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Working with Report Designer in Business Intelligence Development Studio

A Business Intelligence Development Studio Report Server project is the environment that you use to develop reports in SQL Server Reporting Services. You can also open a Report Server Wizard project. For more information, see Working with Report Designer in Business Intelligence Development Studio and Reporting Services in Business Intelligence Development Studio (SSRS).

This topic describes the Visual Studio views, menus, toolbars, and shortcuts that you can use in Report Designer in BI Development Studio.

Report Designer Views

Report Designer Menus

Report Designer Toolbars

Report Designer Keyboard Shortcuts

Report Templates

Running BI Development Studio from the Command Line

Report Designer supports two views: Design to define the report data and report layout, and Preview to display a rendered view of the the report. In each view, you can display multiple windows to help you design or view a rendered report.

Design View

Use Design view to define report data and the report layout. By default, when you create a Report Server project, Report Designer opens in Design view. Define a data source and data set, and drag report items from the Toolbox to the design surface and arrange them to create the report layout. Drag dataset fields to the report items to add data to the report. To organize data in groups in a Tablix data region, drag dataset fields to the Grouping pane.

Design Surface

The design surface is a visual designer that you use to create a report layout. You can drag report items from the Toolbox and add them to the design surface, and then configure their properties and alter their arrangement on the report.

By default in Design view, the design surface display includes the report body and the background. The shortcut menu on the background provides options to add a page header and page footer, and from the View menu, display a ruler and the Grouping pane.

Use the zoom control to increase or decrease the magnification of the report.

Report Data Pane

The Report Data pane contains the various types of data available to use in a report. The types of data include built-in fields, data sources, datasets, field collections, report parameters, and images.

NoteNote

If you do not see the Report Data pane, on the View menu, click Report Data. If the Report Data pane is floating, you can anchor it. For more information, see How to: Dock the Report Data Pane in Report Designer (SSRS).

Before you can use data in a report, it must appear in the Report Data pane, as described in the following list:

  • Built-in Fields   Reporting Services provides predefined report information such as the report name or the time the report was processed.

  • Data sources with datasets and dataset fields   A data source represents a name and connection to a source of data. Expand the data source node to view its report datasets.

    Each dataset includes a query that specifies which data to retrieve from the data source. Expand the dataset to view the collection of fields specified by the dataset query.

NoteNote

A dataset to provide valid values is created automatically when you create a parameterized query for a multidimensional data source. By default, the dataset does not appear in the Report Data Pane. For more information, see How to: Show Hidden Datasets for Parameter Values for Multidimensional Data (Report Builder 3.0 and SSRS).

  • Report parameters   To view all report parameters, including those that are generated automatically when a dataset query includes query parameters, expand the Parameters node.

  • Images   Expand the Images node to view a list of images available to a report.

Use the New button on the Report Data pane toolbar to add new items. After items appear in the Report Data pane, you can drag them to the design surface to lay out the data on the report page. For more information, see Working with Fields in a Report Dataset (Report Builder 3.0 and SSRS).

Toolbox

The Toolbox contains report items that you can drag to the design surface. Data regions are report items that you use to organize data on the report. Line, Table, Matrix, Chart, and Gauge are data regions. Other report items include Textbox, Rectangle, List, Image, and Subreport. Custom report items might also appear on this list if they have been installed and registered by your system administrator.

In Business Intelligence Development Studio which is integrated with Visual Studio, report items are objects instances and properties. When you add a report item to the design surface, and then select it, the properties for the selected instance appear in the Properties pane.

Grouping Pane

Use the Grouping pane to define groups for a Tablix data region. You can define row groups and detail groups for tables and row and column groups for matrices.

To define groups for a Chart or Gauge data region, select the data region on the design surface and use shortcut menus. For more information, see Understanding Groups (Report Builder 3.0 and SSRS).

You can toggle the Advanced view of Grouping pane to show groups only or groups and group members. You must use group members to set properties that control the visibility of the rows and columns associated with a group, or the rules that renderers use to try to keep groups together on a page. For more information, see Grouping Pane.

Default Mode

Use the default mode to view all row and column groups in a hierarchical format that shows the relationship of parent groups, child groups, adjacent groups, and detail groups. A child group appears under and at the next indent level compared to its parent group. An adjacent group appears at the same indent level as its peer or sibling groups.

When you select an item in the Row Groups or Column Groups pane, the related Tablix group cells are automatically selected on the design surface.

Use default mode to add, edit, or delete groups. For groups based a single dataset field, you can drag the field to the Row Groups or Column Groups pane. You can insert the group above or below an existing group. To add an adjacent group, right-click the sibling group, and use the shortcut menu.

Advanced Mode

Use the advanced mode to display static and dynamic row and column group members of the underlying Tablix report item.

NoteNote

To toggle to advanced mode, right-click the down arrow to the right of the Column Groups icon.

Group members appear on the design surface as cells in the row group and column group areas. For more information, see Grouping Pane.

