Category Archives: SSRS

Intro to DW/BI at the Steel City SQL Users Group

Tonight I’ll be presenting “Introduction to Data Warehousing / Business Intelligence” at the Steel City SQL users group, right here in Birmingham Alabama. If you attended my Huntsville presentation last week, I’ve already added some new slides and revised the deck, so it will be worth another look.

My slide deck is IntroToDataWarehouse.pdf . Come join us tonight at 6 pm at New Horizons, there will be pizza and fun for all.

UPDATE: Before the presentation I was showing a video of Sara Ford jumping off a tower to support CodePlex. Got tons of laughs so here’s a link to the video:

http://blogs.msdn.com/saraford/archive/2009/09/14/my-codeplex-jump-from-tallest-building-in-the-southern-hemisphere-the-full-video.aspx

Introduction To Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence

At the Atlanta SQL Saturday 2009 one of the presentations I am doing is “Introduction to Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence”.

You can download the slide deck for this presentation in PDF format.

Any sample code came from either my Intro to SSIS presentation or the book Programming SQL Server 2008.

Generating a PDF file from a Reporting Services Report Viewer Control

In yesterday’s post, I demonstrated how to generate a SQL Server Reporting Services report without having to have SQL Server Reporting Services. The sample application used the Microsoft Report Viewer control to display the report. A common need in business is to generate documents, such as PDFs, that will later be archived. It turns out if you are using a report viewer control, this is easy to do programmatically.

First, you need to add one using statement to the top of your class, in addition to the others that were added yesterday.

using System.IO;

Next, we only need a few lines of code to generate the PDF.

      Warning[] warnings;

      string[] streamids;

      string mimeType;

      string encoding;

      string extension;

 

      byte[] bytes = reportViewer1.LocalReport.Render(

        "PDF", null, out mimeType, out encoding, out extension,

        out streamids, out warnings);

 

      FileStream fs = new FileStream(@"D:\ReportOutput.pdf", FileMode.Create);

      fs.Write(bytes, 0, bytes.Length);

      fs.Close();

This code snippet came right from the MSDN Books on Line, and is pretty simple. I could have selected another format by changing the first value passed into the Render method, for example “EXCEL” would have rendered it as a Microsoft Excel document.

In the code samples I placed the above sample in it’s own button, but I could just have easily placed it under one of the other demo buttons.

This ability brings up some interesting possibilities. For example, the report viewer control does not have to be visible to the user in order for this to work. Thus you could create an application that every night generated a series of reports and saved them as PDFs to some central location, such as a web server or document control server. All the user (assuming one was around) would have to see is a progress bar, the reports themselves never get displayed.

Using SQL Server Reporting Services in Client Mode

Recently I did a presentation at the March BSDA meeting. I showed how to use SQL Server Reporting Services without a SQL Server, or more specifically a SQL Server running Reporting Services. It got an enthusiastic response so I thought I’d add to it here by adding some reminder documentation, as much for myself as for all of you wonderful readers.

Using Reporting Services in Client, or Local mode is a 4 step process. First, you will need an XSD schema file to create the report on. Once you have the XSD you will be able to move to the second step, creating the report. Third you will need to place a Report Viewer control on your windows form, WPF form, or ASP.NET page. Finally you will need to write some code that generates an ADO.NET dataset, loads the report in the report viewer control, then binds it all together. Lets look at this step by step.

Normally when you create a report you connect to a database, then base it off of some object like a query, view, or stored procedure. The report is then uploaded to a Reporting Services server, which takes care of hosting it, displaying it, and generating the data for it. With client mode you have no server available, so we have to instead create a surrogate. That’s where our XSD file comes in.

Right click in Solution Explorer and “Add a new item”, and from the list of goodies select “XML Schema”. Name it something appropriate, letting the default extension be XSD. For this example I will be getting customer order data, so I’ve given it the name CustomerOrders.xsd. Visual Studio will think about it then add it to the project, and even helpfully open it for you. I don’t know about you, but hand typing XML Schema’s isn’t my idea of fun, so you should glace at it, go “that’s nice” then close it.

Now right click on the XSD file in Solution Explorer, and pick “Open with….”. In the dialog that appears, select “Dataset Editor”. When you do, Visual Studio presents a big scary warning message letting you know that you could lose contents, and that this will forever be a dataset XSD file. We have nothing in the file, so we’re cool with this, just click OK.

You will now be presented with a big surface area. In the middle it tells you to drag items from the server explorer or right click. If you have a table, view, or stored procedure you are free to drag it in, but most of the time you’ll want to base this off of a SQL query. Right click on the surface, and select Add…., Table Adapter from the menu. The first screen asks you for the database connection. This is the only time you’ll actually need a connection, in this example I am using the good old Northwind database. I pointed at Northwind and clicked next.

image

Next we are asked how we are going to access the data. Since we have a SQL Statement just pick the default of “Use SQL statements” and click Next.

image

Now take your SQL Statement and paste it in, and click Next.

image

OK, click Finish to wrap up the addition of the XSD. By default the adapter has a generic name, we should give ours something more meaningful. Click in the top bar, then enter a new name. Since my example report is for customer order data, I’ll name it CustomerOrders. I then went to the bottom bar and renamed the TableAdapter1 to CustomerOrderTableAdapter. You should now see something like:

image

Note that this will become your Data Source for the report. The data source will have the name of the XSD followed by the name of the source, in this case it will read CustomerOrders_CutomerOrders. OK, now it’s time to create the report.

