The road ahead

Many folks have been asking me about the book authoring process. “Oh, you’ve authored a book” they will gasp. Once the awe evaporates, questions start. How did you do it, how long it took, what’s the royalty fee (the most popular but usually asked last question for courtesy reasons I suppose :-). For there reasons, I would like to start a new blog category devoted on writing.


In the spirit of the season, I am reflecting on the ending year and charting plans for the future. As you probably know, Microsoft is working hard on the next release of Microsoft Reporting Services which will coincide with SQL Server 2005 scheduled for an official release during the summer of 2005.


One of the things I am currently contemplating is whether to write a new book on Reporting Services 2005 or not. Based on my preliminary study and knowledge of the new RS feature set, I could add/replace about 50% of my old book content. Many of you have given me rave reviews about my book “Microsoft Reporting Services in Action”. Thank you for that! However, I know that the book is far from perfect and many things could have been improved.


 


Please help me decide if you thing that a new revison of my book could be useful and, if yes, how I can design my next book to better meet your needs.




  1. Do you think a new book on Reporting Services 2005 could be useful?


  2. Should the book be targetted as an updated version of my old book or should it focus more on the new product features.


  3. What areas of my old book need improvement?

I welcome your suggestions. If you prefer drop me an e-mail offline to teo.lachev@prologika.com.


 


Thank you advance!

And the MVP award goes to…

I would like to share my excitment with you that Microsoft has recognized my contribution and peer support around Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services.


Today, I received the valuable Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for Windows Server System – SQL Server. This represents a major milestone in my professional career as a consultant and trainer.


Thank you for helping me to achieve this status!

Vote for my book

If you liked my book “Microsoft Reporting Services in Action” please take a moment to vote for it at the Second Annual .NETDJ Readers’ Choice Awards website.

Thank you in advance for your support!

Export to Excel and Word with SoftArtisians’ OfficeWriter

Version 1.0 of Reporting Services doesn’t support exporting reports to Microsoft Word format. It does support exporting to Excel but developers have limited control over the Excel renderer. For example, you may need provide placeholders (bookmarks in Word or markers in Excel) which will be populated during runtime with fields from your report query.


SoftArtisians will release soon an RS version of their flagship product OfficeWriter which will bring flexible exporting to Excel and Word formats in the form of two additional rendering extensions. Currently, you can try out this product by subscribing to the SoftArtisians beta program here.


You will most likely find the process of creating a Word or Excel report with OfficeWriter very straightforward. For example, to create a Word report you need to:


1. Create a new Word file.


2. Using the SoftArtisians Word toolbar set up a new query. Unfortunately, the query is not saved in the Word file so you have to recreate it every time you need to make a change.


3. Create bookmarks in your Word document by inserting fields from the query. OfficeWriter supports repetative regions which allows you to generate tabular reports.


4. Deploy your report to Report Server. During this step, OfficeWriter will generate the report RDL file which you will find in the same folder where the original Word file is located.


Without a doubt, many report authors will find OfficeWriter useful when report requirements call for flexible rendering in Excel and Word.


 

Extending Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services with Custom Code

In this article, I will show you how to leverage the Reporting Services unique extensible architecture to supercharge your report capabilities. First, I will explain how embedded and custom code options work. Next, I will show you how you can leverage custom code to author an advanced report with sales forecasting features.


Read the full article here


 

Let’s talk RS

Please join me at the following events to learn more about Reporting Services:

 

  1. Atlanta.net User Group presentation (ADNUG) on September 27th
    I will show you how to report-enable WinForm or web applications by integrating them with Reporting Services. Get a sneak preview of the new RS controls that will be included in the next 2005 release of Reporting Services.
  2. SQL Pass Community Summit 2004 from Sept 29 to Sept 30 in Orlando, Florida
    I will join my coworkers from HP to present Reporting Services. Look for me in the HP exhibition booth (#301). Don’t miss this chance to ask me tough RS questions and see various code demos.
  3. Atlanta Microsoft Database Forum presentation (Atlanta.mdf) on October 11th
    Same as my ADNUG presentation.

Looking forward to meeting you at one of these events!

Forms Authentication and RS Web Service


Often, report enabling Internet-facing applications require replacing the default RS Windows-based security with Forms Authentication. This allows clients to request reports by URL with the all the goodies that URL addressability entail, namely support for interactive features and the HTML Viewer toolbar. While RS Forms Authentication is well-documented (see the Forms Authentication whitepaper by Microsoft), something which may not be so obvious is that Forms Authentication can be used not only with URL addressability but also with the RS web service. 


Let’s say you want most of your reports to be requested by URL but some to be generated on the server-side of the application by SOAP. Or, you need to manage a Report Server installation configured for Forms Authentication from a WinForm client by calling the management SOAP APIs. The RS Forms Authentication model supports all these scenarios. All in all, it boils down to to storing the authentication ticket (cookie) received from the LogonUser call on the client side and passing it back with each request.


I whipped out a simple WinForm app (sorry C# only, but they are free converters out there for C#->VB ) to show how this could be done. This sample doesn’t have any bugs! Common, we all know this is not true :-). Please let me know if something buggy raises its ugly head. Usual disclaimers apply also…you are on your own basically.


DISCLAIMER: One thing that you may need definitely to change if you are planning to retrofit my code to a web app is way the app stores the cookie. You will notice that the sample app stores the cookie in a static class member. This is all fine with WinForm apps running on single thread by definitely no-no for web applications where you need to be aware of multi-threading and multi-user issues. If the web app is the same one that requests reports by URL, the simplest solution may be not to store the cookie at all but to get it from the current HTTP context, similar to the original implementation of the overridden proxy class that comes with the MS sample.

For time being, the sample Forms Authenticator app can be downloaded from
here.


 

Excel Add-in for SQL Server Analysis Services

I have recently discovered the Excel Add-in for SQL Server Analysis Services. If Office Web Components are overkill for your Analysis Services smart client deployment or dev requirements, check out this toy. It requires Excel 2002 and higher installed on the user machine. Once connected to Analysis Services (standard, offline and HTTP connectivity is supported) you can create easility pivot-style reports.


One cool feature that the add-in supports is exporting an AS cube to a local offline cube so you can move it between machines. More cool features:



  • Create and maintain live data connections to multiple online analytical processing (OLAP) cubes, ensure data consistency and integrity, and combine data from multiple sources into a single report.

  • Conduct detailed analysis using native Excel capabilities, extending the richness of analysis through “what if” and drill through capabilities.

  • Personalize and easily author refresh report layouts, further reducing training costs and reliance on IT by leveraging Excel’s popularity and ease of use.


The Excell Add-in for SQL Server Analysis Services is one of the several Office solution accelerators.


I finally understand why Office is positioned as an integral component of the Microsoft Business Intelligence Platform :-)