More and more customers are building dashboards and other rich line of business applications for Silverlight and WPF are discovering the potential of these platforms for data visualization. Not only are UI frameworks constantly evolving but there are new advancements in the field of dataViz itself which make the whole ecosystem even more interesting. Keeping up with with the industry trends Telerik is expanding it’s product portfolio with new controls to enable our customers to build fast, robust and rich dashboards in minutes.

 

One such addition which I will talk about today is our new sparklines controls. At first look the sparkline seems like a minified chart control, but the graphic has a fundamentally different purpose and application. Here is a short description:

 

A sparkline is a type of information graphic characterized by its small size and high data density. Sparklines present trends and variations associated with some measurement, such as average temperature or stock market activity, in a simple and condensed way. Several sparklines are often used together as elements of a small multiple. (To learn more about the theory of sparklines from their creator Edward Tufte click this link)

 

Many component vendors are not realizing this difference and are using their chart controls to emulate a sparkline instead. Our team decided that best way to bring sparklines to our customers is to make them first class citizens in our suite. But what is this? Why am I speaking in plural? Why, yes, this is because we are actually shipping five different controls under the Sparklines product:

  • RadLinearSparkline – the classic sparkline implementation
  • RadAreaSparkline – similar to the linear one, but includes the surface area relevant to the curve.
  • RadColumnSparkline – a sparkline visualization using columns
  • RadWinLossSparkline – a win/loss column graph similar to the one seen in Microsoft Excel
  • RadScatterSparkline – scatter graph demonstrating spatial locality of data.

 

 sparks

 

So the question you are probably asking yourselves is – why should I use RadSparklines instead of just a regular chart control? Well, that’s an excellent question and here are some answers which should help you decide:

  • Memory footprint – Because sparklines are much simpler they do not contain a lot of the features a regular chart control has. This allows many instances of the sparkline controls to be hosted together in a more complex control such as RadGridview at a minimal performance and memory cost.
  • Superior performance – Because the sparklines are more streamlined and specific this has allowed us to greatly optimize their data binding and rendering performance. The controls allow extremely fast UI updates of thousands of data points in just a few milliseconds. Expect a dedicated blog post about sparkline performance soon!
  • Cleaner XAML – Using any traditional chart control requires a lot of XAML to achieve the simplistic sparkline look. One needs to turn off many features that are usually enabled by default and this results in complex configuration code in order to perform a much simpler task.
  • Easy styling API – A lot of common brushes and styles are available at control level making customization of spark lines extremely easy and retemplating is only required for very specific scenarios.
  • Simple, yet powerful – While sparklines skip on some features that don’t make sense in their visualization domain they do have a lot of advanced functionality specific to them:
    • Indicators: including first, last, high, low, negative.
    • Normal range
    • Custom axis(reference line) position
    • Empty Values (drop point, show as zero)

 

We hope you like the 5 new sparkline controls. If you have feedback for us don’t hesitate to share it!

Happy dashboarding!


About the Author

Vladimir Milev

Vladimir Milev is a developer manager.

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