Using Reporting Services
SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services provides a complete set of tools and applications that you can use to author, publish, and manage reports. Reporting Services can be used in a variety of ways, depending on your level of technical expertise and what you want to achieve. You can use visual tools to get right to work. Or if you are a programmer, you can embed Reporting Services technology in your own custom solution.
Using Reporting Services Applications and Tools
You can use the applications and tools included with Reporting Services to create, view, and manage reports. No coding is required. Reporting Services can be used out-of-the-box as a reporting solution for existing SQL Server databases, Analysis Server databases, and other data source types.
Although report design and management tools are not difficult to use, they are not designed for novice users. To author reports, you need to know how to connect to data sources, create queries, and optionally write expressions. To manage reports, it helps if you understand system administration and middle-tier applications. For more information about using Reporting Services applications, see Tools and Utilities Reference, Designing and Creating Reports, and Managing and Working with Published Reports.
Adding Report Features to Your Application
You can add Reporting Services functionality to new or existing applications. Many applications include predefined reports that provide information and analysis about application operations. If you are building an application that includes report features, you can make Reporting Services part of your offering. You can add report functionality to existing applications by creating the reports that you want to include, and then packaging the reports, report server engine, and report server database with your application. At run time, when the user initiates an action that calls for a report, your application code invokes the report server engine, which then retrieves the report definition from the report server database and processes the report with the latest data. For more information, see Integrating Reporting Services into Applications.
Building Custom Design and Report Management Tools
The tools and applications included with Reporting Services are based on programmatic interfaces that are available to all users. This means that you can replace the applications and tools included in Reporting Services with a custom tool set that you create. To build a custom designer, you must study the report definition language to understand the structure of reports that you must support in a design tool. To build a custom portal or report management tool, you must review the API to learn about the report server management functions you must support. Reporting Services includes a WMI provider that you can use to develop Windows-based tools used for server administration. For more information, see Report Definition Language, Using the Reporting Services WMI Provider, and Reporting Services Programming.
Extending the Reporting Services Platform
Third-party vendors, consultants, and corporate developers can extend the report server platform to support custom functionality. Extending the report server requires an understanding of software architecture and a detailed knowledge of the functionality that you want to add. To build delivery extensions for a device or application, for example, you must understand the inner workings of the device or application that you want to incorporate. To build a rendering extension, you must have expert knowledge of the format that you want to support. The product documentation provides information about the integration points between custom extensions and the report server; however, it does not provide guidance about writing to specific devices, formats, or applications. For more information, see Reporting Services Programming, and Extending Reporting Services.
To evaluate Reporting Services and understand its features, you can create and then publish a report using the report-authoring tool that comes with Reporting Services. After you publish a report, you can access the report through a URL or from Report Manager. Follow a simple tutorial to learn the basic steps, or read overview topics that describe the report life cycle from start to finish. For more information, see Walkthrough – Creating a Basic Report and Authoring, Managing, and Delivering Reports. For more information about product documentation, see Getting Started with Reporting Services Books Online.