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Understanding data regions Besides report items, the Report Items toolbar includes more sophisticated report elements referred to as data regions. While you can use stand-alone textbox and image report items to display data, they are most useful when they display repeating rows of data from a report dataset. In chapter 3 you saw how RS uses datasets to represent the results of queries returned by data providers. To bind report items to datasets, you use data regions. In this respect, .NET developers may relate RS data regions to ASP.NET data-bound controls, such as the data repeater control. Table 4.2 lists the data regions that RS supports and how they can be used to create different types of reports.
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Table 4.2 Reporting Services comes with a number of data regions for different types of reports. Region Table Report Type Tabular Description The table data region generates as many rows as the number of records in the underlying dataset. You can optionally group or sort data by fields or expressions. For example, for the Sales by Territory report, the Report Wizard automatically generated a table data region to render the report data in tabular format. When using the list region, you are not restricted to static columns as with the table region. Instead, you can arrange report items any way you want. Microsoft Access users will find that the list region allows them to place items arbitrarily, similarly to how they lay out a report in Access. The matrix region can include dynamic columns. Dynamic columns can be configured as hidden. The user can expand a hidden dynamic column to see more data, i.e., drill down into the data. As its name suggests, the chart region displays the report data in chart format. Various kinds of chart types are supported, such as bar, pie, graph, and many more.
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To fill in a data region with data you bind the data region to a dataset by setting its DataSetName property.
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NOTE
The Report Designer automatically associates a dataset with a data region when you drag and drop a dataset field to the data region.
Data regions are designed to generate repeating sections of data. For example, to display the sales numbers of the Adventure Works sales territories in the Sales by Territory report, we use a table region. During the report processing stage, the Report Server executes the dataset query, populates the dataset, and passes it to all data regions bound to it so they can render themselves. All data regions except the chart region can act as containers for other report items. Considering again the Sales by Territory report, you can see that the table data region is a container for the textbox report items that generate the data in the table columns. ANATOMY OF A REPORT 107
At this point, you may ask, Why do we need data regions at all, when we can place report items directly onto the report The short answer is flexibility. The next section should make this clear. Data region advantages The advantages of using data regions are as follows: They can be used as supercharged subreports, as we explain next. They can be placed side by side and draw data from separate datasets. Reports can vary greatly in their layout and complexity. A very simple report might need to display the data in a tabular format only. A more complicated report, however, may include different sections, each of which might be rendered in a different way. Those of you familiar with Microsoft Access know that complex reports need to be broken into subreports. We will discuss subreports in more detail in section 4.6. With RS, you will find that in most cases you don t need subreports. Instead, you can use individual data regions. This is possible because the data regions can be nested inside other data regions, as we will see shortly in this chapter. In addition, you can place a data region anywhere you want inside the report body. You can also position data regions side by side, and each of them can have its own datasets and be independent from the others. For example, you can place a chart and table region side by side. The chart region can display the company sales per territory in chart format, while the table region can provide a breakdown per product and territory. Another example where side-by-side data regions could be useful is in a multisection report. For example, imagine that you need to author a sophisticated report that includes a few sections. Based on some business rules, the report may not show certain sections. One way to achieve this requirement would be to break down the report data in sections and implement each section as a separate data region. Then, you could programmatically hide the sections during the report runtime using expressions. Binding data regions to report datasets In order for the data regions to display data they must be associated with a dataset. You don t have to manually bind a data region to a dataset. Once you drag and drop a dataset field to the data region, the Report Designer links that region to the dataset, as you can see by inspecting the DataSetName property of the region. You can also manually associate a region to a dataset. This could be useful, for example, if you change the dataset name. You can customize the message that is displayed inside a data region if the underlying dataset has no rows by using the NoRows property, which every data region has. The default setting is an empty string. For example, if the report query results in no rows, you can let the user know by setting the NoRows property to No Data to Display. 108
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