Properties Pane

The Properties pane is a standard Visual Studio window that shows property names and values for the currently selected report item on the design surface. Report items and their properties correspond to elements and attributes in the Report Definition Language (RDL) file. The most commonly used properties can be set by using the Properties dialog box for the selected item. To open the corresponding dialog box, click the Property Pages button on the Properties pane toolbar. Advanced users have the convenience of setting property values directly in the Properties pane.

Viewing the Properties Pane

To display the Properties pane, from the View menu, click Properties Window. You can undock this pane and move it to another area of the Business Intelligence Development Studio window, or display it as a tabbed view on the design surface.

Use the Properties pane toolbar buttons to change the grid from category view to alphabetical view. In category view, you may need to expand a category to see all the properties under it. To open a item's Properties dialog box, click the Property Pages button on the toolbar or by right-click the item and click Properties.

Some properties provide a drop-down list of values. You can also type the value directly in the cell. Some properties contain a collection of values, indicated by the value (Collection). Most properties can accept an expression; complex expressions are indicated by the value <Expression>. Click <Expression> to open the Expression dialog box.

Viewing Data Region Group Properties

When the Grouping pane is visible, you can click a group to select it. After you select a group, the group properties appear in the Properties pane. These properties are properties populated automatically by the object model for a report.

For more information, see Grouping Pane.

Document Outline Pane

The document outline pane displays a hierarchical list of all report items in the report definition. To open the Document Outline pane, from the View menu, point to Other Windows and click Document Window.

Solution Explorer

Solution Explorer is a standard Visual Studio component that displays all the items in your project. For a Report Server project, this includes shared data sources and reports. To access the properties for these items, right-click the item and click Properties.

Reports and shared data sources are automatically alphabetized when you open the solution file for a project.

Task List

The Task List window displays build errors for unsupported features when you import a report from another application, such as Microsoft Access.

Output

The Output window displays processing errors when you preview a report, and publishing errors when you deploy a report or a shared data source.

Preview View

Use Preview to run the report and view the rendered report in the report viewer. Preview caches report data locally. You can also set configuration properties to run the report in debug view, using a browser.

When you preview a report, Report Designer connects to the report data sources, runs dataset queries, caches the data on the local computer, processes the report to combine data and layout, and renders the report. You can view the report in on the Preview tab or you can set up project properties to view the report in debug mode and view it directly in a browser.

For other ways to view a report, see Publishing Data Sources and Reports (SSRS).

Previewing Parameterized Reports

When you preview a report, the report is processed automatically if all report parameters have valid default values. If one or more report parameters do not have a valid default value, you must choose a value for each unassigned parameter, and then, on the report toolbar, click View Report.

Understanding the Local Data Cache

When you preview a report, the report processor runs all the queries for datasets in the report using the current parameter defaults, and saves the results as a local data cache (.rdl.data) file.

You can continue to design your report without incurring the overhead of retrieving this data again if you make no changes to either the report dataset queries or the report parameters.

Previewing the Report using Configuration Manager and Debug

In Business Intelligence Development Studio, project properties define how you want to deploy and debug your reports. These properties apply to all reports and shared data sources in the project. To set the project properties, from the Project menu, click Properties. Use these settings to test your reports and publish them to the report server.

For more information about configuring debug and deployment options, see Publishing Data Sources and Reports (SSRS).

Monitoring the Output Pane for Error Messages

When you preview a report and the report processor detects a problem, it writes error messages to the Output pane. For more information, see Troubleshooting Concepts (Reporting Services).

When a Report Designer project is active in Business Intelligence Development Studio, the following toolbars are added to the main toolbar. The Report Designer menus are visible only when in Design view.

Format Menu

When you select an item on the design surface, the Format menu contains the following options:

  • Foreground Color   Select a text color. Black is the default text color.

  • Background Color   Select a background color for your text boxes and data regions.

  • Font   Specify whether the text is bold, italic, or underlined.

  • Justify   Specify whether the text is right-aligned, centered, or left-aligned.

  • Align   Specify how the selected objects are aligned in relation to one another within the report.

  • Make Same Size   Adjust the size of the selected objects within the report.

  • Horizontal Spacing   Adjust the horizontal spacing between the selected objects within the report.

  • Vertical Spacing   Adjust the vertical spacing between the selected objects within the report.

  • Center in Form   Center the selected object vertically and horizontally in relation to the Report Designer window.

  • Order   Move selected objects into the background or foreground.

Report Menu

When the report design surface has focus, the Report menu contains the following options:

  • Report Properties   Select to open the Report Properties dialog box. In this dialog box, you can assign general report properties, such as author name and grid spacing, and specify properties for the report layout, such as the number of columns and page size. You can also include custom code, references to assemblies and classes, and the names of data output elements, data transforms, and data schemas.

  • View   Switch between the two Report Designer tabs: Design and Preview.

