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The focus of this chapter is to discuss the available options for authoring RS reports. Let s begin by finding out how we can do that with VS.NET.
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Visual Studio .NET provides several options for authoring RS reports: The Report Wizard The Report Designer Importing reports from Microsoft Access Let s take a closer look at each of these tools, starting with the Report Wizard.
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Authoring reports with the Report Wizard You are already familiar with the Report Wizard because we used it in chapter 1 to create our first report. To start the Report Wizard within VS.NET, right-click on the project node, then choose Add New Item. Alternatively, as a shortcut you can rightclick on the Reports node and select Add New Report. As figure 2.2 shows, the Report Wizard supports two report types: Tabular, where the report data is laid out in a tabular format. Optionally, you can define one or more report groups. Grouping allows you to logically organize the data into different sections, as well as provide subtotals or other summary information in the group footer. Matrix (crosstab), where the report data can be grouped both in rows and columns. With matrix reports, you can define dynamic (expanding) columns to give the user an option to drill down for analyzing data further. We discuss this type of report in more detail in chapter 4. One thing that is not that obvious is how the Report Wizard uses report styles to format the report in one of several predefined styles, including Bold, Casual, Corporate, Compact, and Plain. If for some reason you want to modify the existing styles or create new ones, you can do so by changing the StyleTemplates.xml file located by default in C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\80\Tools\Report Designer\Business Intelligence Wizards\Reports\Styles. This file enumerates the report styles as Extensible Markup Language (XML) elements, which you can change using your favorite text editor.
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The styles that the Report Wizard lets you choose from are used only once, during the process of generating the report definition (RDL) file, to define the report appearance. Currently, RS does not support style templates ( skins ) that define a common look and feel across reports, similar to the way web developers would use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) or themes to control the page appearance. This feature has been slated for a future RS version.
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The report types supported by the Report Wizard
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Most of you will probably agree that the Report Wizard is a good starting point when you need to generate a report quickly. It saves you time by automating some of the mundane report-authoring tasks, such as laying out the dataset fields. But, as with any wizard, it has its own limitations. For example, the Report Wizard design options are limited to Tabular and Matrix reports only. In addition, the Report Wizard doesn t support multiple regions, region nesting, or multiple datasets. To get the full design feature set supported by RS, you need to switch to the Report Designer. 2.2.2 Authoring reports with the Report Designer Most of us will rely exclusively on the powerful Report Designer to create and design reports. For this reason, I would like to take some time and give you an overview of the essentials. 3 shows you how to use the Report Designer to set up the report data source and query. In chapters 4 and 5 you ll learn how the Report Designer makes authoring different types of reports a breeze.
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REPORT AUTHORING BASICS
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Although most .NET developers will probably enjoy designing and running reports inside the familiar VS.NET environment, for other report authors, the full environment could be overkill if they purchase and install VS.NET solely for the purposes of creating reports. There are plans for a future version of RS that might include a stand-alone Designer, which would operate outside VS.NET. Third-party tools would also probably emerge, as mentioned in section 2.4.
If you haven t done this already, start VS.NET 2003 and open the AWReporter project (AWReporter.rptproj) that we created in chapter 1. (If you skipped this step, you can find the AWReporter project included with the book source code.) Then, double-click on the Sales by Territory report in the Solution Explorer pane to open the report in layout mode inside the VS.NET Report Designer, as shown in figure 2.3. The Report Designer itself has a tabbed user interface with Data, Layout, and Preview tabs. Their display order corresponds to the sequence of steps you typically follow to author the report: Data tab First, you use the Data tab to set up the report data. We discuss this further in chapter 3. Layout tab Second, you design the report layout. s 4 and 5 examine designing reports. Preview tab Finally, you test report changes using the Preview tab.
Figure 2.3 The VS.NET Report Designer tabbed window allows you to switch easily from one mode to another.
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