What's new in SQL Reporting Services 2008

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Mon, 10/20/2008 - 09:37

On Saturday I did a 20min (which is basically nothing) presentation on what is new in SRS 2008 at Dev4Devs! The feedback I have gotten has been very positive and I personally learnt more about what it takes for me to present well. That said some people asked me afterwards about the slides and content I used and the reality is that I didn’t have a single slide! The truth was Eben indicated when I volunteered that developers don’t like slides, so I took it as a challenge and did all my “slides” in SRS! For those who couldn’t attend, here is the run down on what I covered!

Introduction

The first “slide” was really about what I was covering and also some of the user groups out there! I must say sorry to Craig for leaving out www.sadeveloper.net. For those wanting the links to the groups they are:

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For the Designers

Building the slide also gave me the platform for the first section, what  is new for designers! So switching to edit mode I was able to demo the fact that textboxes can now contain rich text, so the entire of the title and agenda was a single textbox with different font styles and positioning. Below that you can see the communities worth supporting with two different colours! In SQL 2005 you were limited to a single font configuration per textbox so to do the above in 2005 would have take 7 textboxes!

Next I showed off the new design surface improvements which make it no longer feel like a annoying grid but a real smooth surface. There is also enhancements like the guide lines which snap you to other design elements and the distance tooltips which show your distance from other elements (see below).

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I then showed off my favorite feature, UNDO and REDO. I know it seems small but the UNDO in 2005 reloaded entire reports and took forever to do, now there is a real instance UNDO!

We’ve been Robbed

Next I went into what had been taken out… sort of Smile First was the data tab (missing highlighted in red below) which has moved to it’s own window. It feels so much slicker there! And then I spoken about the fact Table, Matrix and List were gone and what the table, matrix and list tools are now! I won’t retell the story on that because Teo Lachev has a better description at his blog.

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Pretty Pictures

From there I moved into showing off the new Dundas based charting and gauge controls which make your reports look super slick and demo'd why gauges are great for showing multiple pieces of data at the same time (in my demo the distance and time of my exercising):

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The Boring Slide

Lastly I ended with a “slide” on things I couldn’t demo but are noteworthy and I included a smiley rating scale on how noteworthy they are:

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  • No More IIS: SRS 2008 no longer requires IIS to run! It actually has it’s own web server and this means that not only does it scale better, it also is a true middle tier application.
  • Memory Management: Because SRS 2008 is in charge of everything now and not needing IIS, you can limit how much RAM is used!
  • Data Driven to SharePoint: You can now use a data driven subscription (i.e. one which is based on data in the DB) to publish to SharePoint.
  • Support for Teradata: A lot has been said on this, so I assume it is important (I saw some heads nod when I spoke about it in my talk), but as I have never used Teradata it got the confused smiley.
  • Per page rendering: This is big, it no longer renders the entire report at once. Now it just renders a page at time! Great for those massive reports.
  • Custom and forms based authentication: A really great feature for hybrid environments! Also combined with no more IIS those Kerberos issues between CRM and SRS should be a thing of the past!
  • Export to Excel: In my series on complex report building, the last part mentioned the horror that was exporting to excel and how sub reports generated ugly grey blocks! Well that is no longer the case. YEAH!
  • Export to CSV: Has been improved to export just data. I did point out that there is limitations (like values from gauges will not be included if you use CSV) so be careful.

I lastly mentioned a new tool, called Report Builder which is an 18Mb download and gives an Office (ribbon bar) experience to building 2008 reports. It is really great in that it has low overheads (no Visual Studio requirements), it has all the design surface features I mentioned at the start and it is very easy to get up and running. It does require a full SRS server to be available if you want to run the report, so no preview mode like in SQL BI Studio. That said it is great for power users and I see the real value coming in the future when you need to work with old reports and don’t want to install old versions of Visual Studio, like we have to with 2003 and 2005! I mentioned on Saturday it was RC1 status, we’ll it seems that was a lie because at 3:30am Saturday they released the RTM version!!!! For more and to download it (it’s free) see: http://blogs.msdn.com/robertbruckner/archive/2008/10/17/report-builder-20-release.aspx

Finally thanks for Eben and Ahmed for arranging the event and EVERYONE who attended!