Do you know the 5 user experiences of Reporting
Services: Vanilla, Website, Email, Windows and SharePoint?
The 5 user experiences of Reporting services are...
- Figure: Example of Vanilla user experience
- Figure: Example of Website user experience
- Figure: Example of Email user experience
- Figure: Example of Wndows user experience
- Figure: Example of SharePoint user experience
Do you know when to use Reporting Services?
Like any solution, Reporting Services has its pros and cons. From our
experience, we have discovered these things about Reporting Services:
- Parameters - you are forced to use built-in controls
- Query string -
when you change the parameters and refresh a report, the values do not appear
directly in the query string, making it hard to copy/paste URLs
separate SQL into a strongly-typed dataset or middle-tier object like in ASP.NET
There are potential difficulties with the deployment of RS reports and the
exposing of them. However, once we have the infrastructure...
- You can develop read only reports faster in Reporting Services
- Maintenance with RS is easier than ASP .NET, as with most
cases you don't have to write any code
- Flexibility with groupings and
totals is easier. In ASP.NET you would need to iterate through the DataSet,
keeping variables with the totals
- Parameters are built-in. In ASP.NET
there is code
- Drilldown interactivity. In ASP.NET you need to code up a
- Users can have reports automatically emailed to them on a
- Users can export natively to PDF and XLS, plus a variety of
other popular formats
So in conclusion, if you will only ever need 1 report, go with ASP.NET - it is
easier to get up and running. If you plan to have more than one report, use
Reporting Services - it's worth the time to configure.
For a more detailed comparison between reporting solutions, take a look at our
Guidelines for Report Solutions - Web Clients.
- Figure: Reporting Services
has built-in support for PDF/XLS export and can be embedded in your ASP.NET
Do you check that "Report Server Configuration Manager"
is all green ticks?
To ensure your Reporting Services is running in a healthy state, you need to
check if you have all the green ticks in your "Report Server Configuration
- Bad Example - Reporting Services is
not running in a healthy state
- Good Example - Reporting
Services is configured correctly
Note: "Report Server Configuration Manager" is only available in SQL Server 2005.
Do you check out the built-in samples?
SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services comes with some great samples that will help
get you started. Unfortunately, they aren't installed by default.
These samples include:
- Report Project based on the
Adventure Works 2008 R2 database
- Report Builder Model based on the Adventure Works 2008 R2
Upon installing the samples successfully, you should see 3 folders (shown below)
in your Report Manager.
- Figure: A proper installation of
To install previous version of Adventure Works sample reports, see our knowledge base article:
How do I install SQL Server 2005 with the Adventure Works Samples?
AdventureWorks Reports Sample
Do you know your 2 migration options to show your
Access reports on the web?
The greatest advantage for Access Developers is that with Reporting Services your
reports can become available on the web. If you have a heap of Access reports,
what are the choices for getting them on the web?
- Keep the existing reports in Access and expose them on the web with
SSW Access Reporter. This is the least amount of work, as SSW Access
Reporter is a utility that delivers existing Access reports online with minimal
re-coding. Download a free trial today and try
it out for yourself.
Good Example - If you want to avoid migrating then SSW Access Reporter delivers
your Access reports online so you can view them anywhere
- Import the reports into Reporting Services. Reporting Services has built-in
support for importing and converting reports from Access. We have had plenty of
success with it, but you will need to re-code things like conditional formatting
and any code behind.
Good Example - Reporting Services has built-in support for importing your Access
Layout - Does your report print and display on the web
A lot of the time, you will want a hard copy of your reports. Obviously reports
are different sizes on screen and on paper, so you need to format your report so
it exports to PDF and prints properly. Here's how.
Change the report's page width to 28cm (or 11in) and left and right margins
Example - For proper printing, first change the Report's Page Width to 28cm (or
11in) and left and right margins to 1cm
Change the Body width to 25.4cm (or 10in)
Example - Then change the Report's Body Width to 25.4cm (or 10in)
- Good Example
- PDF page with 1cm margin (you have more room for content)
You can see the 1cm margin looks much better than 2.5cm, and you have more space
to organize your content.
- Resize report items (tables and charts) to fit the page. The easiest way
to do this is to select (Ctrl+click) all report items that should span the whole
width of the page, and set their Width property to 25.4cm (or
Tip: Export your report to PDF and do a print preview, so you don't have
to print a lot of testing pages to find out the best page settings.
Note: Reporting Services reports accept both inches and cm, so you can
Layout - Do you include a useful footer at the bottom
of your reports?
You should always include a useful and informative footer at the bottom of your
- Date and Time Printed and User who printed it - see warning below (e.g.
Printed by SSW2000\JatinValabjee on 3/1/2006 3:16:30 PM)
Execution Time (e.g. Execution time: 1 minute, 10 seconds)
Page x of y (e.g. Page 3 of 10)
Link to company website + slogan (e.g.
www.ssw.com.au - Writing software people
Bad Example - This footer doesn't provide any useful information
Good Example - Useful and informative information should be displayed in your
Use these handy report expressions to show the above information.
|Date and Time Printed / User ID
||="Printed by " + User!UserID + " on " +
||Printed by SSW2000\JatinValabjee on 3/1/2006 3:16:30 PM
="Execution Time: " +
IIf(System.DateTime.Now.Subtract(Globals!ExecutionTime).TotalSeconds < 1, "0
IIf(System.DateTime.Now.Subtract(Globals!ExecutionTime).Hours > 0,
System.DateTime.Now.Subtract(Globals!ExecutionTime).Hours & " hour(s), ", "") +
IIf(System.DateTime.Now.Subtract(Globals!ExecutionTime).Minutes > 0,
System.DateTime.Now.Subtract(Globals!ExecutionTime).Minutes & " minute(s), ",
IIf(System.DateTime.Now.Subtract(Globals!ExecutionTime).Seconds > 0,
System.DateTime.Now.Subtract(Globals!ExecutionTime).Seconds & " second(s)", ""))
|Execution time: 1 minute, 10 seconds
Page x of y
="Page " + Globals!PageNumber.ToString() + " of " +
Page 3 of 10
Good Example - Footer in visual studio designer
Tip: Copy and Paste this XML into
the <PageFooter> for the recommended footer of all your *.rdl files.
