SQL Server Reporting Services Development Best Practices

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Using the Business Intelligence Development Studio, you can bang out some fairly nice, basic reports with the Report Wizard without much effort. But making your reports sizzle with all the bells and whistles of a professionally created report, requires some customization. There are so many options in all the object property windows, it is difficult for beginning users to know what they all do. How does one know where to start and which options to learn first?

Check this crib sheet of some of the most commonly used properties options in the Microsoft SQL 2005 Report Designer. This list is by no means inclusive. There are many, many reporting options to choose from. These are just a few that might give you the most bang for the buck, while not being as obvious as some of the others.

Report Properties

To access the Report Properties, click on the little gray square in the top left corner or in the pale yellow section outside the report layout area.


Once selected, the following properties areas are displayed.

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Report Property options:

  • SnapToGrid - For finer control of object sizes, set the SnapToGrid property to False. Once done, you can resize rows, columns, textboxes, etc. to more exact dimensions.

  • InteractiveSize - To achieve one long scrollable web page, change height property (expanc InteractiveSize) to 0. Note: With reports that are very long, this can adversely affect report rendering times. Experiment, use judgement, and obtain feedback from users. Educate your users as to the pros and cons of this.

  • PageSize - The default is 8.5in, 11in. This is a standard portrait letter size page size. For landscape printing, swap the width and height (to 11in, 8.5in). Coordinate these changes with the InteractiveSize. (i.e. If you want to print landscape, but see one long scrollable page in the web browser before printing, set the InteractiveSize to a width of 11in, and a height of 0.)

  • Description - With Reporting Services (RS) in Native mode (not Sharepoint Integration mode), text you write in this property is displayed in the Report Manager and the WSS2 Reporting Services report viewer web part. For RS in Sharepoint Integration mode the entry has no affect. (For Sharepoint Integrated installations, you can add a field to the reporting document library and put the description there.)

Table Properties


Click on the top left square in a table to expose the table properties windows. When your table has the control points exposed, you can access the table properties.

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Table properties:

  • DataSetName - Got have one, even if you are doing something creative like displaying some sort of header table. Almost every report I create has a dataset called ‘header'. I use this with a table to display the report logo graphic and some identifying fields (i.e. report runtime, username, report title, etc). This dataset is just a placeholder without any real content. Sometimes I use select statements like "Select getdate()" or "Select 1".

  • NoRows - Depending on data selection criteria and/or parameters chosen by users, your report may yield no results (no rows). (Or your backend server might be down...yikes!) This option allows you to display a custom message to users in the event there is no data to display. (i.e. "The parameters you chose contains no data...please change your parameter choices and try rerunning the report".)

  • FixedHeader - Set to "True", this is the same as the "Header should remain visible while scrolling" checkbox in the Table Properties pop up window. It's really a slick feature.

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Textbox properties within a table

  • BackgroundColor - Background color of the textbox

  • BorderStyle - I prefer "Solid" most of the time

  • Color - Means font color

  • Format - Used for various number, percentage, date, text formatting. For Dates without time use ‘d'. For integers, use ‘N0'. For fixed decimals use N and then a number. ‘N4' is a number with 4 decimals. Use ‘P1' for a percentage with 1 decimal place. Check BOL for more formatting codes.

  • Visibility - Another favorite, but deserves it's own tip. Another day...

  • CanGrow - ‘True' most of the time, but I like to use ‘False' if I don't want lines to wrap. In that event, I add the field to the Tooltip in the properties window of the textbox.

Group Properties

In the Properties section...

RepeatOnNewPage - Does what it implies.

Visibity - Use for drill downs.

Select the entire row of the group, right-click on it and select "Edit Group" (not Properties).

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Don't forget to put in an option for Sorting the group.

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(This isn't really a "Property", but it's in the "Grouping and Sorting Properties" configuration screen so I though I would mention it.)

Next Steps

  • Once you master these property options, you'll be ready to take on more Reporting Services challenges.

  • Take a look at these other Reporting Services tips

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Rob Fisch Rob Fisch has worked with SQL Server since version 6.5 as a dba, developer, report writer and data warehouse designer.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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Comments For This Article

Friday, October 26, 2012 - 9:48:49 PM - Surya Shekhar Konar Back To Top (20110)

When i export the report (using SSRS 2005) into excel the all cell shown as wrapped. I need to turn off Text Wrap but it can grow.

Saturday, April 21, 2012 - 6:22:34 PM - Harry McEntee Back To Top (17044)

Rob, I have an SSRS 2008 Report with two subreports. Is there a way I can add the totals from each of the subreports together in a taxt box on the parent report? Using different datasets wont work for me as the data is not compatable. Tnx in anticipation of your help. - Harry

Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 7:48:53 AM - Rob Fisch Back To Top (16579)

Hi Lungisa,

You may want to consider creating two (separate) data sources (with 2 separate SQL statements) or in your case, 2 stored procedure calls, and present them in multiple SUB REPORTS, which you can present in a single report. (You can nest multiple sub reports within a single report). This can get a little tricky, so you may need to research how to do sub reports, but that is out of scope of this particular article. I am sure you will find information about it in Books Online or other blogs.


Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 5:12:00 AM - Lungisa Dotye Back To Top (16578)

I am generating the report on SSRS 2005 (BI development Studio) and executing the stored procedure which is supposed to return multiple result sets (e.g. two table). the problem with SSRS 2005 is that it only returns the first table (result set), how can I configure it so that I can view all the tables as supposed to be returned when the procedure runs? Take note that I'm not very smart in SQL so far



Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 5:06:27 AM - Lungisa Dotye Back To Top (16577)


I' new in this whole SQL environment and I still try to learn a lot on how to use SQL server services, I found this article very useful.



Monday, May 3, 2010 - 3:42:03 PM - dfortier Back To Top (5315)

 Hi Rob,

   This is a great post on SSRS report properties, it certainly enlightened me in several areas.  Keep up the good work, a follow-up would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks for taking the time to share with us less experienced users.


Don F.


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