SQLPam's Blog

April 11, 2012

Monster Reports – Part III – Disparate Controls

Filed under: Presentations,SSRS — sqlpam @ 8:29 pm

This – as the name states – is Part III in a series on My New Presentation – Taking the Scary out of Monster Reports. Previously, we discussed that there are 2 types of monster reports: Disparate Data and Disparate Controls. This article will discuss Disparate Control reports, some of their challenges and some ways to get around them.

With this type of report, I usually start by defining the components that will go on the report. If the user has supplied a detailed version of what they want I know how to proceed. If not, I need to ask myself and sometimes the user, some of the following questions:

Is the report portrait or landscape?

  • Will I need more than one page for the report?
  • How many columns are needed across a page?
  • Can the different components be sized close to the same width? There might be different column widths on a page allowing you to group the components into the columns by width.
  • Do the different components have a relatively fixed height or will they grow with data? Top X reports are relatively fixed – as are set aggregates. A list based on parameters may grow beyond your page.

You may need to work with the user to come up with a clean design. Knowing the column widths up front is critical for a clean report before you start the next step of building the individual components.

I do recommend building the different components individually. This does three things:

  1. It allows me to work in a more controlled environment without worrying about messing up something else.
  2. It adds to the catalog of reports I can offer my users.
  3. It builds a “library” of reports I can pull onto my Monster reports.

Item one is really big on my list. It really pains me when I have a report close and then mess it up by adding something that doesn’t work. By breaking them out individually, I get the luxury of a clean sand box. I know that what I am attempting is possible. Remember that some things are easier to accomplish than others. This is where we find that out.

Item two tends to be high on my clients list. In addition to the Monster report, my user often wants to be able to print the individual components. I will often place these in a subfolder and adjust the parameter settings to enhance the user experience. If I am implementing the reports on the Monster report as sub reports, these are not the deployments I access. Those are usually deployed so they are not visible to the average user. This allows the user to share a small portion of the Monster report without exposing everything. It is a nice bonus for them.

Item three is my primary reason for breaking these out into individual reports. Basically, I am creating the Lego blocks I will be using to build my report. If I need a red block – I can easily grab it and implement. It has my data sets and layouts to make my life so much easier. Most importantly – I now know they actually work.

Now that I know what components I need, I need to determine how I am going to fit them together. I have used two methods primarily. Sub reports called from a table on the Monster report or including everything on the base layout.

A table holding sub reports is usually the easiest method. There are two things to consider. If the heights of the controls are not consistent there will be gaps when one control takes up more vertical space than the other controls on a row. Remember that SSRS does not allow you the luxury of spanning rows. But let’s assume that all your components are the same size. We need to handle the parameters. When calling sub reports, the parameters are expected to come from the table’s defined dataset. In our case, we need to create a data set that defines our parameters as the columns of the main grids data set. Now we set for a fast build. I usually define one sub report and copy it to the other cells. I then make changes based on the component’s parameter needs. This makes pulling it together very fast and very easy. It just needed a little prep.

The other method is a little more solid – less exposed blank space. I start by adding each individual dataset on the report. If I am reusing a component with different parameters – I need a multiple datasets. At this point I move to the layout where I can start dropping copies of the original components onto the report.

If I drop the components directly onto the base layout, I will encounter the same blank space issue as I had with the table. However, if I place rectangles on the base report and drop a copy of the component into the rectangle I have fewer issues with blank space. The rectangles allow each “column” to grow vertically independent of the contents of the other rectangles. The rectangles can also help set the page breaks if needed.

Don’t get me wrong, Monster reports are seldom simple. By with previously outlined steps, I hope you find them less “Scary”.

You find the files associated with this preasentation at: http://sdrv.ms/II1Lcn.

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