  • Page Header   Add or delete a page header to the report. When you delete a page header, all items in the page header are deleted.

  • Page Footer   Add or delete a page footer to the report. When you delete a page footer, all items in the page footer are deleted.

  • Grouping Pane   Show or hide the Grouping pane.

View Menu

Use the View menu to display Report Designer windows and toolbars

  • Error List   Use this option to display errors detected when publishing or previewing a report.

  • Output   Use this option to display errors detected when publishing or processing a report, or for more information about expression errors when a report displays the text "#Error".

  • Properties Window   Use this option to display the property values for the currently selected report item on the design surface. To see properties for nested report items, you must click a report item multiple times to cycle through the hierarchy for a report item and its nested members. Check the name of the item that appears at the top of the Properties pane to see which report item's properties are displayed.

  • Toolbox   Use this option to display the Toolbox.

  • Other Windows   Use this option to display the following pane:

    • Document Outline   Use this option to display a hierarchical view of report items and their collections of text boxes in a report.

  • Toolbars   Use this option to display toolbars that support Report Designer features, including Report Borders and Report Formatting. For more information, see Report Designer Toolbars.

  • Report Data   Use this option to display the Report Data pane, where you can add report parameters, data sources, datasets, images.

Project Menu

Use the Project menu to manage shared data sources and reports in a project. When you add or remove items from the project, the hierarchical display of project items in Solution Explorer is automatically updated.

  • Add New Item   Add a new shared data source or new report to the project.

  • Add Existing Item   Add an existing shared data source or an existing report to the project.

  • Import Reports   Import reports from another application, for example, Microsoft Access.

  • Exclude from Project   Exclude items from the project. This option does not delete the item from your file system.

  • Show All Files   Show all files in a project.

  • Refresh Project Toolbox Items   Refresh the toolbox cache when you install new custom report items in your project.

  • Properties   Open the Property Pages dialog box for this project. For more information, see Project Property Pages Dialog Box.

Report Designer provides the following specialized toolbars to use when designing reports:

  • Report   Add a page header or page footer, set report properties, toggle the ruler or Grouping pane, or use zoom to change your view of the report.

  • Report Borders   Set the color, style, and width for all selected lines and the borders of all selected report items.

  • Report Formatting   Set the format of selected report items. For text boxes, the following types of formatting can be changed using the toolbar: font properties and text color, background color, and text justification.

  • Layout   Set the drawing order of report items and merging cells within a data region.

  • Standard   Open or save projects, display windows, and select the Debug configuration.

Use the View menu to control whether to display these toolbars. Other Visual Studio toolbars may be disabled if their functionality does not apply to Report Designer features.

Report Designer in BI Development Studio provides many shortcut menus for quick access to frequently used commands. To open the shortcut menu, right-click on the item to change. Shortcut menus are dynamic and may contain different options depending on the user configuration and the current objects.

Report Designer in BI Development Studio provides keyboard shortcuts for commonly used commands, such as moving report items on the design surface, opening and closing windows, and editing text in a text box. 

For more information about keyboard shortcuts, see Using Keyboard Shortcuts in Business Intelligence Development Studio.

To use custom reports as templates for new reports, you simply copy them to the ReportProject folder on the computer on which BI Development Studio is installed. By default, this folder is in <drive>:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\Common7\IDE\Private Assemblies\ProjectItems\ReportProject. When you add a new item to the report project, your custom report appears in the Templates pane.

You can also add custom styles to the report wizard. For more information, see Creating a Report Using Report Wizard (SSRS).

BI Development Studio is based on Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0 and the underlying devenv.exe application. Before you can use these options, you must set valid values for following two items:

  • Project properties for OverwriteDataSources, TargetDataSourceFolder, TargetReportFolder, and TargetServerURL.

  • At least one set of configuration properties, for example, Debug or Release.

For more information, see Publishing Data Sources and Reports (SSRS).

For a report server project, you can specify the following options from the command line:

  • /deploy   Deploy reports by using the project properties specified in a configuration file. For example, the following command deploys the reports specified by the solution file Reports.sln by using the Release configuration settings that are specified in the project properties:

    devenv.exe "C:\Documents and Settings\MyUser\My Documents\Visual Studio 2008\Projects\Reports\Reports.sln" /deploy "Release"
    
  • /build   Build the solution file, but do not deploy it. For example, the following command builds the reports specified by the solution file Reports.sln by using the Debug configuration settings that are specified in the project properties:

    devenv.exe "C:\Documents and Settings\MyUser\My Documents\Visual Studio 2008\Projects\Reports\Reports.sln" /build "Debug"
    
  • /out   Redirect the output generated by building a solution to the specified file. For example, the following command redirects the output from the build in the previous example to a file named mybuildlog.txt.

    devenv.exe "C:\Documents and Settings\MyUser\My Documents\Visual Studio 2008\Projects\Reports\Reports.sln" /build "Debug" /out mybuildlog.txt
    
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