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Posted May 27, 2004

MSSQL Server Reporting Services: Managing Reporting Services: Report Execution and Standard Subscriptions - Page 2

By William Pearson

Executing and Viewing Reports

We can execute a report within Reporting Services through two general means. First, we can run a given report on demand, which simply means that the report executes any time we access and open it. Alternatively, we can dictate that a report is subscription based, whereby we specify information that is used to run the report at the time we dictate, together with delivery information to enabled Reporting Services to "push" the report to us after execution.

Execution and viewing often become very closely related, particularly in the case of an on-demand scenario, where we are triggering execution by an attempt to view. Let's take a look at the options for executing and viewing our reports.

On-Demand Execution

We can view reports on demand via the Report Manager or through a browser. Let's take a look at the steps involved in a simple scenario. First, we will view a report using Report Manager, something we have already touched upon in previous articles. Our first step is to start Report Manager.

1.  Click Start.

2.  Navigate to the Reporting Services program group that installs within a typical setup. The equivalent on my PC appears as shown in Illustration 1.

Illustration 1: Navigate to Report Manager ...

3.  Click Report Manager to initialize the application.

NOTE: If Report Manager does not appear in the manner shown, whether because you declined setup of the program group, a disablement of the feature, or other, unknown reason, simply get there by typing the appropriate URL into the address bar of your web browser. The default URL is as follows:


As an example, my <webservername> would be MOTHER1, the name of my server, and would appear, in this approach, in my browser address line as depicted in Illustration 2.

Illustration 2: Navigate to Report Manager ...

We arrive at the Report Manager Folder view, as shown in Illustration 3.

Illustration 3: Report Manager Folder View

The sample reports we have published appear as we left them in our last lesson.

NOTE: If you did not complete the last lesson, of if you have worked with Reporting Services other than within the last lesson, the Folder view will appear different from the above. To populate the view with the sample reports, which we will be using throughout our examination of the Managing phase of Reporting Services, please refer to the steps taken in Managing Reporting Services: Data Connection and Uploads.

As is obvious, Report Manager is, itself, a web-based interface. In addition to serving as a management tool for Reporting Services, it also acts as a viewing tool. An advantage in its use for viewing is that the involvement of the report server, which underlies the capability to view a report in a web browser, is minimal. This comes in handy at times, particularly for developers who, for whatever reason, may not have access to a report server.

Let's execute and view a report here, then take a look at the same process via the browser. Clicking the report name triggers execution, as we shall see in the next steps.

4.  Click the link for the Product Line Sales report, as shown in Illustration 4.

Illustration 4: Executing the Report from Report Manager (Partial Folder View)

The report executes when we click the link in Report Manager's Folder view, as evidenced by a Report is being generated message. The report then appears, as shown in Illustration 5.

Illustration 5: Viewing the Report Executed from Report Manager

We can also view reports directly from a browser, simply by typing in the URL address of the report. Within the URL is embedded the Web server, report server virtual directory, and the fully qualified report name. An example (the report we have accessed, based upon its URL on my machine), is as follows:


We could type this address directly into the browser, or establish a link in another page, a shortcut based upon the URL, or other options to gain similar execution and subsequent access to the report. The address I have shown above would be referred to in the Reporting Services documentation as a "complex URL," meaning that it contains encoded characters to handle spaces in the path (as in the report name Product Line Sales), as well as for the passage of parameters (Product Line Sales is a parameterized report, and requires parameters to function as its authors intended).

These comprise the basic options that we have for executing and viewing a report on demand. We can also view the data obtained by Reporting Services using a desktop application, such as MS Excel, instead. We will touch upon a method for doing this in our next section, where we will focus upon subscriptions.

5.  From within the Product Line Sales report, click the Home link (as depicted in Illustration 6) to return to the Home page / Folder view from whence we entered the Product Line Sales report.

Illustration 6: Return Home, and Close the Product Line Sales Report

On-demand reports, by their nature, allow us to perform "refreshes" based upon the most recent data in the data source through their easy execution, and thus they provide current information upon viewing. There are scenarios where a Reporting Services administrator might want to designate that a previously generated report be presented, instead of running the report every time an information consumer makes use of the respective link or other execution option. These previously generated reports are often referred to as static reports. Static reports might be used when the reports concerned are resource intensive, or perhaps where the use of static reports otherwise increases performance, in situations where data is not frequently updated at the database level, and so forth. We will examine the use of static reports in subsequent articles.

As we have mentioned earlier, in addition to on-demand reports, Reporting Services allows us to execute reports in an alternative way, through the use of subscriptions. We will look at subscription-based reporting next, from the perspective of a standard subscription.

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