Go back to Solution Explorer, right click and pick Add New Item. Navigate to the Reporting area and pick Report Wizard. Note the file extension should end in RDLC. If you have used Reporting Services before, you will know that reports typically end in RDL. However, client mode reports have just a slightly different syntax to them, thus the RDLC extension to differentiate the two. While you can modify an RDL to become an RDLC and vice versa, you have to do so by hacking the XML behind the report.

Note you can also choose just Report, but then you’ll have to setup everything manually. For this simple example though, we’ll just use the Report Wizard.

image

Give your report a meaningful name and click Add. The report wizard then shows you a welcoming screen if you’ve never run it before, just click Next.

Now we need to pick the data source. In this example, you want the CustomerOrders branch, so select it and click Next.

image

The next screen asks if we want a Tabular or Matrix report. Select the one for you, in my example I picked Tabular and clicked Next. The next screen asks how we want to display the data. For my example, I opted to group by the customers company name and contact name, then the order data went into the details area. Fill out as appropriate for your report and click Next.

image

The next screen asks how we want things laid out. This affects the look and feel of the report. For my example I just took the default and clicked next, however you are free to play with this to experiment with the different looks and feels your reports might have.

Likewise the next screen is also a look and feel one, asking what colorings we want to apply. Pick one that makes you happy and click next. You can always change it later, many times I pick the Generic one (which adds no colors) then fix it up afterward.

The final screen is the wrap up. Give your report a meaningful name and click Finish.

image

OK, you have a report, now you need a container. Open up the user interface you want to place the report viewer control on. In my example I went with a very simple Windows Forms application.

In my toolbox, I navigated to the Reporting section, where I only found one control, the MicrosoftReportViewer control. (Note I am using Visual Studio 2008 SP1, if you are on an earlier version your names may differ slightly). Grab it and drop it onto your design surface. I also added a Button control to the form to kick off the report display process.

image

Now it’s time for the last step, adding some code. In this example I’ve used a Windows Form. Opening it, the first thing we find in the form load area is::

      this.reportViewer1.RefreshReport();

(Note I left my report viewer control named reportViewer1.) Delete it, we’ll have it refresh elsewhere.

Now we need to add some using statements to the top of our class.

//Add these to the standard list above

using System.Data.Sql;

using System.Data.SqlClient;

using Microsoft.Reporting.WinForms;

The first two will be used in accessing our Northwind database, you may need to use different libraries if you were going to another database. I’ve also included a referenced to the Reporting.WinForms library so we can manipulate the report programmatically.

Now let’s go to the code for the button click event. First, we need to reset the report viewer in case we’d been using it to host another report.

      // Reset in case report viewer was holding another reportViewer1

      reportViewer1.Reset();

Next We need to set the report viewer to local mode. This tells it we’ll be supplying the report name from a local file, and binding the report to a local ADO.NET datasource.

      // Set the processing mode for the ReportViewer to Local

      reportViewer1.ProcessingMode = ProcessingMode.Local;

Our third step is to create a local report variable, and set it’s reference to the report viewer’s local report. This will make it easier to work with. Then we’ll set the location of the report we want to use.

      LocalReport localReport = reportViewer1.LocalReport;

      localReport.ReportPath = @"D:\Presentations\SQL Server\SSRS RDLC\SSRS_RDLC\Report2.rdlc";

Now we need to create an ADO.Net dataset, and populate it. I implemented most of that functionality in a method called GetCustomerOrders, which I’ll append at the bottom of these instructions. It’s very straight forward code.

      DataSet dataset = new DataSet("Northwind");

 

      // Get the sales order data

      GetCustomerOrders(ref dataset);

At this stage we have told it where our report is, and have created the dataset. Now we need to create a datasource for the report itself. We’ll use the ReportDataSource object. For the name, we’ll use the same name as the XSD schema, CustomerOrders_CustomerOrders. Then for the value we will give it the table from the dataset we created in code. It’s possible for a report to have multiple datasets, in the report we’d give each one it’s own name (based on the XSD) then here we’d bind the dataset table to the name we’d used in the report. Once done we will then add the new ReportDataSource to the local reports DataSources collection. Finally, we’ll referesh the report viewer to make it generate the report.

      // Create a report data source for the sales order data

      ReportDataSource dsCustomers = new ReportDataSource();

      dsCustomers.Name = "Customers_Customers";

      dsCustomers.Value = dataset.Tables["Customers"];

 

      localReport.DataSources.Add(dsCustomers);

 

      // Refresh the report

      reportViewer1.RefreshReport();

You can download a copy of these instructions, along with the entire sample project including code and reports, at the Microsoft Code Gallery site http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/SqlServerRSClient . As promised, below is a copy of the GetCustomerOrders routine, for your reference.

    private void GetCustomerOrders(ref DataSet dsNorthwind)

    {

      string sqlCustomerOrders = "SELECT c.[CustomerID]"

        + " ,c.[CompanyName]"

        + " ,c.[ContactName]"

        + " ,c.[ContactTitle]"

        + " ,c.[Address]"

        + " ,c.[City]"

