Best way to serve charts from Rails?

I have been trying to find the “ideal” solution for a while. I’m leaning
toward PlotKit, see below for my reasoning.

My department has a database from which I want to serve up dynamic,
current charts on my Rails app. When complete, the page will have some
controls (30 checkboxes and an ‘Update’ button) to change the graphs
based on the user’s preference - the graphs will be updated via AJAX
calls. There seem to be two paths to go:

  1. Serve the chart/plot “inline” with the page. The options I can
    see here are:
    a. SVG (Scruffy or SVG::Graph)
    b. JavaScript (PlotKit)
    c. CSS/HTML

  2. Place an tag in the page and serve the chart/plot when the
    browser requests it. The options I see here are:
    a. Gruff, a ruby library that uses RMagick (which is difficult to
    b. Scruffy, another Ruby library, doesn’t require RMagick

The big problem with using #2 in my case is that the tag will be
updated via an AJAX call. So a total of two requests would be made when
the user changes the graph option: one for the new image tag, and one
that the browser makes for the actual image. It’s difficult to juggle
how the user’s preference gets sent to the server and returned properly.

Another problem with #2 is that web servers aren’t made to serve dynamic
images - it really needs a servlet or a controller method that
generates/returns the image data (no caching allowed here: I can’t
assume any generated graph is the same as any other, since there are so
many user options).

Any thoughts or suggestions? I wish Rails was “opinionated” about this
sort of thing… I don’t know what I’m doing, really.

Roy T.

Another option is to use Flash-based charts, such as XML/SWF Charts ( ) or Fusion Charts ( ). Both of these packages produce
beautiful charts, have some really nice features right out of the box
and have very reasonable license fees. Additionally neither require an
image library to be installed on the server nor do they require any
server side processing.

Just a thought.

Anthony E.

On 12/7/06, Roy T. [email protected] wrote:

paths to go:


Cell: 808 782-5046
Current Location: Melbourne, FL

Thanks for the links, Fusion charts looks totally sweet!!

I recommend the XML/SWF charts… they work really well with Rails.

Any method will work though… if you’re running Ubuntu then getting
RMagick working is easy, and it’s almost as easy on Windows. If you
your chart in a partial, then updating via RJS is really easy.