Microsoft SQL Server 2005 : Report Definition and Design (part 4)

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Expression Editor

The Expression Editor can create formulas for data display and formatting options. Most of the properties available for report objects have an <Expression...> option in the drop-down list. The Edit Expression dialog box has a color-coded syntax editor with Undo and Paste buttons. It also supports IntelliSense, so functions display parameter options as you type.

The Treeview control on the left has a list of syntax categories. Select one of these to fill the center list of syntax options. The description on the right panel explains how to use each feature. Double-click the item in the center panel to have it pasted into the expression. This approach is very useful for dataset fields and report parameters. The Constants category is specific to the property being edited and will show numbers, colors, or other appropriate values.

The example expression in Figure 19 sets the text color based on the value of two other fields.

Figure 19. Expression Editor with a simple formatting statement

Code and Custom Assemblies

The Expression Editor can reference .NET code that is stored with the report definition or in a custom assembly installed on the developer machine and report server. Use the Report Properties dialog box to find the Code and References tabs.

The Code page presents a simple text editor where you can add multiple instance-based methods written in Visual Basic. There is no color coding or IntelliSense. Consider writing the methods in a regular Visual Basic project and pasting the code into this window. To access the code in an expression, use the Code class as follows:


You can write custom assemblies in any .NET language that uses static or instance methods. The calling syntax is different with a static member:


Make sure the assembly is loaded to the Reporting Services bin folder or the global assembly cache (GAC). Note that custom assemblies are loaded once for each development session and changes do not appear until Visual Studio is restarted.


The Reporting Service delivers static and interactive reports. Much of the interactivity comes from the use of query and report parameters. These values are known only by the end user running the report. Parameters can also be supplied from a table when you run subscriptions (as described later in this chapter).

Parameters and Filters

Most parameters are based on data source query input values. The exact syntax needed to create a parameter depends on the data source type. In SQL Server, the parameters start with the @ symbol.

The Chap21 solution has a report sample called Parameter.rdl that includes several query parameters. In this case, three datasets are created. The Category query lists all possible categories. The SubCategory dataset has a Filter expression that asks for the CategoryID. When you run this query on the Data tab, you are prompted for a CategoryID value. The third dataset is Product, which also has a filter asking for a SubCategoryID.

When this report is run on the Preview tab, a drop-down list is created for each parameter. You must specify a category before the dependent SubCategory list is enabled and filled. These parameters dynamically build on each other through expressions (as shown in Figure 20).

Figure 20. Dynamic parameters selected in the preview pane

On the Layout tab, use the Report menu or right-click on the design surface to show the Report Parameters menu option (Figure 21).

Figure 21. Report parameters generated automatically from query parameters

Notice that each dataset with a parameter creates a matching Report parameter. For each parameter, you can specify the name, data type, and prompt. If you need to associate data values with a parameter, these can be hardcoded or derived from a query. Default values can also be defined in this dialog box. The extra datasets in this report are used to fill the report parameter from a query. The order of the parameters is important because, in this example, a CategoryID is required before a SubCategory can be selected.

This is just one example of adding interactivity to a report. Parameters have many purposes in advanced report building. They can appear in titles, headers, expressions, and other calculations. Reports with parameters can be linked to each other to create sophisticated drill-down reporting.

Document Maps

Another interesting interactive feature is the document map, which you can see on the left side of the rendered DocumentMap.rdl report sample (Figure 22).

Figure 22. Document Map with a selected link in the preview pane

Each control has a Navigation tab in the property pages. Setting the Document Map entry to a field or expression causes the map to be displayed. Set the document map to a different grouping level to get the nested look in the sample. Document maps render in HTML, XLS (as a cover worksheet), and PDFs (as a document map).

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