        + " ,c.[Region]"

        + " ,c.[PostalCode]"

        + " ,c.[Country]"

        + " ,c.[Phone]"

        + " ,c.[Fax]"

        + " ,o.[OrderID]"

        + " ,o.[CustomerID]"

        + " ,o.[EmployeeID]"

        + " ,o.[OrderDate]"

        + " ,o.[RequiredDate]"

        + " ,o.[ShippedDate]"

        + " ,o.[ShipVia]"

        + " ,o.[Freight]"

        + " ,o.[ShipName]"

        + " ,o.[ShipAddress]"

        + " ,o.[ShipCity]"

        + " ,o.[ShipRegion]"

        + " ,o.[ShipPostalCode]"

        + " ,o.[ShipCountry]"

        + "  FROM [Northwind].[dbo].[Customers] c"

        + "  join [Northwind].[dbo].[Orders] o on c.CustomerID = o.CustomerID";

 

      SqlConnection connection = new

        SqlConnection("Data Source=(local); " +

                      "Initial Catalog=Northwind; " +

                      "Integrated Security=SSPI");

 

      SqlCommand command =

          new SqlCommand(sqlCustomerOrders, connection);

 

      SqlDataAdapter customerOrdersAdapter = new

          SqlDataAdapter(command);

 

      customerOrdersAdapter.Fill(dsNorthwind, "CustomerOrders");

 

    }

Using a Local Reporting Services 2008 Report with an ADO.NET Data Set

SQL Server Reporting Services is an incredibly full featured reporting tool. An often asked question though is “How can I use Reporting Services without setting up a full SQL Server just to run Reporting Services?”

Fortunately the folks at Microsoft thought of this, and created a version of Reporting Services that runs in Local, or what Microsoft calls Client mode. There are several ways to use client mode, you can bind the report right to the database if you wish, or to an object. However if you have an application that’s been around for a bit, or maybe you’ve been around for a bit, chances are you have a lot of ADO.NET DataSets you’d love to use for data in a report. Today we’ll look at how to bind those data sets to a SQL Server Reporting Services report.

Let’s say you have created an application to work with the AdventureWorks2008 database. You user has now asked you for one last feature. They wish to display a list of Vendors in a report. They want to preview the report, print it, and be able to export it to a PDF format.

Based on your experience you know that SQL Server Reporting Services would be a good choice. However your client does not have an instance of SQL Server Reporting Services running in their corporation. Thus the path is clear, use SQL Server Reporting Services in Client mode.

Preliminary Work

Prior to beginning our work, we’ll need to do two basic setup steps. First, if you don’t have it already, you will need to download the Adventure Works 2008 database from CodePlex. Install it following their instructions. Here is the current location for AdventureWorks2008:

http://www.codeplex.com/MSFTDBProdSamples/Release/ProjectReleases.aspx?ReleaseId=18407

Now open up Visual Studio 2008 and create a new C# WinForms application. Note that while the ReportViewer control we’ll be using works fine in WinForms, ASP.Net, or WPF, for simplicity we’ll use a WinForms application. Give your project a meaningful name (I used ReportingServicesLocal).

Create the DataSource

Normally Reporting Services knows what tables and columns are available because you have setup a connection to a database. In this scenario however, we are going to bind the report to an in memory ADO.NET DataTable.

At design time then Reporting Services does not know about the DataSet, and so we must create a surrogate for Reporting Services. Thus we’ll create a special type of XML schema definition to stand in for our not yet created DataSet.

To accomplish this, first we need to create the Data Source schema by following these steps:

1. Right click on the project in the Solution Explorer window.

2. Select Add, New Item.

3. Click on the Data leaf of the Visual C# Items branch in the Add New Item window.

4. Pick the DataSet item. Give it a meaningful name, such as VendorList.xsd.

clip_image002

Now we need to add a table to the DataSet.

1. In your toolbox, under DataSet find the Data Table tool and drag it onto the design surface.

2. Click the DataTable1 and rename it to Vendors.

The last step in the process is to add our columns to the Vendors DataTable we just created.

1. Right click on the name of your DataTable and pick Add, Column from the pop up menu.

2. For the first column type in VendorName. Note that if we needed to, we could now go to the properties window and change the DataType to something other than the default of System.String. For this lab, everything we’ll use is a string so this won’t be needed.

3. Repeat step 2, adding these column names: AddressLine1, AddressLine2, City, StateProvinceName, PostalCode

When done it should look like:

clip_image004

Create the Report.

Now that we have a schema, we’re ready to create the report and add the components to it. To create the report, follow these basic steps.

1. Right click on the project and select Add, New Item.

2. In the pop up window, go to the Reporting leaf under the Visual C# branch.

3. Pick “Report”, and give the report a meaningful name such as VendorList.rdlc.

clip_image006

Now that the report is created, we need to add the components and data columns to it.

1. With the blank report, drag a Table control onto the report body.

2. Open the Data Sources window by selecting Data, Show Data Sources from the Visual Studio menu.

3. You should see the VendorList DataSet, under it the Vendors DataTable, and under it the columns.

clip_image008

4. Drag the VendorName to the first column of the table. Next, drag the City to the second column, and the StateProvinceName to the third.