Warning: Adding the User who printed it stops all data-driven subscriptions
When you try to add the User your data-driven subscriptions will fail with the
'The '/GroupHealth' report has user profile dependencies and cannot be run
A quick workaround is to add a user function to fallback the error to a nice message, like: "SYSTEM",
Public Function UserName()
Use above function to replace your reference to Report.User!UserID will allow the subscription to work correctly.
Layout - Do you avoid using word 'Report' in
We believe the word 'Report' is redundant in a report, so we avoid using this
word in our reports.
Bad Example - redundant use of the word 'report' in a report
Good Example - avoidance of the word 'report' in a report
Layout - Do you underline items with
The Hyperlink Action allows users to navigate between reports smoothly, but
users may ignore the navigation functionality in your reports.
Bad Example - No underline for hyperlink item
Bad Example - No underline for the textbox with hyperlink action
With the underline effect on your hyperlink items, it will be easy for users to
find the navigation on your reports.
- Good Example - Underline
for hyperlink item
- Good Example -
Underline for textbox with hyperlink action
Layout - Do you show errors in
Errors on reports should not occur but when they do it is best to make it clear to
the reader that they have just experienced an error.
How evident are the error messages on the 1st report below?
- Bad Example - Using the
default NoRows property of the table control - error message is not clear enough
- Good Example - Use a
customized textbox and icon to show the error message in red
Reporting Services allows you to set the 'NoRows' property of a table control to
warn your user when there is no data available. This is similar to handle the
'NoData event' in Access report but there is no advanced control on this
message, not even a Color property - this has not been improved in RS2005, see
Better Software Suggestions page.
- Figure: NoRow property of
Table control only allow simple string
Here's how to add a custom "NoData" textbox with a red icon to your report:
- Add a rectangle to the top of your report, above any report items in the body.
Set its BorderColor to Red
- Drop a textbox into the
rectangle and give it the value No records were found matching your criteria.
Please modify your parameters and try again.
- Add an Image control
next to it. Use this error icon as the Image (add it to your Images folder
in your solution and reference it like Images/fatal_error_info.gif). Your
report will now look similar to the one below.
- Figure: Adding a custom error
message to your report
- In the Hidden property of the Rectangle, add an expression to
show/hide it depending on whether any rows were returned. Use the following
expression, substituting the bold for your own values (e.g. checking if the sum
of all orders is < 0)
--Expression to set the visibility of the error message controls
= iif( Sum(Fields!SaleTotal.Value, "MyDataSet")>0, True, False)
- Figure: The
Hidden property of the rectangle
- Group all other report items into a rectangle - you want to be able to show and
hide them dynamically
- In the Hidden
property of this Rectangle, add an expression to show/hide it depending
on whether any rows were returned. Switch the True and False values around, so
that it shows if it does have records, and hides if it does not have records
(the opposite behaviour to the error box). So, in the example above, the
expression would be:
--Expression to set the visibility of the main report items
= iif( Sum(Fields!SaleTotal.Value, "MyDataSet")>0, False, True)
Layout - Do you have consistent report name?
A professional report should have consistent name.
- Bad Example - Inconsistent report name
- Good Example - Consistent report name
Layout - Do you include feedback information in the
A professional report should have the feedback information, then users can give
suggestions directly to the designers.
- Good Example - Include feedback information
Layout - Do you know which version of Reporting Services
you are running?
You can add the version number to the name of the reporting server by:
- Going to Site Settings
- Add 2005 or 2008 to the name
Bad Example - You can't tell what version of reporting services you are running
Good Example - We can clearly see that this is running Reporting Services 2005
Layout - Do you put content as less as possible in page header?
Things in page header repeat on every page. To avoid duplicate and save paper when printing, we put content as less as possible in page header.
- Bad Example - too many things in page header
- Good Example - little in page header
Data Layout - Do you show the past 6 months of totals in a
When you are working with reports that use time-based data (sales figures,
employee productivity etc.), it is handy to see how you went this month compared
to the past 6 months. The best way to show this is on a bar chart.
- Good Example - Use of
bar chart to show the past 6 months of totals at the end of your report for easy
To do this:
- Create a new dataset in your report
- Enter the following query,
substituting "MyDate" for the name of the date field you are referencing,
"MyTable" for the view or table you are selecting from, and "@pEndDate" for the
name of the report parameter you are using for the data end date:
SELECT DISTINCT TOP 6
CONVERT(varchar(12), Year(MyDate), 101) + '-' + RIGHT('0' + Convert(Varchar(2), MyDate, 101), 2) AS Y
, Sum(PaidTotal) * -1 AS Total
MyDate BETWEEN DateAdd(Month,-5,convert(varchar(12), Month(@pEndDate)) + '/1/' + convert(varchar(12), Year(@pEndDate))) AND
CASE WHEN datepart(d,@pEndDate) = 1 THEN DateAdd(d, 1, @pEndDate) ELSE @pEndDate END
CONVERT(varchar(12), Year(MyDate), 101) + '-' + RIGHT('0' + Convert(Varchar(2), MyDate, 101), 2)
CONVERT(varchar(12), Year(MyDate), 101) + '-' + RIGHT('0' + Convert(Varchar(2), MyDate, 101), 2)
- Configure the new added parameter 'pEndDate'
Figure: Change Data Type to DateTime and assign to the proper default values
- Add a chart to your report in Layout view and change its type to "Simple Column"
Drag the "Total" field from the Datasets window into the Data area on the chart,
and the "Y" field into the Category area. Your chart will now look similar to
the one below.
