SQL Server 2005 : Report Access and Delivery (part 1) - Delivery on Demand, Subscriptions

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Several methods are available for delivering reports to users on demand or by subscription. Most popular is the Report Manager interface described earlier. You can embed reports in SharePoint Portal using the included Web parts. Direct browser access is handled by URL parameters. There is also a ReportViewer control that programmers can embed in ASP.NET or Windows Forms applications.

Delivery on Demand

Reports are available on demand through Report Manager and direct URL browser Web connections.

Report Manager

The basic navigation concepts for Report Manager were described earlier. Users navigate the folder namespace hierarchy or use the search prompt to find the desired report. Folder and report items are presented as single-click hyperlinks. Clicking a report runs the report with a control toolbar at the top of the page. The toolbar has buttons for paging, zooming, search, export, refresh, and printing, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. ReportViewer in Report Manager

The search text box accepts a string. Entering the string enables the Find and Next links, which help you search larger reports for a particular phrase.

The Print button loads a print preview ActiveX control that downloads from the report server. You can set device properties, adjust margins, and select page ranges.

If the report requires parameters, a text box or drop-down list is included on the toolbar for each parameter. Fill in the details or select from the list. Click the View Report button to render the report and see the Report Viewer toolbar. Some parameters are dependent on each other, as described earlier. In this case, selecting from one list fills the next.

The Select A Format drop-down list works in conjunction with the Export link to render reports in a variety of presentation formats. The output options are discussed later in the “Presentation Formats” section. 

SharePoint Web Parts

Two SharePoint Web parts are included that enable folder navigation and report viewing. These work with SharePoint Services or Portal Server. The Web parts must be installed on the SharePoint server using the Stsadm.exe utility. Report Manager must be installed and operational because the Report Viewer Web part makes URL calls directly to this site. If SharePoint and Reporting Services live on the same machine, the Reporting Services virtual directories must be excluded from SharePoint Services.

You add the Web parts to a SharePoint page. You can use Report Viewer by itself or in tandem with Report Explorer. In standalone mode, the report server address and report path are entered in the Web part’s Properties dialog box. You cannot enter required parameters. The report runs automatically when the page is displayed and prompts you for the parameters. If you want a page with the parameters preset, use a PageViewer Web part and the URL access approach described next.

The Report Explorer Web part can display the contents of a folder on the report server. You can select a report and have it linked to a Report Viewer Web part for display. Report Explorer also has links for subscription management.

Browser URL Access

Instead of navigating Report Manager, it might be preferable to display a report directly in a browser window. This technique allows integration with existing Web sites and forms applications using a browser control. You can customize the report viewing and navigation experience by including parameters in the URL phrase. You can also pass report and query parameters in this fashion. The URL phrase is often used in a Web page hyperlink that opens in a new target window or iframe.

Two sets of parameters are used to control navigation and viewing options. The viewer commands are prefixed with rc: and include Toolbar, Parameters, DocMap, Zoom, Find, Paging, and Stylesheets. The report server commands are prefixed with rs: and include Format, Language, and Snapshot. Samples of the URL syntax are shown in the URL Access programming sample.

ReportViewer Control

The ReportViewer control is part of the .NET Framework 2.0. It works in Windows Forms, as shown in Figure 2, and Web pages, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 2. ReportViewer control in a Windows Forms application

Figure 3. ReportViewer control in an ASP.NET Web page

You can configure ReportViewer to render a report locally or from a report server. Both use the same basic rendering technology. The local client-based rendering relies on an RDLC file included in the project. The report server method requires a report server URL and a report path. Properties are set to configure toolbar, navigation, and output options. This control is provided royalty free and is a great addition to any polished .NET application.


You can automate report delivery through subscription services. You can link or attach a report to an e-mail message or save it to a file share. You create subscriptions on the Subscription tab of a report; they are summarized in the My Subscriptions link at the top of each Report Manager page. Note that all subscriptions require cached credentials in the report data source.

Once this requirement is met, the New Subscription button on the Subscription tab opens a page that prompts for the delivery method. Report Server File Share is one option. If e-mail settings are configured for the report server, the second option is Report Server E-Mail.

Subscriptions must have a schedule. You can manually create a schedule for the report or use a shared schedule maintained by an administrator in the Site Settings area. A schedule can specify running once or repeating hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly. Select the desired days and time. Start and end dates limit the lifetime.

Subscriptions are dependent on the SQL Reporting Services Windows service and the SQL Server Agent service. Both must be running to successfully complete your subscription.


The e-mail delivery method creates a single e-mail message with a report link or an attached file. Links are more efficient for internal reporting and usually connect the user directly to Report Manager. Attachments are appropriate for external mailings, typically in PDF or XLS format. You can specify the To, Cc, Bcc, Subject, Priority, and Body (comment). You are prompted for any required parameters at the bottom of the form. Formatting support is limited. Highly stylized messages require a custom delivery extension. The same is true for multiple file attachments per message.

Shared Folder

The folder delivery method creates a single file for each report. You enter the path and select a report format. Credentials are required for access to the file share. Options for overwrite and file versioning are available.

Data-Driven Subscriptions

Data-driven subscriptions can generate e-mails or shared folder files. The required settings are provided by a database query. You can use a subscription-specific or shared data source to host a query that returns one row for each report that you want to generate. The columns include names such as To, Cc, Bcc, Subject, filename, path, render_format, and values for required report parameters. You map these directly to the required settings.

This method provides a lot of flexibility for customized report distribution. You can create a sales report for hundreds or thousands of employees or customers that is then tailored to specific regions or product areas. This is also a good way to maintain archived reports to satisfy retention policies.

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