5. Right click on the column header for StateProvinceName and pick “Insert Column to the Right”.

6. Drag the PostalCode to this newly inserted column. Your report should now look something like:

clip_image010

Adding the Report Viewer to the Windows Form

Now that the setup tasks are complete, it’s time to get to the user interface ready. First we’ll do some basic setup of the form.

1. When you created the basic project Visual Studio created a default Windows Form, Form1.cs. Start by changing the Text property to read “Report Viewer”.

2. While we’re at it, let’s change the (Name) property to frmReportViewer.

Now add the Report Viewer control to the form.

1. In the toolbox, navigate to the Reporting area, and drag a MicrosoftReportViewer control onto the form. Resize so it takes up the lower 90% or so of the form.

2. Change the name to rvwMain (or something meaningful).

Next add a button to the form. We’ll use it to trigger the report.

1. From the Common Controls area of the toolbox, drag a button control onto the form.

2. Change the (Name) property to btnDataSet.

3. Change the Text property to DataSet.

4. Double Click on the button to open up it’s code behind.

We’ll be supplying the data to the ADO.Net dataset using SQL Server, so we need to go to the top of the form and add a reference to the System.Data.SqlClient.

using System.Data.SqlClient;

Now let’s go into the btnDataSet_Click event, and add some code to fill our dataset. This code snippet will bind to our local SQL Server, create a command to do a simple select statement to a view, and fill the dataset.

  /* Fill the Dataset ------------------------------------*/
  string qry = "select v.Name as VendorName "
                  + ", v.AddressLine1 "
                  + ", v.AddressLine2 "
                  + ", v.City "
                  + ", v.StateProvinceName "
                  + ", v.PostalCode "
               + "from Purchasing.vVendorWithAddresses v "
              + "order by v.Name ";

  string connectionstring = @"Server=(local);"
    + "Database=AdventureWorks2008;Trusted_Connection=True;";

  SqlConnection connection = new SqlConnection(connectionstring);
  SqlCommand cmd = new SqlCommand(qry, connection);

  SqlDataAdapter daVendor = new SqlDataAdapter();
  daVendor.SelectCommand = cmd;
  DataSet dsVendors = new DataSet();
  daVendor.Fill(dsVendors);

Note that in the first line of our select statement, we had to use v.Name as VendorName. The column names we return from our dataset must match the column names we entered in the Data Source back in Exercise 2 Step 3. Fortunately SQL easy to use “AS” syntax makes this simple.

Also, even though in this example we use SQL Server, the connection could be to any Data Source such as MySQL or Oracle. The important thing is we wind up with a DataSet to bind to.

In the same btnDataSet_Click method we now need to tell the report viewer control which report to run, then where to get it’s data. To tell the ReportViewer control to use a local report (as opposed to a report residing on a Reporting Services Server) we need to set the ReportEmbeddedResource property.

  rvwMain.LocalReport.ReportEmbeddedResource = "ReportingServicesLocal.VendorList.rdlc";

Note the format of the string we pass in. It has the name of the project, then a dot, then the name of the report complete with it’s rdlc extension. You should also know this is case sensitive.

Now we need to tell the report where our data really is. To do this, we’ll tell it to bind the Vendor data table from the VendorList data source to the dataset we generated in the step above.

  rvwMain.LocalReport.DataSources.Add(
    new Microsoft.Reporting.WinForms.ReportDataSource(
    "VendorList_Vendors", dsVendors.Tables[0]));

We need to create a new ReportDataSource to pass into the Add method of the reports DataSources. In the constructor for the ReportDataSource we pass in two parameters. The first is the name of the DataTable we are binding to.

Note that it’s syntax is a bit odd, you have to address it with first the DataSet name, then use an underscore to append the name of the specific DataTable.

The second parameter is the specific table from the dataset to bind to. Since we only had 1 we can use the simple .Tables[0] syntax shown here. We could have also given it a specific name.

One final note, in this simple example we are only binding one data source. However it’s possible for reports to have multiple data tables contained in them. To bind each one, we would simply have created a data table for each in the XSD, then added the code to the step above to read each one in, then bound them in this step by repeating this line of code for each one.

Finally we’re ready to display the report. Simply add this line to trigger the generation of the report.:

      rvwMain.RefreshReport();

Test your application.

Everything is now setup, you should be ready to run.

1. Launch the app from Visual Studio.

2. Once open, click on the DataSet button.

3. Your screen should look something like:

clip_image012

 

And there you go, you too can now easily create nice looking reports from your existing ADO.NET datasets.

SQL Server Reporting Services, Oracle, and Multivalued Parameters

I am working on a series of reports that will use SQL Server Reporting Services 2005 for the reporting tool, with the data stored in Oracle. One of the requirements was that several of the parameters had to be Multivalued, users could pick from one to all of the items in a drop down list. Sounds like it should be straight forward, but there were a lot of gotcha’s that drove me nuts trying to get this to work. Some of the workarounds I had seen on the web, one I figured out for myself, but none had this information consolidated in one spot. So I thought I’d pass along the hard fought hours I spent and perhaps save you some time.

I’m going to keep my example very simple. I’m also going to assume you are familiar with using parameters and reporting services, perhaps just not with Oracle. We’ll pull our data out of a table called “table1”, and have four fields, field1, field2, field3, and field4. Field1 will be the one we’ll use for our multivalued parameter.

