Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Janakiram MSV, Yeshim Deniz, David H Deans, Andreas Grabner, Stackify Blog

Related Topics: Microsoft Cloud

Microsoft Cloud: Article

Customizing SQL Server Reporting Services with .NET Code

Design and customize reports with Visual Studio .NET integrated Report Designer

With the release of Reporting Services, Microsoft has provided a truly enterprise-level reporting solution. Reporting Services provides support for the entire reporting life cycle including report authoring, report management, and report delivery. This article introduces the process of designing and customizing reports using the Visual Studio .NET integrated Report Designer. Report Designer allows .NET programmers the ability to customize and extend reporting functionality. Custom fields added to a report can include calculations, text manipulation, and expressions. If a report needs to include complex programming logic, programmers can add functions to the report through code blocks embedded into the report definition. To take advantage of the full capabilities of the .NET Framework, reports have the ability to reference external .NET assemblies. By completing the hands-on exercises in this article, you will gain an understanding of how to enhance the functionality of your reports through expressions, code blocks, and external assemblies.

Reporting Services: An Overview
Microsoft Reporting Services is a robust, cost-effective, server-based reporting tool. It consists of a middle-tier server built on top of an SQL Server back end in conjunction with a Web-based front-end running under IIS. Although Report Services relies on SQL Server for its data repository, the report data can come from any data repository that has an OLEDB, ODBC, or .NET managed provider. Microsoft even supports the ability to extend the API to write custom providers. As the product matures, you can expect to see more managed providers released by the major database vendors in the market today.

Reports are designed through a Report Designer that, when installed, integrates with Visual Studio. Using the Report Designer, programmers leverage their knowledge of .NET programming in a familiar design-time environment. Using the Report Designer, you can easily create a variety of complex reports including tabular, matrix, drill-through, and parameter-driven reports. The Report Designer renders the report in a Report Design Language (RDL) format. RDL is an open XML-based schema containing standard tags used to define the data retrieval and report layout information. By creating and storing a report in RDL format, Report Services decouples the creation of the reports from the report rendering. For example, the same RDL document can be rendered as HTML in a Web page link and as a subscription-based PDF e-mail attachment. Out of the box, Report Services supports rendering in many popular formats, such as HTML, MHTML, PDF, and Excel. Developers can also extend the rendering API to include their own rendering formats.

Creating a Report
Once installed, the Report Designer integrates with Visual Studio. A new Business Intelligence Project folder shows up in the New Projects dialog (see Figure 1). There are two options to create a report project. Creating the project using the wizard launches a series of screens that guide you through the common steps necessary for creating a standard report. The other option is to create a blank report project and run through the steps manually.

The following activity demonstrates using the Report Wizard to create a standard report:

1.  Create a new project in Visual Studio. Select the Business Intelligence Project folder, name the project reportDemo1, select the Report Project Wizard template, and click OK.
2.  Click the Next button on the Report Wizard welcome screen. The next screen gathers information to set up a data source for the report (see Figure 2). Data sources can be private to a particular report or shared among several reports. Create a new data source called dspubs by clicking on the Edit button. Enter the appropriate information to create a link to the pubs database in the Data Link Properties window. After testing the connection, close the window and click the Next button on the Report Wizard screen.
3.  The next step is to specify the query to retrieve the data for the report. You can either type in the query string directly or click the Edit button. This launches a familiar query designer interface. Right-click the top portion of the designer to add tables. Add the authors, titleauthor, and the titles tables to the designer. Select the au_lname, au_fname, state, title, type, price, and ytd_sales columns from the tables. Right click on the top section of the designer and choose run to verify the query returns data. Click the OK button in the bottom right corner of the designer to close the window. Click the Next button on the Report Wizard screen.
4.  In the Design the Table window, select the state field for the page level, the type field for the group level, and the remaining fields for the details level (see Figure 3).
5.  Select a tabular report type and click the Next button.
6.  Click the Next button and choose a stepped layout.
7.  Click the Next button and choose a style.
8.  Click the Next button, name the report authorSales, and click the Finish button.

As you can see, creating a basic report using the wizard is quick and painless. After running through the wizard, the designer presents the report in a layout screen that you can use to further refine and customize the report.

Customizing Report Fields
If you are familiar with creating reports using Access or Crystal Reports, customizing fields in the Report Designer should be intuitive. The following activity demonstrates customizing fields using the Report Designer. If you do not already have the demo report project up and running, launch the project in Visual Studio.