- Figure: Build up
the column chart in layout view
- Now you need to set the last column to be a different color so it stands out.
Right-click the chart and click Properties.
- Click the "Data" tab, click
"Edit..." next to the "Values" box, then go to the "Appearance" tab and click
"Series Style..." then the "Fill" tab.
- In the "Color" textbox, enter this expression, then OK all dialogs to return to
=iif(Right(Fields!Y.Value, 2)=Month(Parameters!pEndDate.Value), "Blue", "Green")
Data Layout - Do you show data and chart in one?
It is important to provide a chart, as well as the data which it is based on.
Users of the report service will find the data easier to understand and compare.
However, in order for the report to be understandable, the data and chart must
be clear and uncluttered.
- Bad Example - there is no chart to visually represent the data
- Bad Example - there is a chart, however it is not clear
- Good Example - Data and chart are clearly integrated into one
Data Layout - Do you avoid using a single chart when
you need it to be scaled?
Bad Example - Just a chart - poor scaling for only 1 record
- Bad Example - Just a chart - poorly scaling when many records
The reason for this problem is that the 'size' property of the chart control
doesn't support expressions like 'Count(Rows) or queried values like
'Fields!RowCount.Value', so the chart control cannot adjust its size according
to the data.
The solution for this problem is to use an embedded chart within the table -
this will create a dynamic chart list similar to the list shown below.
Figure: Size property of the chart control
To do this, you need to create a table in your report and add a chart into
each of the rows.
Example - A table with chart
Figure: Embedded chart in a table will generate dynamic chart list
Note: When rendering a report to your browser or an email, Reporting
Services generates a separate image for every single image in the report, even
if they are identical. When you are using graphs, images or charts in your
report, this can cause a large number of images to be generated. Always include
a red warning at the top of any emailed reports so that users do not try and
forward or reply to them. Use a warning like this:
Warning: Do not reply to or forward this report
in an email - Outlook may slow down or even hang
Data Layout - Do you use expressions to show the
correct scale on charts?
In Reporting Services 2005 you can use an expression to specify the scale of
your charts. If you do not specify a maximum value for your y axis, the bar
charts become inaccurate, as you can see in this figure.
- Bad Example - With no scale
value set, the charts do not display based on the correct scale
Here's how to set the scale.
- In Layout view, add a new row to the bottom of the table
- At the
bottom of the column with the chart, set the textbox value to
=Max(Fields!MyTotal.Value), where "MyTotal" is the Data field you're using in
- Figure: Add a new row to
your table and set the max value
- Set the textbox's Name property to MaxMyTotal (e.g. MaxCount)
the new row's Visibility/Hidden property to true - you don't want to show it in
- Open the Chart properties and select the "Y Axis" tab
Set the Maximum value to the value of the textbox, i.e.
- Figure: Set the maximum
value to the value of the textbox
- If you expect to have negative values in the chart (e.g. when comparing 2
values), set the Minimum to -1 multiplied by the max value, i.e. "=-1 *
ReportItems!MaxMyTotal.Value". Otherwise set it to 0 (zero).
- If you expect to have negative values in the chart, select the chart value in
the Data tab and click "Edit..." . Go to Appearance->Series Style->Fill
and enter the following expression:
=iif(Fields!Change.Value > 0, "Green", "Red")
Where "Change" is the name of your data field. This sets the color of the bar to
green if it is positive, and red if it is negative
- Click OK and preview the report. The chart will now be using the maximum value
across all the charts.
- Good Example - The scale is
Data Layout - Do you show change in your reports?
It is important to show previous and current data, as well as the changes between
Bad example - does not show the change between the previous and current data
Good example - shows the change between the previous and current data
There will be cases in which the Change column has no meaning then you'd better
to make this column invisible in your reports. In one of our reports we use an expression
on Hidden property of this column to determine whether to show it based on the value
of a parameter.
=iif(Parameters!ComparedExtractionID.Label = "N/A",true,false)
Expression for Hidden property
Data Layout - Do you avoid showing change as a
When comparing two sets of data in a report (for example, sales this month
compared to last), showing the change as a percentage is a bad idea. For
example, if you made 1 sale last month and 2 this month, you have had a 100%
increase. If for another product you made 1000 sales last month and 2000 this
month, that is also a 100% increase, but you've sold 1000 of that product
compared to 1 of the other product.
For this reason, show the difference as an actual value, so you can compare all
values easily. See the figures below for examples. To see how to create the
negative/positive valued chart, see Do you use
expressions to show the correct scale on charts?
- Notice how the
"change" column in the report doesn't accurately reflect the difference in
downloads - 1 download last month and 2 downloads this month will yield a 100%
increase - which looks impressive as a percentage but really isn't.
Bad Example - The percentage change column in this Reporting Services product
downloads report is misleading
- This works better just showing the difference between the two values over the
Good Example - The column works better as just a difference between the current
and previous download totals
Data Layout - Do you use alternating row colors?
For readability, always use alternating row colors. Use White and Gainsboro (a
light shade of grey). Select the row, and enter this expression in the
= iif(RowNumber(Nothing) Mod 2, "White", "Gainsboro")
Good Example - Alternating row colors greatly improve the readability of
reports, and is very easy to do in Reporting Services
Data Layout - Do you have nodes count like Outlook?
A report with drill through like this should have the number in nodes like Outlook.
- Bad Example - This does not have the nodes count
- Good Example - This does have the nodes count
Here's how to add nodes count to the textbox with "collapsed(+)" in your report:
In the Expression property of the Textbox, add an expression to
show nodes count. Use the following expression:
--Change the SQL ( or add a new DataSet )
SELECT a.TerritoryID, ( CONVERT ( varchar,a.TerritoryDescription ) + ' (' +
CONVERT ( varchar, count ( c.TerritoryID ) ) + ')' ) AS Number, ... FROM
Territories a INNER JOIN EmployeeTerritories b ON a.TerritoryID=b.TerritoryID,
... GROUP BY a.TerritoryID, a.TerritoryDescription,...