So the first thing we’d do with our report is create two datasets. The first will be used to populate the dropdown list for the parameter. We’ll call it dataset1, and it will have some simple SQL with it:

Select field1 from table1 order by field1

Pretty easy so far. Now create a parameter for the report. Name the parameter prmField1, and have it supply the values and labels from dataset1. This should all be familiar so far if you’ve done parameters with SQL Server. Now let’s create dataset2, which will be the main one to supply data to the report. When you create the new dataset, use this for the SQL:

Select field1, field2, field3, field4 
  from table1
 where field1 in ( :prmField1 )

Then click on the parameters tab, and bind :prmField1 to the Parameters!prmField1 parameter.

Now if you’ve used parameters with SQL Server, you’re probably scratching your head. It’s time for that first “gotcha” I mentioned. While SQL Server uses an @ sign for it’s parameters, Oracle uses a : (colon) to prefix it’s parameters. Thus :prmField1 is the parameter in this SQL. Note I could have named it anything, I just used :prmField1 to make it consistent with the parameter we setup to make debugging easier.

There’s one other potential gotcha here, depending on your version of Oracle. Only Oracle 9 and greater support this multivalued parameter syntax. It wasn’t an issue for me since we are on a version later than 9, but if you are on version 8 or earlier, you will have to turn the whole thing into an expression and break out the multivalues manually. Very ugly.

OK, if you run the report it would work, but it would have a few drawbacks. If you use the “Select All” check mark, Reporting Services will create SQL that looks like:

Select field1, field2, field3, field4 from table1 where field1 in ( ‘a’, ‘b’, ‘c’, ‘d’, …

Which works OK if you only have a limited number of items in the list, but if you have a lot of items selected your performance is going to be poor, and if you have more than 1000 Oracle won’t run the query at all. So how do we get around this gotcha?

The common wisdom here is to add your own ‘ALL’ selection to your drop down multiparameter list. Let’s go back to dataset1, and change the SQL statement to read:

selectALLas field1 
  from dual
union all
select field1 
  from table1
 order by field1

This will add ‘ALL’ as the first item in your list. If you are not familiar with Oracle, I’ll also mention “from dual” is just a way to tell Oracle that no table really exists, just return this one row with the fields I specify. Now we need to modify the query in dataset2 to take advantage of this shortcut. My first pass looked like:

select field1, field2, field3, field4 
  from table1
 where ( field1 in ( :prmField1 ) OR :prmField1 = ‘ALL’ )

Only problem is, this didn’t work right. If I picked ‘ALL’, or one item in my list the report worked, but if I picked more than one item from the list the report errored out. I believe that by using the :prmField1 = ‘ALL’ syntax, my multivalued parameter was getting converted to a single valued parameter. After several hours of head bashing though, I finally came up with this rewrite:

select field1, field2, field3, field4 
  from table1
 where ( field1 in ( :prmField1 ) orALLin ( :prmField1 ) )

Success! By changing my syntax to check for IN on both items I don’t coerce prmField1 into a single valued parameter, instead leaving it as multivalued. Another benefit / gotcha. You can execute this query from the dataset editor window. When you do a small dialog pops up and asks you to supply values for each parameter in the query. Through this dialog you can supply one value, thus I could use ‘ALL’, or some other valid value for prmField1, but only 1. This dialog does not allow you to enter more than one value, if you want to test your multivalue functionality, you’ll have to actually execute the full report.

You may also be wondering why I wrapped my where clause in parenthesis. Future maintenance. It will make it easier should I come back later and add more items to the where clause, like so.

select field1, field2, field3, field4 
  from table1
 where ( field1 in ( :prmField1 ) orALLin ( :prmField1 ) )
   and field2 = ‘Arcane Code’

Because there’s an OR in there, wrapping in parenthesis will keep my and/or logic correct for the rest of the query.

There is one final “gotcha” you need to be aware of when using this approach. While it does indeed solve the problem, it will take some education to train the users to use your ‘ALL’ feature instead of the built in ‘select all’ that comes with SQL Server Reporting Services. Once our users got used to it, it worked fine, but did take some education.

So let me summarize the key points for quick reference:

  1. Be sure your Oracle version is 9 or greater, none of this works on versions 8 or older.
  2. When using parameters with Oracle, use a : instead of an @ sign – :param instead of @param.
  3. Add an ‘ALL’ option to your datasets that supply values for multivalued drop down parameters.
  4. Check for the ALL in your where clause by using “where ( field1 in ( :prmField1 ) or ‘ALL’ in ( :prmField1 ) )” syntax.
  5. You can execute your query from the dataset window, but can only supply 1 value. However that value can be ‘ALL’.
  6. Educate your users on ‘ALL’ versus ‘(select all)’ .

Hopefully this will help you as you create your own SQL Server Reporting Services reports against Oracle databases using multivalued parameters.

SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services Screen Flicker / Redraw / Refresh Issue

We’ve had an annoying problem with a couple of our SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services (SSRS) reports lately. Two of our reports have a lot of parameters, over twenty each. When a user picked a value from a drop down to use for one of the many parameters we have, the entire report would flicker and slowly repaint. Very annoying and time consuming. Further it didn’t seem to matter if the report ran in the report manager, or hosted in a web page report viewer control.