1.  There are three tabs at the top of each report open in the report designer: Data, Layout, and Preview. Make sure you are on the Layout tab and right- click on the ytd_sales textbox and select Properties, which launches the Textbox Properties window (see Figure 4).
2.  Change the format to Currency and click the Advanced button in the lower left corner of the window.
3.  As you click through the tabs in the Advanced Textbox Properties window, you will notice that most properties allow you to customize the property using custom code. Click on the Font tab and select the Function button next to the size property. Enter the following Immediate If expression that changes the font based on the ytd_sales amount.

=IIF( Fields!ytd_sales.Value > 5000,"14pt"," 9pt")

4.  Close the Edit Expression and the Advanced Property windows. Click on the Preview tab at the top of the report. Notice that all ytd_sales above 5,000 are rendered in a 14-point font.
5.  Although the Immediate If statement is useful for Boolean test conditions, a Switch expression is useful for testing multiple conditions and works like the Select Case VB statement. To demonstrate the Switch expression click on the Price textbox in the report Layout tab. In the Properties window, click on the Color drop-down and select Expression.
6.  Enter the following Switch expression that changes the color property based on the price:

=Switch( Fields!price.Value > 20,"Blue", Fields!price.Value > 15, "Green", Fields!price.Value > 5, "Red")

7.  Close the Edit Expression window. Click on the Preview tab at the top of the report. You should notice the color of the price changing depending on the amount.

As you can see, adding conditional formatting to a report is easy. The cool part is that you can change almost any formatting property based on a runtime condition. You can also base your condition on any field exposed to the report. For example, see if you can change the color of an author's last name depending on what state he/she lives in.

Adding Functions to a Report
Although conditional formatting is very useful, it is somewhat limited in both scope and functionality. Suppose we want to create custom code for reuse throughout a report. You can include embedded code written in Visual Basic by adding methods to a globally defined code member class. This embedded code is saved in the report definition file and has report level scoping.

The following activity demonstrates creating and consuming embedded code in a report. If you do not already have the demo report project up and running, launch the project in Visual Studio.

1.  Select the Layout tab of the report in the Report Designer window. On the Report menu, choose New Report Properties, which launches the Report Properties dialog box.
2.  Select the Code tab and enter the method shown in Listing 1. Because the Code tab is just a text box, you may want to write the code in a class file and then paste it in the box. This will allow you to take advantage of the Visual Studio code editing features.
3.  Right-click on the state textbox in the Report Layout designer and select Expression to launch the Edit Expression dialog. Enter the following code in the Expression textbox:

=code.FilterEmptyStrings(Fields!state.Value)

4.  Repeat Step 3 for the au_fname textbox passing in the value of the au_fname field.
5.  Update the author table in the pubs database so that some of the records have blank state and au_fname fields.
6.  Preview the report. You should notice the report renders "no value entered" if the state or au_fname fields are blank.

Extending Reports Through External Assemblies
Although adding functions to a report is a great way to extend and customize your reporting solutions, it is still somewhat restrictive. Code reuse is limited to a single report and the full feature set of the .NET framework is not available. To extend code access across multiple reports and take full advantage of the .NET framework, you create an external .NET assembly that the report references.

The following activity demonstrates the process of referencing external assemblies from a report. If you do not already have the demo report project up and running, launch the project in Visual Studio:

1.  Add a Class Library project to the solution named reportHelperLib. Add a class named rptHelper.
2.  In the rptHelper class, add the methods shown in Listing 2. Notice that one is a shared method. This will help to demonstrate the difference between calling shared methods and instance methods from a report.
3.  Build the Class Library project. To create a reference to the reportHelperLib.dll from your report project, open the Report Properties dialog and select the References Tab (see Figure 5). In addition to the assembly, you need to include the class and create an instance name to reference instance methods of the class. You also need to place a copy of the reportHelperLib.dll in the bin folder of the Report Designer folder. This ensures that you can preview the report in the designer. The default location for this folder is: "C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\80\Tools\Report Designer"
4.  Select the Layout tab of the report in the Report Designer window. Right-click the price column in the table and insert a column to the right. Label the column tax. Select the textbox in the column row and change the name to tax.
5.  Right-click on the tax textbox and select Expression to launch the Edit Expression dialog. Enter the following code in the Expression textbox. Because this is a shared method, the fully qualified name references the assembly:

=reportHelperLib.rptHelper.getTax( Fields!state.Value)

6.  Preview the report. The tax column contains the value returned by the getTax method.
7.  Select the Layout tab of the report in the Report Designer window. Right click on the au_fname textbox in the Report Layout designer and select Expression to launch the Edit Expression dialog. Replace the existing code in the Expression textbox with the following code. Because this is an instance method, we reference it through the class instance variable created in Step 3.