--Expression to show nodes count
- Bad Example - Get the Outlook Node Count look by changing the SQL.
--Expression to show nodes count
= Fields!Name.Value + "(" + CStr ( CountRows( ) ) + ")"
Good Example - Use the CountRows() function to get the Outlook Node Count look.
Note: The CountRows function is one of the several native functions
provided by Reporting Services and returns the count of rows within a specified
scope. If no scope is specified, it defaults to the innermost scope, which in
our case resolves to the static group that defines the values in the data cells.
Data Layout - Do you avoid displaying decimal places?
Having decimal places is generally not required when the numbers are there to
show a general indication. Only include decimal places on reports for
accountants that will be used for reconcilations.
- Bad Example - This does display decimal
Good Example - This avoid displaying decimal place
Here's how to remove decimal place in your report:
In the Expression property of the Textbox, add an expression to
format currency values. Use the following expression:
--Expression to remove decimal place
c0 = FormatCurrency( Sum(Fields!TotalDue.Value), 0)
Note: The FormatCurrency function is one of several native functions
provided by Reporting Services and returns an expression formatted as a currency
value using a currency symbol according to the language setting on the textbox.
What is some managers don't want decimals and accountants do?
For some users (usually accountants) the number is critical to accurate reporting and reconciliation. In such cases, add a parameter to let the users choose.
This workaround should not be necessary. See the suggestion to Reporting Services ?Give users a runtime option to increase or decrease decimals places, so we don't need this workaround.
Good Example - Add a parameter to set the decimal places format
Data Layout - Do you have consistent height of
table row across all your reports?
Same height of table row across all reports gives users consistent and
professional impression. We use the default height of table row (0.63492cm) as a
standard to make sure all tables in our reports have consistent row height.
This rule also applies to height of Textbox in all reports.
Bad Example - Bad Height
Good Example - Good Height
Bad Example - Bad Height In Design View
Good Example - Good Height In Design View
Data Layout - Do you display zero number as blank
in your reports?
It looks better to display zero numbers as blank than to leave lots of '0' in a
report. It's easy to do with a simple format code '#,#'.
Bad Example - Bad Zero Number Format
Good Example - Good Zero Number Format
Good Example - Format Code
Data Layout - Do you know the best way to show your
Bad Example - Plain table
Good Example - Plain table with separate chart
Good Example - Table with bar chart embedded
Data Layout - Do you show time format clearly?
It will give a professional look for your report to show time in a clear and
Bad Example - bad time format
A related rule about time format is
Do you keep Time formats consistent across your application?
Good Example - clear time format
Data Layout - Do you show all of the report parameters in body?
It is much better to display all of the report parameters in report body,
because it will be clear for users to know what they search not only in IE but
also in exported file (PDF, Excel).
Bad Example - not displaying all report parameters
Good Example - displaying all report parameters
Data Layout - Do you know how to use logical page breaks?
Sometime you want your report to break at somewhere to separate different part
of content into individual pages. A logical page break is what you need.
Logical page breaks are defined in the report definition by using the
PageBreakAtStart and PageBreakAtEnd properties in various report elements,
including group, rectangle, list, table, matrix, and chart.
Here is an example of how we add logical page breaks in a report to make each
subreport start showing at right beginning in a new page.
Figure: Insert a logical page break before a rectangle containing a subreport
Figure: The subreport started in a new page
Data Layout - Do you know how to prevent charts growing with rows?
By default charts in table grow with rows. This makes height of charts
inconsistent and the report ugly.
Putting a rectangle in table cell and placing your chart in the rectangle
fixes this problem.
Bad Example - inconsistent chart height
Good Example - consistent chart height
Data Layout - Do you take advantage of vertical text (when there are lots of thin columns)?
When a report has many columns and each column contains small amount of data, it is a good idea to use vertical text for the column headers.
By changing the WriteMode of a text box from
lr-tb (left to right, top to bottom)
tb-lr (top to bottom, left to right)
your text will become vertical, and you save lots of space.
- Bad Example - Not using vertical text for headings, when you have lots of thin columns
- Bad Example - Not using ticks and crosses
- Good Example - The report width has been reduced by clever use of the vertical text in the column headers
Note: Microsoft have not given us the option of having the vertical text bottom to top. It would be easier to read. This suggestion has been added to Suggestions for Microsoft RS
Data Layout - Do you use gray color for past data?
It's common that gray color means old, so we use gray for past data in reports.
- Bad Example - old data not in gray
- Good Example - old data in gray
Data Layout - Do you use 3D cylinder in column chart?
3D cylinder chart will make your report cool.
- Bad Example - normal 2D column
- Good Example - cool 3D cylinder
Data Layout - Is title centered in chart?
Title should be centered in chart.
- Bad Example - title not centered
- Good Example - title centered
Data Logic - Do you use de-normalized database fields for calculated values?
Most reports contain some sort of calculation - order totals, freight costs and
so on. You have 3 options on how to display this in your report:
- Use an expression in the report (bad). Avoid doing this because your
logic is scattered throughout the report, and also because this logic cannot be
shared around reports or with your other web and windows applications.
- Call an assembly with the calculated logic (better). This is better then
using a calculation expression because the logic can be shared over multiple
reports, and it is easy to find as all the logic is inside the one .NET project.
It is not the best solution because there is an extra level of complexity as you
have to build, compile and reference the assembly containing the logic.
- Use a denormalised database field (best). This is the best way because
not only is the calculated value accessible directly from the report's data set,
but the value is already pre-calculated which can provide a performance
improvement (compared to calculating the value each time the report runs).
