wizard is to apply any filters that you wish to apply to the data:
If you don’t require any filters, click the red - icon to remove the filter field and proceed to choosing whether you want to group and drilldown in the chart data:
Group and Drilldown
With the Data Source defined, you now move on to further configuration options:
- Chart Type
- Series Customization
- Chart & Axis Titles
- Data Display Settings
- Chart Appearance
- Number Formatting
- Axis Grid Lines
- Chart Legend
- Trend Lines
- Export Settings
- Other Settings
I’m not going to go into detail for each of these areas but I will say that there are a multitude of options available to deliver some very impressive charts as part of a dashboard.
Chart Type allows users to select from different categories including:
- Single Series
- Multi Series
- Stacked Charts
- Combination Charts
- X-Y Charts
- Scroll Charts
You can change the categories, select the chart type and click "Apply" or "Preview" to see how your data will be presented:
Applying Chart Type
Series Customization allows you to configure X-Axis date display format, sort order and font preferences.
Chart Appearance allows you to set a background for the chart if you wanted to include a relevant graphic. Under this section you also have the option to set a logo.
Export Settings allows you to configure options relating to whether a person viewing the chart in a browser can export chart data:
Or export the chart as an image:
Under Other Settings, you can configure several options including custom messages to be shown whilst your data loads or if there is an error:
After completing the wizard, you are returned to the page and shown the chart you have created. This chart is the one that was rendered from the CSV cycling data:
Cycling Data Chart
I also created a different chart using some statistics for Liverpool Football Club showing goals scored by Louis Suarez and Steven Gerrard across Premier League, League Cup and FA Cup:
Chart on iPad
Save Chart As
Depending on the configuration settings within the wizard, the chart data can be exported as an image or data. To export as an image, click on the icon in the top right of the chart:
Save as Image
There is also the option to export data by right clicking on the chart and selecting "Copy data to clipboard":
Copy to clipboard
Unfortunately, this option only appears to be present if the chart is rendered in Flash.
After spending all that time creating your charts, a colleague asks if they can have the same type of chart within their site. Rather than having to go through the entire wizard process again, you can use the export and import options.
The export process is simple, select the charts to export and click export:
All goes well and you see this:
There is also a batch process to export charts that is available when editing a page to insert web parts.
At the site where you want to import the chart, use one of the options to launch the import process and you will be shown the charts available to import:
If your data is not changing frequently you can use the caching settings within the web part configuration. The web part allows you to configure the cache duration; the default is 15 mins.
Summary for Collabion Charts for SharePoint
In my opinion, Collabion Charts for SharePoint is very, very impressive. I experienced no issues or problems with the Collabion Charts for SharePoint whilst preparing this review.
Beyond requiring administrative access to install and deploy, the rest of the configuration of Collabion Charts for SharePoint is in the hands of the end user.
I see this as a large enabler for the business/end user to be more productive and creative. I also believe this product could help reduce a dependency on IT resources to produce dashboards.
- Wizard process means great user experience
- Huge assortment of chart types available
- Support for a large range of data sources
- Huge assortment of configuration options to tweak presentation of data
- Enables business users and could help remove dependency on IT involvement in producing dashboards
- Export/import option to allow deployment in other sites
- Mobile device support
- I couldn’t think of more impressive data to use to better show the charts this can produce