One of the new features in Reporting Services 2008 that debuted in the SQL Server 2008 RC0 build is the enhanced textbox report item. In previous releases, if you wanted to mix static and dynamic expression-based text, you either needed multiple textboxes or a Visual Basic expression to concatenate strings together. The first approach led to textbox “explosion”. The disadvantage of the second approach was that you couldn’t format string fragments inside the same textbox independently.
In Reporting Services 2008, the textbox report item has been redesigned to support multiple bands of text. The screenshot shows a report title of a sales order report. In the past, you would need two textboxes (or three if you wanted different formatting for the sales order number). You may be surprised to find that the entire title is implemented as a single textbox with two paragraphs. The second paragraph combines static text (Order #:) with dynamic text ([SalesOrderNumber]), which defines a placeholder for a dataset field value. Each fragment can have its own format settings. Thanks to these enhancements, you’ll find that by moving to Reporting Services 2008, you need fewer textboxes and you need to write less often expressions that concatenate text. Moreover, the new textbox lets you implement report solutions, such as mail merge, that were difficult or impossible to implement with previous releases.
Many report authors will rejoice learning that the textbox report item now supports a subset of HTML tags for formatting the text content. This is also known as rich formatting (not be confused with RTF which is not supported). You can import static HTML text or bind the textbox to a dataset field. For instance, if the dataset field includes HTML tags, such as <b>SO50750</b>, you can configure the textbox to interpret these tags and display the sales order number in bold.