Bad Example - Figure: Avoid using expressions for calculated values
Bad Example - Figure: Avoid using external assemblies for calculated values - it
adds an unnecessary level of complexity
Good Example - Figure: Use a denormalised database field for calculated values
Data Logic - Do you use SQL Ranking functions to rank your data
SQL Ranking functions are introduced since SQL 2005. With these handy functions, you can easily rank your data.
SELECT Rank() Over(Order A.BillableTimeTotal Desc) As Rank
Figure: Rank by SQL Ranking functions
Parameters - Do you avoid showing empty reports
by at least setting Default parameters?
When a user opens a report that has no default parameters, there is always a
split-second of confusion as to why the page is blank. Default parameters allow
the user to see what they expect... a report, and they also show users the
expected format for parameters and make it easier to run validation tests to see
if all the reports on your server are working correctly.
When you create reports, always set default parameters.
Bad Example - There are no Default Values set for the Parameter
Good Example - Default Parameters can be specified manually (non-queried) or
from a query
Parameters - Do you avoid unnecessary words in the parameter?
Words such as: "Select", "Enter" and "Type" used in the parameter names are always a bad practice and should avoided
- Bad Example - Parameters with unnecessary words
- Good Example - Parameters without unnecessary words
Parameters - Do you avoid showing empty reports
by the most intelligent default?(espacially for dates)
When user opens a report, they expect to see something. It is the developer's job
to get the default values for parameters right. And of course you don't get it
right by hard coding defaults.
- Bad Example - making a user select the parameters before seeing the data
The following report shows nothing, because the parameters are using meaningless default values (in this case, old dates for the year 2006)
Bad Example - Empty report caused by incorrect parameter default values (probably hard coded for when the developer wrote the report in 2006)
Good Example - This report shows initial data as the developer configure useful parameters (in this case default
values for the entire month of October Note: in US date format)
In SQL Reporting Services, parameters can be:
- hard coded
- an expression, or
- from a query
Hard coded values should never be used. Expressions may be good for some
instances, but because it's not linked with your data, it may not be good
- --Expression to get the 1st day of the previous
month (aka Start Date)
DateSerial(iif( Month(DateTime.Now)=1, Year(DateTime.Now)-1,
Year(DateTime.Now)), iif( Month(DateTime.Now)=1, 12, Month(DateTime.Now) - 1),
--Expression to get the 1st day of the current month (aka End Date)
--Expression to get the 1st day of the next
DateSerial(iif( Month(DateTime.Now)=12, Year(DateTime.Now)+1,
Year(DateTime.Now)), iif( Month(DateTime.Now)=12, 1, Month(DateTime.Now) + 1),
Bad Example - Expressions to set the date range to the current month
Bad Example - Using an Expression to set the default values.(This will not be good enough
if there is no data in the current month)
In order to give report parameters correct default values, you should always use
query to generate these values from database. This will ensure your default
values come from your data, so they won't fail to give some records.
--Query to generate valid date from existing data
'1, ' +
DATENAME(month, DATEADD(month, 1, MAX(OrderDate)))+
DATENAME(year, DATEADD(month, 1, MAX(OrderDate)))
) AS EndOfMonth,
) AS StartOfMonth
Good Example - Using a query to retrieve the last month of available data
Good Example - Using a query to set default values for report parameters
The dataset 'ValidDates' looks similar to this:
Figure: Create a dataset to query the data and provide useful default parameter values for your report
Parameters/Internationalization - Do you use the DateTime data type for
Use the DateTime data type for date parameters instead of using strings. There are 3 reasons to do this:
1) Stop the bug "Cannot read the next data row for the data set"
Although a hardcoded string will work, it will not work for all users regional date/time settings.
E.g. a string data type parameter with a value of "26/01/2006" is correct for "dd/mm/yyyy", but it is wrong for "mm/dd/yyyy"
2) When SQL Reporting Services is using the DateTime data type parameter, it will get the datetime value on the users setting (aka the Culture DateTime format).
3) Your users also get the advantage of a date/time picker control, which automatically works out the correct regional date format. This solves the US/Australian date problem. (i.e.
DD and MM are reversed).
Bad Example - Using the String data type for date parameter
- Good Example - Use
DateTime data type for the date parameter - you will not get internationalization bugs and it gives users a calendar control
Do you have consistent parameter names?
All display names referring to the same parameter should be consistent in
everywhere of your reports. In addition, the parameter name and value should be in
the same line if possible.
- Bad Example - Inconsistent
- Good Example - consistent
Note: If your data is not live, but based on ETL/SSIS
Then each time log each import to a table Eg. Once a week. Then on the report
parameters show this - so users know how old the data is.
Performance - Do you cache popular reports for better
When you have a large number of users all trying to access the same reports, the
performance of your report server can suffer dramatically. Caching reports for a
certain period of time can drastically reduce the load placed on the report
server, leaving it ready to handle other requests.
When a report has caching enabled it only needs to be processed once within the
expiry period. This means that when the first of your eager users hits that
report, the report server will keep a copy until it expires, and will serve up
this copy to any users that request the report within that period. This leaves
the report server ready to process other reports quicker as it is not busy
processing the popular reports over and over again.
For more information on setting up report caching please see the following KB
Figure: Enable caching for frequently used reports to improve performance
Performance - Do you schedule snapshots of slow reports for
A report should never take more than 30 seconds to run. Slow reports frustrate
users, and also take valuable server performance away from the report server.
When dealing with slow reports, it is a good idea to setup scheduled snapshots.
As an example, you would schedule a long running report to create a snapshot at
night when the server is idle and not under a lot of stress. We recommend
creating new snapshots every night so that the information displayed in the
reports is never more than 24 hours old.
As an example:
Do create a snapshot for a sales summary
Do not create a snapshot for an invoice report
For information on setting up scheduled snapshots see the following KB article:
Figure: Create a scheduled snapshot of slow reports to improve performance
Internationalization - Do you keep use regional
You know how we write one million like $1,000,000.00, well when I was in Brazil
I discovered they did it wrong and display it like $1.000.000,00
I tried to correct many but they didn't listen :-)
So, be culturally sensitive and use regional friendly formatting.