We worked with this, and after several searches I finally found one article on the web which told us what our problem was.

http://sqlreportingservices.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!17F39A64B3FF4C5C!238.entry

The article does a good job of explaining the issue and how to fix it; I wanted to rebroadcast it to help bring attention to it. The summary version: if you have hard coded default values or expressions for the parameters for some reason SSRS will sometimes flicker when the user selects something from the list.

Instead, the answer is to use a query to supply the default value. Fortunately SSRS makes it easy, just create a dataset with something like:

SELECT ‘Default Value’ as TheDefaultValue

When we took our report and replaced all the hard coded defaults (and we had a lot) with queries to supply the defaults our flicker / redraw / repaint issue went away.

Again, read the linked post for a thorough understanding. My goal here is to spread the word; it took me a lot of search and wading through pages of posts to find ONE that had my answer. I thought if I had that much problem finding it others may too.

SQL Server 2008 February CTP 6 Released

By now you’ve probably heard the news that the latest SQL Server 2008 CTP is out. This release has a lot of new BI functionality included, such as:

  • Full Text Search
  • Support for Word export in Reporting Services
  • Data Visualization Enhancements
  • Report Design Enhancements in BIDS

I intend to install the latest CTP in a virtual environment and start testing out some of the cool new functionality. If you want to follow along, head over to http://connect.microsoft.com and sign up to play with the SQL Server 2008 CTP! Now if you’ll excuse me I need to get started installing!

Don’t Uninstall Visual Studio 2005 Yet!

One of the great benefits of Visual Studio 2008 is the ability for it to target multiple .Net Frameworks. This means, in theory you could go ahead and begin using Visual Studio 2008 even though you still need to write apps that are 2005 / .Net 2.0 compliant. You might be tempted to go ahead and uninstall 2005. And that would be fine if you are only doing .Net development. But wait…

If you are still doing SQL Server BIDS (Business Intelligence Developer Studio) then don’t uninstall Visual Studio 2005! Currently there’s no support in VS2008 for doing SQL Server 2005 BIDS Development. If you uninstall VS2005 you won’t be able to do any more BIDS work. Trust me, I found out the hard way.

After uninstalling VS2005, I went to do a BIDS project and that’s when I got hit with the nasty surprise. The uninstall had also removed the Dev Environment that was shared with BIDS. I tried to rerun the install of my SQL Server Developer Edition, but for some reason it thought I wanted to upgrade. It kept giving me the message “You cannot upgrade a version of SQL Server from the GUI, you must use the command line.”

I finally had to reinstall VS2005, along with all it’s service packs. After that I was able to work on my BIDS projects again. So take it from me, if you are still doing SQL Server 2005 Business Intelligence projects, Visual Studio 2005 still has some life in it yet.

Does MacGyver Dream of Mark Miller?

For Christmas this year my family gave me a copy of MacGyver, Season 1 and 2 on DVD. My wife’s side of the family gave me a gift card which I used to get seasons 3 & 4. I’m a long time MacGyver fan, but my wife had only seen one or two episodes and my kids had never seen it at all, so we’ve been having a lot of fun watching. My favorite part of the series was the voice-overs, where you’d hear MacGyver’s voice as he explained what he was doing. It always started with some odd thought or story that led you through the thought process of how he came to the conclusion to build whatever wacky life saving device he was constructing.

I’ve come to realize in some ways these blog entries are sort of like the MacGyver voice-overs, my inner thoughts being created for you on the web. So I hope you’ll bear with me a few minutes while I relate a rather bizarre dream I had last night.

In my dream I’m standing on stage, in front of a fully loaded computer. It has all the bells and whistles, VS2008, SQL Server, and so on. On the other side of the stage, Mark Miller is there, in front of a similar computer. For those unfamiliar with Miller, he’s the genius behind CodeRush and RefactorPro, tools to help you write code faster. Some time back, when the product was first released Miller used to challenge the audience to beat him in a code writing contest. His machine had CodeRush, and he would use chopsticks to write code, his competitor could use their fingers but did not have CodeRush on their machine. Of course Mark always won.

So sure enough, in my dream there’s Miller, chopsticks in hand ready to go, and I’m the guy going up against him. Our task is to take data from table A1, create a mirror table and name it table A2, and then move all million rows from A1 into A2. As you might guess, in my dream, I win. How?

Well I didn’t write a program. Instead I first jumped into SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) and used its script generating capability to produce a create table script. Make a quick search and replace and boom I’ve got table A2 created. I then jump over to the Business Intelligence Developer Studio (BIDS) to create a SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) package to do the data move. (Yes, I probably could have used the script generation of SSMS again to generate an Insert script, but I was showing off.) In about three to four minutes I had accomplished the task and moved all the data while Miller was pecking away at computer with his chopsticks.

I didn’t win because I’m a hot shot coder who is smarter than my competitor. Miller is a (some say mad) genius who can run circles around me in the coding world. As I told the folks in my dream, and I’m telling you now sometimes the best solution to a programming challenge isn’t to program at all! If you read yesterday’s post, Straining at Gnats, you may recall I said “…take some time. Push back from your computer and think for a moment. Think what the true outcome of your application is supposed to be. Not “what will the program do” but “what will the program do for the user???” Think about how best to achieve the user’s goals.

