Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Customizing and Formatting SSRS Parameters Toolbar : Limitations, Risks and Solution

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Parameters toolbar in SSRS reports is the out-of-box UI based mechanism for parameter selection. The good part is you get this user interface without any effort, and this makes your report ready to use within seconds. The real part when you would see problem with this comes at a later stage, and you run with an unforeseen risk. The parameter toolbar is very much primitive in look and feel. Few limitations with this toolbar in my views are as below:

1) You cannot apply any custom styles and formatting to the text / controls in this toolbar.

2) You would always have a single button with the caption "View report". You can neither add any more buttons program anything in this button.

3) You do not get a reset button, neither you can add any such button besides the "View report" button.

4) You always get parameters in two columns, which makes the parameters toolbar too huge in height many a times.

5) When multiple values are selected from multi-selection parameter dropdowns, they are displayed as comma separated values. With tens to hundreds of values, this UI becomes almost unacceptable to users.

6) Multi-selection parameter dropdowns have "Select All" as the parameter value which acts as a function to select all values. But the parameter dropdown does not display the text "All". It still displays comma-separated values. This kind of UI confuses and stimulates users to bang their IT departments with CRs (Change Requests). This becomes a big issue, as by the time users hit you with this requirement, you would have dozens of reports ready and deployed all over the place.

7) Whether the report is displayed using .NET Reportviewer control / Sharepoint ( MOSS ) reportviewer webpart, this toolbar is still not programmable.

So what is the solution to this problem ? First option is that you can switch to .NET based UI for parameter selection and programmatically pass parameter values to reports, thereby abandoning display of this toolbar. Another option if you are using MOSS Reportviewer webpart is to use some other webpart like Filter webpart or create parameters with MOSS development, and apply the same technique suggested in the case of .NET.

In my views, Microsoft should expose a programmable API for customizing this toolbar. SSRS has evolved healthily since the SSRS 2005 version, but even in SSRS 2008 R2, this toolbar is in it's primitive form. Power Users would interpret SSRS as an immature / incapable technology as it does not allow any flexibility to program even cosmetic issues and provides a primitive toolbar out-of-box, and IT department would have tough time explaining that it's the only odd corner of the technology. Till the time some evolution happens on this toolbar, it's better to plan your solution in advance for the risks associated with usage of this toolbar.

PS: Above viewpoint is based on the best of my knowledge about customizing SSRS parameters toolbar. I am aware that upto an extent you can customize this toolbar for Reports Manager with some styles, but it's not programmable using any kind of object model. In case you are aware of such solution, please feel free to correct me and share your solution for the benefit of all.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for raising the flags. We are going to raise these with our internal product development team.
Will keep you posted if anything positive turns out.
-Vijay Bhaskar

Anonymous said...

Any Updates related this post? I think it would be nice if you can actually modify the Report Manager Toolbox.



Bolton said...

It would have been nice if you gave an example on how have to overcome these short comings in your projects realistically. It would help people like me who are struggling to find a solution on web.

Smiling Tears said...

1. Even event programming is not possible.,like raising an even when we select an option in drop downs...or on button click of View Report

2. Validation is not possible, like allowing only the numerics

3. We cannot remove white spaces if we have any in the page

4. We can't hide group by column, which is used for Drill Down column

5. Showing the Dynamic Hierarchical data is not possible

and many more... Microsoft has to improve the capabilities of this SSRS Reporting module

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