Bad Example - Bad Number Format
Good Example - Good Number Format
Bad Example - Bad Currency Format
Good Example - Good Currency Format
Bad Example - Bad Percentage Format
Good Example - Good Percentage Format
Internationalization - Do you make sure your
language follows the user's regional settings?
Developers too often change the 'Language' settings on reports in order to make
it look ok for how they want to see it. Without realizing that they are now not
supporting multiple cultures. To do this, you need to set the 'Language' to
"=User!Language". Then the report will recognize user client's culture settings,
e.g. IE's languages settings.
Now you can specify this on either the culture sensitive controls or the whole
report. Generally, is better specify this property on the whole
Bad Example - Here the 'Language' setting is set to a specific culture
Good Example - Here the 'Language' setting is set to '=User!Language' to detect
user's culture automatically
Figure: Good Example - Now the data respects user's Language preference of IE in this case English (Australia)
Figure: Good Example - Likewise the data also respects user's Language
preference of IE in this case Chinese (China)
Warning: Adding the 'User' who printed the report, stops all data-driven subscriptions
When you try to add the 'User' your data-driven subscriptions fail with the following error:
'The '/GroupHealth' report has user profile dependencies and cannot be run unattended. (rsHasUserProfileDependencies)'.
The reason is the report doesn't know which language to choose
the workaround is to add a user function to fallback the error to a default language, like: "en-AU"
Public Function Language()
Good Example - Use above function to replace your reference to Report.User!Language it allow the subscription to work correctly.
Internationalization - Are you aware of your date format of parameter bar?
The format in parameter bar is always decided by the Language settings of client
browser regardless of the Language property of your report.
Figure: Date in English(AU) format in parameter bar
Figure: Date in French(Canada) format in parameter bar
Internationalization - Do you make sure your
language rule has an exception for Currency Fields?
Although we can make the report support multiple cultures (as per
Do you make sure your language follows the users regional settings?), we
suggest you don't do this for currency fields. Instead:
- Have the Language set specifically to the culture you want.
e.g. If you do a report for Australian Dollars, then it should be
"English(Australia)"; if for Chinese Yuan, it should be "Chinese(People's Republic
of China)". Because the format of currency should not change as per user's culture
setting as $100 AUD <> 100 CNY !
- Have the currency column header set include the currency.
Because $100 USD <> $100 AUD !
Bad Example - using default language for currency field
Good Example - This currency field stores Australian Dollars and will always
display it that way
Figure: AUD currency
Good Example - This currency field stores Chinese Yuan and will always display
it that way
Figure: Chinese Yuan currency
If you don't want to get currency fields hard coded in reports, you can use an
expression to read settings from your database.
Good Example - using specified language as per value of column CurrencyType in
Admin - Do you validate all your
Reporting Services does not have a build button, and thus, there is no way to
verify that every single report is error free.
Every Reporting Services installation should include this validator to check that
all the reports are good.
Figure: SSW SQL Reporting Services Auditor
SSW SQL Reporting Services Auditor is Web-Application that iterates through all
the reports on a report server and shows whether they have rendered correctly or
if any errors occurred.
The SSW SQL Reporting Services Auditor web application returns an XML dataset
that can be consumed natively by SQL 2005 Reporting Services. The XML dataset
can also be consumed by SQL 2000 Reporting Services; however, this requires you
to write a custom Data Processing Extension as SQL 2000 Reporting Services does
not natively support XML data sources.
For more information read Microsoft's guide on
Using an External Dataset with SQL 2000 Reporting Services
Figure: SSW SQL Reporting Services Auditor in Action!
Download SSW SQL
Reporting Services Auditor (Requires SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services).
Admin - Do you create a separate virtual directory for
When going public with Reporting Services, you should have 2 ports:
- A public access port. This allows your public users to access
their reports normally on a port which has been configured for anonymous users.
- An admin access port on your web site. This allows
authenticated internal users to administer the report server via the Report
To set this up you need to perform the following:
In Windows Explorer:
- Create a Windows User account for the anonymous reporting services site to run
as. e.g. IUSR_ReportViewer
- Open up the ReportingServices directory (C:\Program
Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL.3\Reporting Services)
Duplicate the ReportServer and
the ReportManager folders then rename postfix them with _External
e.g. ReportServer_External and
Set the file access security on the new folders so that "Everyone" has full
ReportServer_External/rsreportserver.config file. Update the URL node
ReportManager_External/RSWebApplication.config file. Update the URL node
In IIS Manager:
- Create another website on another port (i.e. port 81)
- Create Virtual Direcoties for ReportServer and Reports then point them to the
new folders we just made. Make sure they are setup as applications.
Change the Authentication of these 2 virtual directorys to use the user we have
already created "USR_ReportViewer". Ensure that all other Authenticated access
- In the Reports Virtual Direcotry, make sure that it is
running the same version of ASP.NET. Set the Applicaiton to execute Scripts and
Executables. Add Home.aspx into the Default Documents.
- In the ReportServer Virtual Directory, make sure that it is running the same
version of ASP.NET. Remove all the Application Mappings in the Application
Confguration. Then add a wildcard mapping to the Executable
In SQL Management Studio:
- Add the user for these folders to have access in SQL
In Reporting Services:
- Go to http://localhost/reports
- Click Properties -> New Role
Enter in IUSR_ReportViewer and click Browser then click OK
Note #1: The default website will be used for internal Admin
(secure) use, and a website on a different port (in this example we use port 81)
will be used for external anonymous access.
Note #2: Do these steps again every time you install a
Reporting Services service pack
Once complete, you should now have authenticated access available on the standard
port (80) and public access available on the new port (81).