=code.m_rptHelper.FilterEmptyStrings(Fields!au_fname.value)

8.  Preview the report. Notice the report renders "no value entered" if the au_fname field is blank.

Review
With the release of Reporting Services, Microsoft has provided a truly enterprise-level reporting solution. Reporting Services provides support for the entire reporting life cycle, including report authoring, report management, and report delivery. This article has introduced the process of designing and customizing reports using the Visual Studio .NET integrated Report Designer. A future article will explore the issues involved with report management and delivery. It will guide you through the process of publishing, securing, and executing reports.

Full Reporting Life Cycle Support
SQL Server Reporting Services supports the full reporting life cycle, including:

  • Report authoring: Report developers can create reports to be published to the Report Server using Microsoft or third-party design tools that use Report Definition Language (RDL), an XML-based industry standard used to define reports.
  • Report management: Report definitions, folders, and resources are published and managed as a Web service. Managed reports can be executed either on-demand or on a specified schedule, and are cached for consistency and performance.
  • Report delivery: SQL Server Reporting Services supports both on-demand (pull) and event-based (push) delivery of reports. Users can view reports in a Web-based format or in e-mail.

More Stories By Dan Clark

Dan is a Microsoft Certified Trainer, Microsoft Certified Solution Developer, and a Microsoft Certified Database Administrator. For the past seven years he has been developing applications and training others how to develop applications using Microsoft technologies. Dan has been developing and training Microsoft's .NET technologies since the early betas. He has recently authored the book "An Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming with Visual Basic .NET," published by Apress.

Comments (2) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Jensays 12/03/08 11:00:20 AM EST

I'm so glad I found your advice, I was struggling with a conditional font size in a SRS report, whereby I kept getting a syntax error. Thankfully, your article clearly showed me what my error was.

Mike Kissinger 03/24/05 09:45:38 AM EST

Figure 5 is a blurr. Can you send me a clear image?

Mike

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Synametrics Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Synametrics Technologies is a privately held company based in Plainsboro, New Jersey that has been providing solutions for the developer community since 1997. Based on the success of its initial product offerings such as WinSQL, Xeams, SynaMan and Syncrify, Synametrics continues to create and hone inn...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, examined the regulations and provided insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence arou...
Recently, WebRTC has a lot of eyes from market. The use cases of WebRTC are expanding - video chat, online education, online health care etc. Not only for human-to-human communication, but also IoT use cases such as machine to human use cases can be seen recently. One of the typical use-case is remote camera monitoring. With WebRTC, people can have interoperability and flexibility for deploying monitoring service. However, the benefit of WebRTC for IoT is not only its convenience and interopera...
The 22nd International Cloud Expo | 1st DXWorld Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, to be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY, brings together Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding busin...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo have announced the conference tracks for Cloud Expo 2018. Cloud Expo will be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, and November 6-8, 2018, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DX Expo within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive ov...
"Evatronix provides design services to companies that need to integrate the IoT technology in their products but they don't necessarily have the expertise, knowledge and design team to do so," explained Adam Morawiec, VP of Business Development at Evatronix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Recently, REAN Cloud built a digital concierge for a North Carolina hospital that had observed that most patient call button questions were repetitive. In addition, the paper-based process used to measure patient health metrics was laborious, not in real-time and sometimes error-prone. In their session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sean Finnerty, Executive Director, Practice Lead, Health Care & Life Science at REAN Cloud, and Dr. S.P.T. Krishnan, Principal Architect at REAN Cloud, discussed how they built...
Digital Transformation (DX) is not a "one-size-fits all" strategy. Each organization needs to develop its own unique, long-term DX plan. It must do so by realizing that we now live in a data-driven age, and that technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, the IoT, Cognitive Computing, and Blockchain are only tools. In her general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rebecca Wanta explained how the strategy must focus on DX and include a commitment from top management to create great IT jobs, monitor ...
"Digital transformation - what we knew about it in the past has been redefined. Automation is going to play such a huge role in that because the culture, the technology, and the business operations are being shifted now," stated Brian Boeggeman, VP of Alliances & Partnerships at Ayehu, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, led attendees through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He looked at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering m...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...