Microsoft SQL Server 2005 : Report Definition and Design (part 2) - Business Intelligence Development Studio

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Report Designer

Report Designer has a rich set of features that will satisfy report professionals and programmers. Reports can be simple or complex, highly structured or free form, static or interactive. You have complete control over layout, formatting, formulas, and pagination.

Business Intelligence Development Studio

Report Designer is installed as part of Business Intelligence Development Studio (BI Development Studio), which comes standard with SQL Server 2005. BI Development Studio is really a slimmed-down version of Visual Studio. If you install Visual Studio 2005 on the same machine as BI Development Studio, you can access the reporting tools from the menu of either product.

Reports are stored inside project templates. When you create a new project in Visual Studio or BI Development Studio, select the Business Intelligence Project category in the New Project dialog box, as shown in Figure 7. Three of the six installed templates are used for reporting purposes. The Report Server Project opens an empty project template. The Report Server Project Wizard guides you through the creation of a single report while creating the necessary project files behind the scenes. The Report Model Project is used for reporting models (as discussed later in this chapter).

Figure 7. New Report Projects in BI Development Studio or Visual Studio

Report projects contain two folders. The Shared Data Sources folder holds the database connection information for the project. The Report folder contains reports (Figure 8).

Figure 8. Solution Explorer with Report and Model Projects

You cannot create nested folders for categorization. Instead, you must create separate report projects and have each project deploy the completed reports to a specific folder on the report server. This creates the desired categorization and keeps the reports segmented enough that multiple developers can work simultaneously. You can set the deployment target folder in the Reports Properties Pages dialog box (Figure 9). You can set the target server, data source folder, and report folder. There are separate properties for each Configuration target. You can change the target server or folders based on the target environment.

Figure 9. Report Properties Pages dialog box with configuration options

Shared data sources can be specific to the working environment—for example, development, test, and production. As reports are promoted from one environment to the next, these named data sources can be pointed to entirely different database resources. You can create new data sources or add existing ones already saved to disk. They are stored in RDS files that have a simple XML format. Data sources have a name, connection properties, and credentials, as shown in Figure 10 and Figure 11. Credentials options include integrated, user specified, prompted, or none. Server stored credentials are encrypted using key technology.

Figure 10. Shared Data Source dialog box with SQL Server connection type

Figure 11. Data source connection properties for SQL Server with credential details

Be careful when you deploy project data sources. An overwrite option on the Report Properties pages indicates whether to replace the data source. This defaults to false because the credentials used by a developer might differ from those used in testing or production. The first time a report project deploys, the data source is copied to the report server. After that, the administrator can change the server-based credentials to satisfy the user population. Subsequent deployment of report versions do not overwrite this data source unless you change the default.

Reports are added to the Report folder. You can make new report items using a wizard or a blank report. You can add existing report items stored on disk as an RDL file. You can also import reports from Microsoft Access. In this case, most data source, query, and report layout information is translated into RDL and stored in the report folder.

Report names must be unique within a project. As long as each project deploys to a unique folder on the report server, it is possible to have the same report name several places on a server. Keep this in mind when you define naming standards for your reporting infrastructure.

Once a new report is created or an existing report loaded, the report displays in a tab in BI Development Studio or Visual Studio. The left side of the screen has a series of tabbed tools. One is called Datasets, and it contains the datasets and fields associated with the report. The second is the toolbox, which contains the data region and graphic controls used in report layout. On the right side of the screen is the typical Solution Explorer with a hierarchical view of report files and the Properties window for inspecting report and control details.

The center panel has three subtabs called Data, Layout, and Preview. The Data view is used to create and manage datasets. The Layout view is a design surface used to create and style report elements. The Preview tab has complete rendering engine capability and can display reports that work exactly like the report server. This is made possible by using the same .NET DLL on the server that is used in development. The viewer includes a toolbar with pagination controls, export capability, print/preview, and zooming.

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