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Options for Creating SSRS Reports

There are 2 options for creating Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services Reports:

  • Report Builder
  • Report Designer

Report Builder

Microsoft hasn’t forgotten the end user i.e. your Business Analyst. SQL Server is shipping with an end-user reporting tool right in the box.  Report Builder is a ClickOnce Windows Forms application that users download from the report server to their local computer.

That means that end users install it from the Web browser, but once installed it’s not a browser-based application. To get started with Report Builder, browse to your Reporting Services home page.  This will have a URL something like http://YellowDuckGuyServer/Reports (or http://localhost/Reports if you’re running the browser (within IIS) on the same box with SQL Server 2005 itself – sometimes common where starting out!).  Next you will need to click the Report Builder link in the home page menu bar to install and launch Report Builder.  The Report Builder will load with the New Report dialog box, showing all the available report models. I suggest you try this out if you want to get started with the Report Builder.  Your DBA will need to do a bit of setup before your end users can create their own reports.  Your end users also will need to know about their data also in order to design useful reports.

Users create reports within the Report Builder by simply dragging fields from the predefined report models onto a pre-designed report layout template. Users can format, group and sort, and filter their data. In addition, they can edit or define formulas. With Report Builder, users don’t need to understand the underlying structure of the data source and they don’t need to understand any complex computing languages. They simply need to be familiar with the data in their data sources.

Report Designer

Report Designer is the tool I use the most when designing reports and is focused towards your developers. You can use Report Designer within Visual Studio after installing Reporting Services on your machine or simply the Report Designer.  I’m currently using SQL Reporting Services 2005 with Visual Studio 2005.
Expression Builder within Report Designer used to create report expressions is written in VB or something close to it so your VB developers out there will love it!

So your developers (that includes me!) will use Report Designer to create more complex reports.  You have complete control over the layout, and you can add advanced features such as expressions, custom assemblies that run from the report, and report interaction for drilling down or linking to related data. You can also create basic reports that consist of simple tables, matrix, image, or lists.

In Report Designer, you can create a report in three ways.

  1. You can create a blank report and build your report from scratch – I recommend this option.
  2. You can use Report Wizard, which automatically creates a table or matrix report based on information you provide. This option I would not recommend if you really want to learn best practices with report building.
  3. You can also import an existing report from Microsoft Access.

Reports are published to a report server as Report Definition Language (RDL). files as I slightly mentioned in my previous SSRS Yellow Duck Guy posting. Because a report definition is an XML document, you can create and edit reports using anything you like that can attack an XML file i.e. XML Notepad.

Under the hood, Report Designer uses the Reporting Services Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) API to publish reports to a report server.   You also have the option to upload reports using Report Manager on the report server (this could also be on your local machine).

Well now you should know the options available for building reports with SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).

Yellow Duck Guy
Greg Olsen

Categories: SQL Server
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