Open Flash Chart Logo
I Thought I should try and give Open Flash Charts (OFC2) some publicity given how much I’m making use of this brilliant bit of software. I’m not going to cover what it can or can’t do as the OFC2 website does that already, but instead will cover why you should consider OFC for any charting needs.
OFC2 supports a wide range of charts, and is constantly being improved my its creator, monk.e.boy and a few other dedicated contributors, recently adding animations which are always useful to please ‘PowerPoint’ obsessed end-users.
Why should you use OFC2 for webcharts? Well firstly its free, secondly its almost as good as any professional package I’ve found out there, and thirdly the small but active community on the OFC forums will try and help you with any issues you’ve found, as well as giving tips and often posting sample code they think could be useful to others.
I work for a very large international company in the financial services sector, and for various reasons some IT teams in the company are using amCharts for their graphing, and works very well for their needs. But for the work I’m doing we’ve gone with OFC2 as its far more flexible, no licensing/cost involved so no purchasing bureaucracy to deal with, and also personally I like to try to use and support open source projects where I can. Also by being free you can play with it as much as you need first to see if it meets your needs, no time limited or limited functionality demos.
The charts we use OFC for are used in reports for senior management, for daily visibility of our environment and also for other teams to view data about their usage of our environment and reduce the support burden on us. One key feature of OFC2 for us, is that we have the interactiveness of the flash chart but at the same time can easily save a chart as an image to embed in a document/report.
I’ve now been using OFC2 at work for well over nine months and recently implemented an extra abstraction layer between my data and OFC. This allows me to create a custom array structure for all my charts, and then use a set of predefined custom functions alongside the OFC2 api to turn this into JSON. This means I can very quickly adjust the code for any API changes, in one single file and makes it a lot harder to break charts while creating/updating the style of others.
One of OFC2′s greatest strengths is that it is constantly being improved, however this does cause a few problems for it, with slight changes to APIs and documentation lag caused partly by this. However on balance the pros far outweigh the cons, as it allows the software to evolve and develop in a way that is best for it and us users, without having to work changes around a fixed data structure or API unlike most commercial products. This means that messy/confusing data structures are able to be reduced to a n absolute minimum.
- New releases are made often with bug fixes/new features
- Friendly community support such as DZ’s branches/patches
- A developer that’s willing to listen to suggestions and requests
- Professional output
- Open source, so you can change it as much you want
- API can change with each new release
- Small development team so can take a while for some things to get done
- Seems to have a few memory leaks (more noticeable in IE than FF)
- Documentation/examples can be a bit sparse in some areas and slightly out of sync with realeases for short periods