SQL Server Reporting Services Update Fixes Bugs, Adds Features

Microsoft's Service Pack 1 adds support for legacy versions of Excel, improves pagination and matrix rendering performance

Last month, Microsoft Corp. announced a service pack update for its Reporting Services, the enterprise reporting add-on for SQL Server 2000 that the software giant officially unveiled in January.

Microsoft positions Reporting Services as a one-stop shop to create, manage, and publish ad hoc or production reports. The software giant hopes to leverage the ubiquity of its Visual Studio .NET development environment—and its strong integration with SQL Server 2000 and the SQL Server BI stack—to bring reporting functionality to rank-and-file developers who already feel at home in the Visual Studio .NET IDE.

Since it first became available in late January, Reporting Services has been downloaded 75,000 times, Microsoft says.

In addition to fixes for common (e-mail report delivery issues) and not-so-common (Hebrew characters display in reverse order when exported to a PDF file) bugs, SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services SP1 boasts several new features—including improvements to the Reporting Services Excel rendering extension, which now supports viewing in earlier versions of Excel. Similarly, Microsoft has tweaked PDF Reporting Services’ PDF rendering extension to deliver better pagination and matrix rendering performance.

Elsewhere, Reporting Services boasts improved chart control, which results in more control over display styles. Other enhancements include enhanced support for external URLs, which are now supported from within a report; improved report previews, as a result of data caching; new URLs parameters that offer more options for customizing report presentations at run time; and support for hidden parameters.

Missing from the first Reporting Services service pack is technology that Microsoft acquired three months ago from the former ActiveViews Inc., a small, privately-held company that had developed a Web-based report authoring and end-user query tool based on Microsoft’s .NET framework and designed to exploit SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services.

At this point, however, Microsoft has said very little about just how it plans to incorporate ActiveViews and its assets. If the software giant doesn’t expose the ActiveViews technology by means of a service pack, it’s possible that the technology could find its way into a Microsoft-branded end-user query and report authoring tool, complete with drag-and-drop capabilities, that’s more suitable for average business users than the Visual Studio .NET IDE.

Microsoft’s service pack releases and software updates have had something of a checkered history, but judging by the quantity and quality of posts in the microsoft.public.sqlserver.reportingsvcs USENET group, users haven’t encountered any truly blockbuster issues.

Although Reporting Services is a first-generation offering, many users say they’re impressed with its features and functionality. For example, Stephen Witter, a report developer with a medical products company, says the report publishing, distribution, and lifecycle management tools that are part and parcel of the Reporting Services experience have been an especially pleasant surprise. “I have been very impressed with [Reporting Services] and its capabilities for such a new product. At first glance I thought it was just a report writer, but after working in it for a while I started to realize it was much more powerful than I would have ever expected."

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.