We think that we should have the ability to choose how IIS authenticates clients -
Reporting Services suggestion.
Figure: Create a separate virtual directory for admin access
The process is a little simpler in SQL 2000:
In Windows Explorer:
- Open up the ReportingServices directory (typically c:\Program Files\Microsoft
SQL Server\MSSQL\Reporting Services\)
- Make a copy of the ReportManager folder and call it ReportManagerPublicAccess
Duplicate the file access security settings on ReportManager in
Edit the RSWebApplication.config in the ReportManagerPublicAccessfolder to point
In IIS Manager:
- Configure the default website's ReportsServer virtual directory to give access
to IUSR_ServerName (for public access)
- Export the Report and ReportServer virtual directory to an XML file
- Create another website on another port (i.e. port 81)
- Add the Report and ReportServer virtual directories using the XML files created
in step 2
- Set the Reports virtual directory to point to the
ReportsManagerSecure directory instead of just ReportsManager
- Set the directory security on the ReportServer on port 81 to use windows
Admin - Do you take advantage of 'Integrated Security'
to do Payroll reports?
Payroll report should only show the records of the current user, Reporting
Services support "Integrated Security" which you can use to identify the user
who is running the report and only return relevant result for the current user.
Bad Example - Everyone can see others' rate changing history (maybe useful for
administrative, but not for your employees)
Good Example - The current employee can only see his own record
To generate such a report, you need to use the filter on the data table:
Figure: Specify the filters on your data table and select Globals->User!UserID
Note: 'Edit Expression' dialog is only available on RS 2005, but the UserID
global variable is available on RS 2000.
Admin - Do you remove @ExecutionTime in subject of
In subscription settings, @ExecutionTime should be removed from subject, because
it ruins conversation threading in Outlook - You cannot sort them by subject.
Bad Example - Keep @ExecutionTime in subject
So we always make subject of subscription exactly same as report name.
Good Example - Subject same as report name
Do you know to embed an RS report in ASP.NET page the
right way (using Report Viewer instead of IFrame)?
The report viewer control was introduced in Visual Studio 2005, so use it
instead of the old IFrame method. The report viewer control is super easy to use
- just drag the control into your page designer and select the properties you
The bad old way was to use an IFrame and point it to the report's URL (including
parameters). This is bad because you might encounter a typing error. If you want
to disable vertical scrollbar, you need to adjust the height of IFrame manually.
Furthermore, you can't configure the report's authentication separately.
<IFRAME width="100%" height="700" TITLE="Report" src="http://reports.internal.ssw.com.au/ReportServer?
Bad Example - Embed report using IFrame
<rsweb:ReportViewer ID="ReportViewer1" runat="server" SizeToReportContent="True" ProcessingMode="Remote" Width="100%" AsyncRendering="false">
Good Example - Embed report using Report Viewer
Bad example - IFrame with vertical scrollbar
Good example - Report Viewer without vertical scrollbar
Do you know how to get email list of report
You can get email list in ExtensionSettings, which is an XML column in
Subscriptions table in database of reporting services. Subscriptions table has a
FK with Catalog table, which contains report name and report path information.
Then we can XQuery the ExtensionSettings to get TO and CC fields according to
report name and report path.
See the following example. You need to fill report name and report path
parameters(@mReportName and @mReportPath). Then this example will return the
email dataset of the report's subscriptions.
Figure: Report parameters
Figure: Transfer parameters to dataset
DECLARE xmlCursor CURSOR FOR
FROM SubScriptions, [Catalog]
WHERE SubScriptions.Report_OID = [Catalog].ItemID AND
[Catalog].Name = @mReportName AND
[Catalog].Path = @mReportPath
DECLARE @settingsXML AS XML
DECLARE @toEmail AS XML DECLARE @ccEmail AS XML
DECLARE @comment AS XML
CREATE TABLE #subscrpt(toEmail XML, ccEmail XML, Comment XML)
/* Perform the first fetch.*/
FETCH NEXT FROM xmlCursor INTO @settingsXML
/* Check @@FETCH_STATUS to see if there are any more rows to fetch.*/
WHILE @@FETCH_STATUS = 0 BEGIN
SELECT @toEmail = @settingsXML .query('data(/ParameterValues/ParameterValue [Name = "TO"]/Value)')
SELECT @ccEmail = @settingsXML .query('data(/ParameterValues/ParameterValue [Name = "CC"]/Value)')
SELECT @comment = @settingsXML .query('data(/ParameterValues/ParameterValue [Name = "Comment"]/Value)')
INSERT INTO #subscrpt VALUES (@toEmail,@ccEmail,@comment)
/* This is executed as long as the previous fetch succeeds.*/
FETCH NEXT FROM xmlCursor INTO @settingsXML
SELECT toEmail, ccEmail, Comment FROM #subscrpt
DROP TABLE #subscrpt
Good Example - Get email list
Do you add report owner in your report?
Report owner is the person who looks after this report. It's a good way to put
the owner on the report in order to get any response or suggestion on time.
There're four things you have to take care of.
- Please make sure you use a group (or a team) as the report owner rather than individual names. We do this to reduce maintenance work - whenever a person comes or leaves we do not need to modify the report.
- Make the report owner a hyperlink which links to the definition of the group (or the team).
Good Example - Show report owner in the report
- When you cannot refer to a group, refer to the person
- Use the same idea for web pages, however in that case use the term "Page Owner"
In CRM, the report can read from the CRM database since the report owner is stored by CRM against the report:
CRM - you already have a report owner so display this in your report
Do you use single line box instead of double line box?
Double line box makes reports look messy and inelegant, so it is better to use
single line box.
Bad Example - Double line box makes the report above look messy
Good Example - Single line box makes the report above look clean and elegant
Do you change the name of site settings?
The default site settings name of SSRS is "SQL Server Reporting Services" regardless of version 2005 or 2008.
