SQL Server 2008 includes many enhancements in the reporting space and the latest CTP contains an updated preview of the ‘Microsoft Report Designer’. The purpose of this is to provide an easy to use report authoring tool which is suitable for an end user. It is not intended as a replacement for Business Intelligence Development Studio or Visual Studio.
Over the past few days, I’ve been testing some of the features in this new designer. It is .Net based and installed into C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\100\Tools\Reporting Services\ReportDesigner by default. The contents of this folder can be copied onto a workstation and the current version can be run stand alone. The designer has an Office 2007 user interface and looks attractive. Since this is still a preview, anything could change.
The File > Open option allows you to open an RDL file. You can either save changes back into the RDL file or select an option to publish your work onto a report server.
On the left hand pane is a ‘data view’ that includes a number of Built in Fields, Report Parameters and DataSources. Compared to BIDS, it’s nice to have these elements and the report surface always visible rather than being separated out over different tabs. When creating a new data connection, several connection types are available including ‘Report Builder Model’. Dragging items around the design surface feels very similar to designing a Windows form in Visual Studio – lines appear to help you align controls and tool tips are shown that display how close you are to the neighbouring control in pixels.
In summary, I find Report Designer pleasant to use and think that it makes a great addition to the reporting capabilities in SQL Server 2008.