“Smart” Documents with ActiveX 3D Data Visualization Components
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The scientist and engineer can now exercise sophisticated visualization techniques to help understand the information that has come from experiments and, increasingly, from simulations run on high-performance computers. But the techniques available to present this information to other engineers and decision-makers within reports are much more basic: just 2D and pseudo-3D graphs and diagrams, as used for many years. With the increasing use of electronic documents, distributed by intranet and Internet, the opportunity to provide interactive visualization techniques within scientific and engineering reports has become practicable. This new technology of components allows the author of a report to distribute a Microsoft Word document with an embedded 3D data visualization viewer. Additionally, although the benefits of visualization are recognized, the take-up of very flexible, general-purpose applications have been limited due to their cost and the steep learning curve associated with their use.
This chapter explains the advantage of using low-cost, configurable, advanced 3D data visualization components based on Microsoft’s ActiveX components, which can be embedded and distributed in documents and reports. With the increasing use of electronic documents, distributed by Internet and corporate intranets, the opportunity to provide interactive visualization techniques within scientific and engineering reports has become practicable.
Customizable components allow the author of a report to distribute the relevant electronic information coupled with an embedded data analysis viewer “smartdoc”, which allows the recipients to interactively examine the data in the same way as the original analyst. Instead of being a dumb document, the “smartdoc” would be a complete data exploration application through which a reader could, via embedded ActiveX visualization/analysis components, explore the data underlying the report. Instead of being a static summary document the report becomes much more like a very natural interface or portal onto the data. Additionally, although the benefits of visualization are recognized, the take-up of very flexible, general-purpose applications to build specific, relevant, tools that can be distributed and shared within the company.
This chapter demonstrates with several examples how to develop visualization components based on Microsoft’s ActiveX/COM architecture. These customizable components can be used by sophisticated programmers in their own applications as well by users who simply wish to visualize multivariate data viewing in an Excel spreadsheet.
KeywordsElectronic Document Virtual Reality Modeling Language Common Gateway Interface Visualization Component Component Object Model
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