When you are thinking about solutions, take a minute to look outside of your favorite programming language. Is it possible to achieve the goal without writing any code at all? What tool or tools do you have in your tool box that you can combine to get the job done? Here’s a great example that happened to me just before I took off on my holiday vacation.

As I’ve mentioned before at work we have a Business Intelligence (BI) app I work as the lead on, it imports data to a SQL Server 2005 warehouse via SSIS then uses SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) to generate reports. The data is imported from a work order management system we bought many years ago. We also have some engineers who have a tiny little Microsoft Access database. This database has a primary key column; we’ll call it a part number for purposes of this example. There are three more columns, some data they need to know for each part but are not found in our big system. They’d like to add this data to the reports our BI app generates. Two last pieces of information, they only update this data once per quarter. Maybe. The last few years they have only done 3 updates a year. Second, the big system I mentioned is due to be replaced sometime in the next two years with a new system that will have their three fields.

A lot of solutions presented themselves to me. Write an ASP.Net app, with a SQL Server back end then use SSIS to move the data. Elegant, but a lot of work, very time consuming for a developer, especially for something that can go away in the near future. Write an SSIS package to pull data from Access? Risky, since we had no control over the Access database. A user could rename columns or move the database all together, in either case trashing the SSIS. Several other automation solutions were considered and rejected, before the final solution presented itself: not to automate at all.

Once per quarter I’ll simply have the engineers send me their Access database. Microsoft Access has a nice upsizing wizard that will move the table to SQL Server, I’ll use that to push the data onto the SQL Server Express that runs on my workstation. I’ll then use the script generating capability of SSMS to make an Insert script for the data. Add a truncate statement to the top to remove the old data and send it to the DBA to run. When I ran through it the first time my total time invested was less than ten minutes. In a worst case scenario I spend 40 minutes a year updating the data so it’s available for reporting. That’s far, far less time that I would have spent on any other solution.

The next time you have a coding challenge, take a moment to “think like MacGyver”. Look at all the tools you have lying around your PC and see what sort of solutions you can come up with. Once you are willing to step outside the comfort zone of your favorite coding language, you may be able to come up with some creative, MacGyver like solutions to your user’s problems.

 

PS – If you missed the announcement while on vacation, DevExpress just released CodeRush / RefactorPro 3.0. More than 150 refactorings and lots of new CodeRush features! Update yours today.

SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services ReportViewer Control and IE7

I’ve spent the last few days pulling my hair out over an issue with my reports rendering correctly inside and ASP.Net page and IE7. Like many companies we are preparing to roll out Internet Explorer 7 to all of the desktops. As part of that we’re doing regression testing on our applications, and in doing my tests uncovered an issue with IE7 and our BI (Business Intelligence) solution. It is an ASP.Net 2.0 page that uses the Report Viewer control to display SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services reports.

In IE6, everything has been running fine, reports rendering correctly and users happy. In testing for IE7, we found the reports only drew enough to fill up the available space inside the browser, and then stopped. No scroll bars, and if you resized the browser it did not paint the interior correctly.

The solution, as it turns out was pretty obscure. A co-worker found a thread at http://www.eggheadcafe.com/software/aspnet/27965101/re-problems-setting-webf.aspx that put me on the correct track. The solution needed three minor tweaks to our code.

First, you need to remove the DOCTYPE line from your aspx page. Yes, that’s correct, the line that is automatically inserted when you create a new page. It should look like:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “~//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN” "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">

Find it and delete it.

Next, on the ReportViewer control, make sure the AsyncRendering property is set to False. When you set it to true (the default) the report did render correctly, but instead of using the entire webpage to scroll it put another scroll bar onto the report viewer itself, and you had to use it to move through your report. Our testing found having two scroll bars (one for the page and one for the report) to be a bit confusing to the users. Try it both ways though and see what works best for you, as your mileage may vary. For us, we went with False as the setting.

In examining the AsyncRendering property, I found this article on MSDN which further confirmed the need to remove the DocType: http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms252090(VS.80).aspx

In the final tweak, I made sure to set the width of the ReportViewer control to 100% and removed any setting of height. This allowed the page to scale automatically to the size it needed to be.

Since this was not an intuitive fix, I’m hoping getting the word out will help others and save them the two weeks of frustration I went through.

A Developer’s Guide to Installing SQL Server 2005 – Part 2 – Installing SQL Server 2005 Express Edition with Advanced Services SP2

OK, so you read my instructions on my previous post, and downloaded the appropriate bits from http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/express/bb410792.aspx If you are planning to, are have already installed the Developer Edition, you only need to download the “Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition with Advanced Services” link. If you are only planning on doing the Express Edition, you’ll also want to download the link under it, “Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition Toolkit”. My instructions below only cover the database, not the toolkit.

OK, you’ve just downloaded the bits and it’s already time for the first “gotcha”. Before installing, you’ll want to make sure you have the IIS components installed on your machine. Odds are if you are an ASP.NET developer you probably already have them, but if not it’s a good idea to check.

In Vista, go to Control Panel, pick Programs and Features, then “Turn Windows Features on or off”. In the dialog that appears, scroll to Internet Information Services and expand the tree. Make sure all the items under “Web Management Tools” are checked. Now go down to “World Wide Web Services”. Under “Application Development Features” make sure .Net Extensibility, ASP.Net, and the ISAPI items are on. In “Common Http Features” check on everything but redirection. Everything under Health and Diagnostics should be on so you can log errors. Finally, under Security all you need on is Request Filtering.

