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MS SQL

Posted Feb 26, 2004

MSSQL Server Reporting Services: The Authoring Phase: Overview Part I - Page 2

By William Pearson

The Authoring Phase

Once business requirements are defined, the first stage in the reporting life cycle is the Authoring phase. As report designers within Reporting Services, we create a Report Definition with an authoring tool. The out-of the-box tool for Reporting Services is the Report Designer in Visual Studio .NET 2003. Authoring is accomplished on a client PC, from which (ideally, once it meets the business requirements) it is published to one or more report servers. From these servers the report can be accessed by organizational information consumers.

Report Designer affords us three main ways to create a report. These general approaches consist of the following:

Manual - We create a blank report, to which we add one or more queries and layout specifications.

Wizard Assisted - We use the Report Wizard, which automatically creates a table / matrix report (see Table 1 below for a description of report layout options), based upon information we provide in answer to prompts.

Import - We can import reports from MS Access and other sources.

While we will examine each of these approaches to report creation over the life of the MSSQL Server 2000 Reporting Services series, this article, as an introduction to the Authoring phase, will undertake a practice example using the Manual method to create a simple report, so as to focus more on Authoring generalities. We will have many opportunities to explore the creation of reports to meet specific business needs in future articles, where specific techniques and strategies will be exposed.

The Report Definition itself is a draft layout of a report, before the report is processed and delivered, similar to the "blueprint" to which most of us have become accustomed in our existing reporting applications. The Report Definition contains several elements, including:

  • The physical, intended report layout;
  • Data source connection details;
  • Query information that defines the source data that is extracted and presented in the report.

Reporting Services offers numerous layouts for reporting, as we shall see throughout the series. Page-oriented (supporting what Microsoft refers to as "traditional" reports, or "paper-based reports" in the vernacular of the business population at large, who 1) maintains that the avoidance of paper is highly desirable, while 2) continuing to kick off print batch jobs at an ever-increasing rate) reports are supported; in addition, web-based, "interactive" reporting is fully supported. Standard layout types include the classifications detailed in Table 1.

Layout Classification

Description

Tabular

A table-like report with a set number of columns

Matrix

A flexible report whose column number changes dynamically to fit the result dataset of the underlying query.

List (free-form)

A report that allows the author to arrange data "free-form" within its boundaries.

Chart

A report that presents a graphic (such as the classic pie and bar charts) representation.



Table 1: Report Layouts Available in Reporting Services

Like many of the more advanced enterprise reporting applications that are common today, layouts can be combined, with the Report Definition becoming a set of layout sections to contain the constituent types.

The Authoring phase within Reporting Services consists of the following steps:

  • Creation of the Report Project / Report Files;
  • Establishment of a Data Connection to the desired data source(s);
  • Creation of the Query that entrains the data into the report;
  • Introduction and arrangement of report controls into the report (to establish general layout);
  • Introduction of data to the report layout;
  • Setting properties to customize the layout, add formatting and default values, and specify grouping and other arrangements.

Let's begin a practice example to transit the steps of Authoring a report in Reporting Services.



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