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Reporting Strictly for Developers: Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services  : Page 2

With the release of SQL Server Reporting Services, Microsoft finally makes a commitment to developer-centric reporting. They've integrated the design-time environment integration with Visual Studio and enabled report delivery through Web browsers, PDFs, Excel, and XML. Learn how to make this tool work for you.


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Components
Reporting Services consists of five components:
  • Reporting Services Web Service: The main engine of this service is its reporting Web service. It provides access to all functionalities, including the rendering engine, scheduling components, and report database. Use it to programmatically add and remove folders, deploy reports, execute reports, and schedule reports.
  • ReportingServices Service: This component is a Windows service. It handles scheduled execution and delivery of reports.
  • Report Manager Web Site: The Web-based report manager allows users to submit and organize reports, execute and schedule reports. You can access the report manager using the URL http://yourserver/reports.
  • Report Designer: The report designer is integrated into Visual Studio 2003. It adds a new project type "Report Project" inside the category "Business Intelligence Projects" which you use to create reports. Your Report project stores data source definitions as .rds files and report definition files as .rdl files on your local file system. You can deploy these files to a reporting server from within Visual Studio, from the Report Manager or with your own code that uses the Reporting Services Web Service.
  • Reporting Services Database: Reporting Services uses SQL Server to store your reports. The .rdl files that you save in the development environment are parsed and stored in the database tables in the "ReportServer" database, which is created during setup. Setup also creates a database called ReportServerTempDB.
The Reporting Services Web Service and Report Manager Web Site are installed to your default Web site in IIS.

You can install all of the Reporting Services components on to your development system if you have SQL server and Internet Information Systems installed, or you can install just the report designer component on your development system and install the rest of Reporting Services on a server.

Creating Reports
Creating a report is very similar to creating an ASP.NET Web page or a Windows form—you draw controls on the report surface, and set the properties of the controls to determine their appearance and behavior. The language used for formulas (or "expressions" in Reporting Services) is VB.NET, which is also immediately familiar.



The concept of a report with one or more group headers, followed by a report details section, followed by group footers is replaced with the more free-form, controls-based approach. The ability to produce "banded" results is still available (using the list control), but it is no longer the fundamental core building block of a report.

Another limitation of some of the existing reporting tools that Reporting Services has improved upon is the ability to use multiple datasets. Reporting Services allows you to create and use multiple datasets within a single report, which do not need to be related to one another. Because you link datasets to controls in the report rather than to the report itself, different controls can reference entirely different datasets.



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