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So far in this chapter, we ve seen how we can use custom code to extend report capabilities programmatically. For all its flexibility, custom code has its limitations. For example, besides hiding report items, you cannot control the report output programmatically. However, if you export your reports to XML, you can use custom code in the form of XSL transformations to precisely control the XML presentation of the report, as we will discuss next. Strictly speaking, from an implementation standpoint, exporting a report to XML is no different than exporting it to any other rendering format, because the actual work
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is performed by the XML rendering extension (Microsoft.ReportingServices.XmlRendering.dll), which happens to be one of the supported RS extensions. However, I decided to devote a special place for it because, in my opinion, this is an extremely useful and important option. Given the fact that the IT industry has embraced XML as the de facto standard for data exchange between heterogeneous platforms, exporting a report to XML opens a whole new world of opportunity. For example, in the B2B (business-to-business) scenario, an organization could expose an inventory report to its vendors. A vendor could request the report in XML to find out the current inventory product levels. The XML document could then be sent to a BizTalk server, which could extract the product information and send it to the manufacturing department. We will implement a similar solution in chapter 11. 6.3.1 Understanding XML exporting The content of the following report elements could be exported to XML: textbox, rectangle, subreport, table region, list region, and matrix region. As a report author, you have full control over the XML presentation of these elements. To customize the XMLrendered output of the report, you use the Data Output tab of the report element s property pages. Which settings can be customized depends on the type of the element. In general, you can specify the following: Whether the report element and its content (for regions, groups, and rectangles) will be exported The XML element name Whether the report element will be rendered as an XML attribute or element For example, at a report level, you can specify the root node name and XML schema. At the region level, you can specify whether the region and its items will be rendered at all. At the textbox level, you can tell the Report Server whether the textbox content will be rendered as an XML attribute or element. When the Data Output settings are not enough, you can further fine-tune the XML output by using custom XSL transformations. For example, while skipping report elements is easy, adding additional XML nodes is not. In cases such as this, you can write an XSL transformation that will be applied by the Report Server after the report is rendered to XML. Let s now look at a practical example that demonstrates how exporting to XML could be useful. 6.3.2 Exposing the report content as an RSS feed While I was trying to figure out what a good XML report could be, my favorite RSS reader (IntraVNews) popped up a new window to let me know about the current news headlines. For those of you who are not familiar with this great information medium, RSS (which stands for all of the following: RDF Site Summary, Rich Site Summary, or Really Simple Syndication) is an XML-based format that allows information workers to describe and syndicate web content. Many organizations and individuals use RSS for blogging. 205
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A blog, short for web log, is a personal journal that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption.
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This inspired me to see if we could expose a report as an RSS feed. To give our example a touch of reality, let s say that Adventure Works Cycles would like to take advantage of the increasing popularity of blogging with RSS feeds. In particular, the company management has requested these requirements: Future promotional campaigns must be exposed as an RSS feed. The AWC customers could subscribe to the feed using their favorite RSS newsreader and be notified about future product promotions. Each promotional item must include a hyperlink that will show more details about the campaign, such as discounted products and their sale prices. Implementation options How can we implement the above requirements One approach could be to add the promotional information as static or dynamic web content to the company s web portal. For example, the products page could include a section that lists the current promotions. As far as exporting the promotional data as XML for the purposes of the RSS feed, we could create a Web Service that would query the Adventure Works database, retrieve the promotion details in XML, and write them into an RSS blog file. Another implementation option could be to author an RS report that would supply both the HTML and XML content. The RSS Web Service could then request the report as XML and append the promotional information to the RSS blog file. The RSS item hyperlink could bring the customer to the HTML version of same report. Of course, the latter option assumes that you are willing to allow web users to access your Report Server directly by URL. This is not as bad as it sounds. If Windows authentication is an issue, you can replace it with a custom security extension to authenticate and authorize your web users, as we will discuss in 15. Which approach will work better for you depends on your particular needs and limitations. In our case, we will go for the latter to demonstrate the exporting-to-XML feature. To recap, our design goals for the new report sample will be as follows: Export the report to RSS-compliant XML format. Append the report XML to an RSS feed (we will postpone the actual implementation to chapter 9). Implementing the report Let s start by creating a new report called Sales Promotion. The report gets the promotional data from the SpecialOffer and SpecialOfferProduct tables. In addition, it takes one parameter, Campaign ID, which the user can use to request a specific campaign. For example, figure 6.11 shows the second page of the Sales Promotion report when the user requests a campaign with an ID of 2. 206
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