XP is a little simplier. Under the control panel, Go to Add or Remove Programs, Add or Remove Windows Components. In the dialog that pops up, scroll down to Internet Information Services and check it. Click on details, and add FrontPage 2000 Server Extensions to what’s already checked. Then click OK a few times to get the updates installed.

In either situation, you may need your Windows disk handy to install the additional components.

OK, now you’re finally ready to run the setup. Double click on your sqlexpr_adv.exe to see this screen. All you have to do is check on the “I accept..” to accept the license agreement, then click Next.

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Now SQL Server will check to see if it has everything it needs. This is the screen where it would yell at you if you didn’t have IIS installed. Since you do, just click Next.

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Now we get a nice welcome screen. I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy now! Click next to continue.

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Here SQL Server is going to make sure you have everything you need installed. If there is anything missing you should fix it before you proceed. If you get all greens, you’re good to go.

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OK, here we need to deviate from the standard “next next next” default model a lot of us are used to. Make absolutely sure you UNCHECK the box you see below, “Hide advanced configuration options” We definitely want to see those advanced options.

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Do you have it unchecked yet? If you don’t, you won’t get Reporting Services or Full Text Searching or the other cool features installed. Go ahead and fill out your name and company. Oh, and did I mention the box should be unchecked? If it is, like the screen below, you can click next.

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OK, here we are on that advanced options screen. As you can see, all the cool toys are set to not install. Well that’s no fun. Go through each one and set it to install.

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You can see below I have all the items checked on. I want to mention one thing. On the box I’m installing this on, I’ve already got the developer edition installed. So I don’t really need the Client Components. I’ve checked them on so I can show you something later. For now, click Next.

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OK, here is your chace to give your server a name. Since everyone in the world uses SQLExpress, you should definitely not use it. Pick a name that’s logical, perhaps your computer name_express or computer_sql. Whatever you pick, change it now click Next.

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Remember a few screens back when I said I was installing SQL Express on a machine that already had the Developer version installed? This is where it lets me know. The nice thing is the installer is smart enough not to choke. It simply says “Hey, I’ve already got this piece installed so I’ll skip it.” This is handy so you don’t have to think too much about the pieces you’re installing, you can pick everything and if it’s already there the installer will let you know then go on it’s merry way. Speaking of which, it’s time to get on our merry way by clicking Next.

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OK, now it wants to know a few things about how to run. First it wants to know what user id to run the service as. The default you see below will work just fine. Next it wants to what pieces it should run at startup. If you are going to be running this once in a blue moon, I would uncheck the SQL Server and Reporting Services options, then run them manually when you need them. On the other hand, if you are going to be in SQL Server nearly every day, like I am, it makes sense to leave these checked so they are started and ready for you. You’ll also want to leave these on if you are going to let other people connect to your box for testing reasons. Once you make your choices, pick Next.

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OK, here SQL Server wants to know how you are logging into the server. DO NOT click next. Instead look at the next screen shot.

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I don’t like using strictly windows authentication. Instead I much prefer using Mixed Mode. Pick it, then enter a password you can use for the sa account. I prefer this method as it gives me a little flexibility on how to use the database. Make sure you pick a password you’ll remember! Enter it and yes, you guessed it, click next.

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Next it’s asking how you want SQL Server to sort text. I always take the default here, and click next. If you have special sorting needs you can change this, but odds are you can click next too.

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This next screen is another one of those “Gotchas”.

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This is really important to check on, so you can easily administer your own database. Check it on so it looks like the screen below, and hit next.

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OK, time for another important question. You can install Reporting Services using the default config, or you can install but not configure now. The idea behind this was to allow you to install but not configure, then copy the configuration from another existing server. This is ideal for the enterprise where we are setting up one server after another and want them all to be identical. However, for our workstation we can simply install using the default configuration, and hit next.

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Here Microsoft would like your help. Any data Microsoft can gather about SQL Server will help make it a better product. In some small way you’ll be contributing to the next version. However, I do recognize there are some people or shops that are wary of anonymous statistics gathering. I turned it on for my install, but if you have any doubts leave it off like I show below. Once your decision is made, click Next.

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It’s finally time to begin the install. SQL Server shows you your choices one last time, and gives a big “are you sure”. You are, so just hit next.

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OK, go get us a couple of cups of coffee, we’ll sit here and wait a bit. This screen will keep us updated on the install process.

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As things are completed, they turn green, as you see here. When everything is installed, the Next button will become enabled. Click it to proceed.

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This is the last screen of the install, but don’t blow it off casually. It has some good info. Scroll the message window down to the bottom, as you see here, and you’ll find some good links. First, as you see on the screen, is a link to the Books on Line. You should download these and install them, they will become an often referenced companion and you learn SQL Server. Below that (just off the screen) are links to sample databases. If you are installing on a developer workstation and have the space, you should seriously consider installing these. Many, many authors (including myself, so you’ve been warned) will use these as material for their articles and samples. If nothing else it is very informative to see how Microsoft created a database.

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That completes our installation of SQL Server Express with Advances Services. But the fun is just beginning…