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Reporting Services can generate or render your report in multiple ways. When you view a typical report using the Report Manager website it's rendered out as HTML, as a web page, and this is what has the most interactivity, allowing drilldown actions and drillthrough reports, interactive parameters, and so on. And if you have a lot of data, Reporting Services doesn't often even figure out how many pages you have, because you'll actually see a question mark up at the top page, one of question mark. It's rendering these pages one by one as it doesn't need to figure them out until you ask for them.
But you also have the option of exporting these reports in multiple formats using the button on the toolbar here. And there's more going on here than it might first seem, because when you do this it's not just using the web browser; Reporting Services will actually totally regenerate this report. It will render it again in a completely different format using a different set of rules. So if I were to export this file as PDF, Reporting Services will figure out the entire report so it can generate a file with explicit page numbers, but there would be no interactivity, no dropdowns, no drillthroughs.
Now one thing worth bearing in mind when generating a PDF is what happens, say, if you have an interactive report with collapsible regions. Now, some people will think that the PDF will automatically span them all for the printable version, but no, that's not what it does. It will take the current state of the report, which for me I'd only expand it to areas, and that's what will be generated as the PDF, whatever I'm looking at. So whatever you have selected in the browser is what you'll get in the document. But sometimes you're more interested in the data than how this actually looks.
So if, on the other hand, you choose to export as CSV, comma separated values, or as XML, you'll get the entire set of data but no layout information. And there are also specific rendering engines for turning this into Excel or Word. If you're someone who lives in Excel, this is often a very convenient way to make this data your own and perform your own actions on it. It's very common when you export as Excel, you'll get a prompt, a warning or an error about this, and until you actually enable editing, you won't get that full interactivity.
This does are very good job of presenting this Excel spreadsheet the way I just saw it on the web page, but you do have the ability to expand the data. Now, the Word and the Excel rendering engines have been improved in the 2012 version of SQL Server. You can still do it in 2008 R2, but it looks a little nicer in 2012. And you can also export or render out in just a pure image format as a TIFF file or as a web archive and HTML, but I'm not going to show those here. Now there are a couple of big distinctions that people don't tend to think about when they first start using Reporting Services.
First is the idea that reports that might work really well when viewed on the web don't necessarily work well as a PDF and vice versa. And the most problematic component is, not surprisingly, the matrix. Because if someone's looking to experiment with a multicolumn expandable collapsible matrix that works great on the web, but also wants to try and fit this into an 8x11 sheet, well, they're going to have a bad time. You try and print the current view of this and you will find the dreaded horizontal pages. It can be used to map these out, but it's really not the most straightforward thing to let us know what we're looking at here.
You see it's not at all unusual to create two versions of the same report, one targeted at the web and one targeted for printing, with a more explicit but more restricted layout. Now, the most important thing when working with printed pages is having more control over page breaks and page orientation. So let's get into that next.
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