SQL Server 2008 includes a new version of Report Builder which was first introduced in SQL Server 2005 for end users to create ad hoc reports. It delivers an intuitive, Office-like report authoring environment enabling business and power users to leverage their experience with Microsoft Office 2007 products. It’s now a local client install rather than a click-once application that you download and install from Report manager. Since it is a thick client application you can now design more complex reports then prior versions. Compared with Report Builder 1.0, here are my top 5 new features:
1. Enable users to customize and update all existing reports.
I feel this is the best new feature. Report Builder 1.0 claimed it can allow business users to create their own report. This is true however Report Builder 1.0 only creates reports against the Report Model (a report model is a business description of an underlying database that is used for building ad hoc reports in Report Builder 1.0. It is an additional layer of information that maps database tables and views into concepts that are meaningful to business users.). If you deployed some reports which do not use a Report Model as data source and then try to modify them using Report Builder 1.0 The systems doesn’t allow you to open the existed report, because the data source associated with the reports is not a report model. This limitation frustrated people when they are not using a Report Model as their report data source. But with Report Builder 2.0 full data source support is provided. It continues to supports the Report Model, and also allows you to create your own data sources based on relational DB or Multi-dimensional DB. You can use the server resources such as shared data sources. This is great improvement, now it can really enable users to customize and update all existing reports, regardless of where they were initially designed.
2. Multiple data regions in a single report
In most situations people want to create a report which combines multiple charts and tables. But his seems not possible in Report Builder 1.0 because it only supports one data region in the report, so you either create a chart report or a table but not both. Report Builder 2.0 supports multiple data regions in a single report, you can insert tables and charts and also matrixes into a single report, and they can have queries of data from multiple data sources. The following is an example of combining different regions.
3. Flexible Report Layout
Another significant enhancement delivered in Report Builder 2.0 is the new Flexible Report Layout data region. This allow users to build more flexible reports since it now supports free form layout which we didn’t have in 1.0. When you build matrix reports, it support multiple groups. We can add subtotals for each group level, for example, figure below show how you can add 2 levels in both row and column and summary up in each group level plus you can drill down by each group.
This flexibility is very nice to have and you probably found it’s really a headache when trying to add subtotal to different group level in Report Builder 1.0.
4. Enriched data visualization
Report Builder 2.0 has a new Gauge data region which supports 2 Gauge Types, Linear and Radial; this is good if you want to create some KPI reports.
Also, except the following chart type in Report Builder 1.0:
There are more new chart types. These are very similar to the Office Chart types:
5. Office style user interface
If end users are familiar with Microsoft Office 2007 environment, they won’t have trouble to use the Report Builder 2.0. It’s a completely new user interface that inherits from the Office 2007 look and feel, you will find that the new user interface is pretty intuitive and easy to use.
So with those new features, business users now can more easily create richer reports with Report Builder 2.0 than the previous version. The fact that it can support various data source formats is a big benefit and the end users have a new tool for developing ad-hoc reports or custom existing reports.
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