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Book Review: Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services

The Report Builder's Bible

Over the years I have been on quite a few projects and there have been very few if any that did not require some type of reporting. For a while that meant Crystal Reports, but when SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) hit the scene, Crystal Reports began to fade on Microsoft projects. That was especially true if I had my way. I was the first person to champion SSRS in state projects in Pennsylvania. That was quite a battle but well worth it!

SSRS is one of the best solutions to come out of Microsoft. I don't say that lightly. I have plenty of complaints about different Microsoft products, but none about SSRS. The extensibility model built into the architecture makes the product completely customizable through extension.

This book introduces the SSRS architecture, the report manager, the basics of databases and database queries, but every topic introduced supports the report builder role. This book is all about the report builder. The chapters are listed below.

Part I: Getting Started
Chapter 1. Let's Start at the Very Beginning
Chapter 2. Putting the Pieces in Place: Installing Reporting Services

Part II: Report Authoring
Chapter 3. DB 101: Database Basics
Chapter 4. A Visit to Emerald City: The Report Wizard
Chapter 5. Removing the Training Wheels: Building Basic Reports
Chapter 6. Graphic Expression: Using Charts, Images, and Gauges
Chapter 7. Geography Lesson: Using Maps and Spatial Data Types
Chapter 8. Kicking It Up a Notch: Intermediate Reporting
Chapter 9. Beyond Wow: Advanced Reporting

Part III: Reporting Serving
Chapter 10. How Did We Ever Manage Without You--The Report Manager
Chapter 11. Delivering the Goods: Report Delivery
Chapter 12. Teamwork: Integrating Reporting Services
Chapter 13. Well Begun: Best Practices

One thing that struck me as a little weird was there was no "What's new in SSRS 2012" section. That is no big deal as I usually skip those sections anyway, but some readers may be looking for it. One big change that was worth mentioning was no more Report Models. I didn't see that mentioned anywhere in the book.

Reports can be built using Visual Studio 2010, Visual Studio 2010 with the SQL Server Data Tools add-in, and Report Builder. The author does a great job showing how to use the different tools with each example when usage is different. This really helps you get familiar with the tools and in the end will help you choose which tool you would like to use.

There is no coverage of custom extensions. My review started by touting that that is my favorite part of the product, so I was disappointed to see nothing about it. Although I do believe the content of this book will take you to the maximum possible potential of creating and delivering reports with the out of the box functionality, I have had to write custom extensions on many projects in order to meet the client's requirements. It is a topic that I would like to see covered and have seen covered in other reporting services books. However, I am not going to ding the book for this because I know that 99.9% of the reporting services authors will never have to write a custom extension or even have to know they exist.

My favorite part of the book was the hands on approach the author takes to teach us the ins and outs of SSRS. The best way to read this book is with Visual Studio or Report Builder open. The author goes through tons of step by step tasks.

Another thing I really liked was the coverage of data visualization. One of the biggest business user requests I hear is for data visualization in the form of charts, images, and gauges. This book will teach you how to use all three. It also includes great coverage of maps and spatial data types.

One last thing I really like about this book is that the author does a great job of teaching the reader how to retrieve data. In the beginning of the book he does an excellent job explaining joins. Then throughout the book he advances the reader to some fairly complex queries using joins. After running through all the examples you'll know how to get to the data you want.

Like I said above this is a Report Builder's book. If you want to learn everything there is about building reports, this is the book to teach you. The best part though is that you do not have to have any experience. This book takes the beginner from databases 101 to beginning reports, through intermediate reports, to building advanced reports.

The downloadable code is well organized and very usable. The author includes a database and an OLAP database. Both come with instructions for installing and configuring. All the code works well and adds a lot of value to the book.

All in all if you are building SQL Server 2102 Reporting Services Reports, or if you are interested in learning how to, you owe it to yourself to get this book.

Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services 4/E

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Tad Anderson has been doing Software Architecture for 18 years and Enterprise Architecture for the past few.

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