Reporting Services

Over the years I’ve kept an eye on SQL Reporting Services but I’ve never really tried it. Some of the demo’s have looked very promising and a particular project I’m currently involved with could really do with overhauling the reporting mechanism. So I booked myself onto a evening Reporting Services session at Microsoft to learn a bit more. However, before I attend the course I thought I’d better crack open the seal and have a poke around for myself…
One of the constant complaints levelled at Report Services is that it is difficult to install and if it goes wrong it’s really difficult to figure out why. Well I now have some sympathy for that. The installation was pretty easier but you do have to wear a number of different hats and there isn’t a lot of help when you miss part of the configuration. For example, I was happily running through a tutorial and it said, "now select run and deploy". Only to be faced with an authentication prompt for a web site. "What site? Ah I was supposed to have created a site? Ok off to the configuration tool. Big green tick next to the site so that seems to have been done, hmm. Oh well press create and see what happens. Ah no prompts, that seems to have done the trick". Not exactly the nicely task led process I expect, neh demand, of modern products. So I decided to plough through the tutorials. Nothing really exciting although the mix of vb like expression and SQL syntax is a bit odd. I’d would’ve expected you’d select one or the other rather than typing in one box and letting it figure it out and the code checking wasn’t very helpful, wot-no-intellisense. My first problem came with using parameters. I followed the instructions, even used the "copy text" facility but it just displayed an error when I went to the preview. But the error was the very definition of vague. I poked around and couldn’t persuade it to run. So I created a new report with my own settings and used a parameter from the start and that seemed to work. I copied the same code over and it carried on working, very strange. However, when I ran the report it would just repeat the first rows data for every row returned in the join, WHAT!!! So the join works ’cause I can see that in the "run grid" and the number of rows is correct. But it’s not getting the data for each row, very odd. Finally I just junked the whole layout and started again and it worked fine. So it seems very sensitive to the order you do things, the design surface seems to get very confused very easily. Good grief and I’m expecting some business user to write some of these, plus if I’m having this much hassle with a simple tutorial what happens when I’m writing something far more complicated? I’ll have no idea if I’ve written it incorrectly or I’ve simply done something in the wrong order. This is certainly a topic I’ll want to raise with the good folks at Microsoft. Still it promises so much that I really want to work, perhaps it will just be hope vs. reality?

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