So we'd better add the version to the site settings name then users can find the version of SSRS here.
Bad Example - Site settings without SSRS version
Good Example - Site settings with version of SSRS 2005
Good Example - Site settings with version of SSRS 2008
Do you use the correct authentication for your report?
Using anonymous authentication is not recommended because of security reasons.
- Anonymous accounts (the IUSER_* and IWAM_* accounts) are managed by windows security system. We do not want to use these accounts because we have to manually configure our report server security settings.
- We do not want everyone on the Internet update or overwrite stuffs on the report server.
Besides, anonymous authentication is no longer supported in RS 2008.
The best way to expose your report is to use ReportViewer and setup the credentials on it using ReportViewerCredentials.
- Dim userName As String = ConfigurationManager.AppSettings("ReportViewer_UserName")
Dim password As String = ConfigurationManager.AppSettings("ReportViewer_Password")
Dim domain As String = ConfigurationManager.AppSettings("ReportViewer_UserDomain")
reportViewer.ServerReport.ReportServerCredentials = New ReportViewerCredential(userName, password, domain)
Dim paramList As List(Of ReportParameter) = New List(Of ReportParameter)
paramList.Add(New ReportParameter("ClientContactID", mintClientContactID, False))
Do you have URL Access link for your report?
Reporting Service makes buliding, generating, managing and publishing report very easy, however sometime you want to refer to your report by URL from somewhere else.
You will find that you can only link to the report default status, but not when you have changed the parameters. It should be as easy as using QueryString in ASP.NET application, but
Microsoft didn't do that. See our Better Software Suggestions for Reporting Service.
A workaround for this is to use URL Access to bulid up a link by yourself then put it at the bottom of the report, so any time you want to refer to your current report
status, you can just copy this link and put into your emails.
At SSW, we have "URL Access" at the bottom of reports for easy reference.
- Figure: URL Access link for quick reference at the bottom of report
- Bad Example - Only refer to the default report URL, parameters on the report will be lost
- Good Example - Refer to the report with all parameters ready
Please note "rs:ParameterLanguage=en-AU" in the query string, this is very important espeically when you are passing culture sensitive data (DateTime) over URL. The server may not know your intended culture so you have to
specify this together with the actual data in the URL.
Refer to the following MSDN references for more details:
Do you have a clear labelling for including / excluding GST?
In reporting, total sales / revenue amount can be categorised as two types, which are include GST or exclude GST. It is very important to have clear labelling to avoid the user guessing on whether it includes GST or exclude GST.
Figure: Bad Example - Unclear labelling
- Figure: Good Example - Clear labelling
Do you have a summary and a detailed version of your report?
In the vast majority of cases where the readership of the report is wide, some viewers like or need great detail while others just need a quick summary.
Bad Example – Only one version of the report with too many columns for most readers to digest
Good Example – Only the most important columns included for the summary version and the detailed version can be left as in the "Bad Example" above.
Analyzing with Excel - Do you use a live data feed?
Figure: Bad example - static data that will need to be re-exported
Figure: Good example - as the data is always live
This is a great feature as it take advanatages of Excel 2010 PowerPivot together with Reporting Services 2008 R2 to allow end users to subscribe to live data from a report.
See what the experts said below:
"And that, by the way, makes it very useful, as it means that PowerPivot models can get data from Essbase and SAP BW (aka Netweaver BI) (via SSRS), which standard Analysis Services cannot do. But it also means that developers can write LINQ queries against reports and that whatever OData clients sprout up can get at that data as well. In general, it means that reports in SQL R2 support a RESTful interface."
- Andrew Brust
"Using atomsvc feeds and loving it :)
We've used this feature in our last 4-5 BI projects and the clients are all applauding this feature. It is a very nice way of surfacing information to users that want to use the information as a starting point for doing more analysis. It does indeed take a lot of the burden off the IT dept that previously had to build custom reports for everything."
- Trond Brande
Do you follow the naming converstion standards in Reporting Service?
We use SQL Server naming standards in Reporting Service management.
Do you use SharePoint Integration Reporting Mode over Normal(Native) Reporting Mode?
With the use of SharePoint 2010 Integration mode of Reporting, users can have following advantages:
- The users Can easily deploy data sources, reports to sharePoint document libraries instead of Report Manager.
- The users can be much more self-sufficient with SharePoint.
- Very easy one step configuration of the add-in
- 37 languages supported including bi-directional languages.
- Accessing Reporting in local mode when Access Services is enabled.
- Improved Report Preview experience with Report Builder 3.0 and edit sessions and deploy their reports to SharePoint document libraries, leveraging SharePoint for security.
- The users can take advantage of the new version of Report Builder that came with SQL Server 2008 R2 and deploy their reports to SharePoint document libraries, leveraging SharePoint for security.
Bad Example – SQL Report Manager (which requires Visual Studio and TFS if you want source control).
Good Example – SharePoint Integration (you get nice source control via SharePoint and you can use the nice Report Builder 3).
Do you know how to display reports properly in Firefox / Chrome?
Sometimes users try to view SQL Server Reports in Firefox or Chrome Browser, it does not display at all or displays in a half screen.
They found it strange when the same report works absolutely fine in Internet Explorer.
Bad Example – SQL Report viewed in Firefox / Chrome (which does not display report properly or display only half the screen.)
Add the code below to "%ProgramFiles%\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL.3\ReportingServices\ReportManager\Styles\ReportingServevices.css"
Good Example – SQL Report viewed in Firefox / Chrome (which displays properly in Firefox and Chrome ).
Do you have a report which refresh your data source?
If you have a SQL database data source with data coming from an external source (i.e. MYOB), then you should create a report which allows user to manually refresh data. Your report should have:
- A checkbox/radio button which allows user to trigger the refresh.
- A table display the history of previous refresh including start time, duration and status...
Good Example: A report with a radio button allows you to refresh data and a table showing the history.