Reporting Services 2008

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SqlTuesday T SQL Tuesday #37 – Invite to Join me in a Month of Joins

When I saw this month’s T-SQL Tuesday’s topic, hosted by Sebastian Meine, my initial thoughts were indeed:

What on earth can I still write about JOIN if Sebastian is going to write 31 posts on them?

So then I thought, let’s not write about the T-SQL JOIN, but about the Join() function in Reporting Services!

I hope you enjoy this little read as we delve into a couple of the SSRS functions!

Joining Some Stuff

You may or may not already know, but the functions in Reporting Services are actually using VB.NET functions.  These functions are located in the Microsoft.VisualBasic namespace.

And the Join() is actually a method of the Strings class.

So what does the definition of the Join() look like?

public static string Join(
    Object[] SourceArray,
    string Delimiter

(Yes, I prefer C# style.)

It takes two parameters: an array of objects which contains the strings to be joined and a string that will be used as delimiter for the output.

So where in SSRS do we have an object array?  Well, in the case of a multi-valued parameter!  I’ve actually already mentioned this briefly in my article on combining multiple-value parameters with stored procedures about three years ago.

As per the definition, the delimiter is a string, not just one character.  Which means the following would be an interesting expression to display the selected values on the report:

=Join(Parameters!SomeMultivalueParam.Value, ", ")

That’s right, we can use more than one character as delimiter.  Assuming the report has got a multi-value parameter called SomeMultivalueParam, this could result in the following:

Joining several values from a multi-value parameter together in a comma-separated string

Even better, because our parameter is an array of strings, we can also get a count out of it using the following expression:

    & " items selected: "
    & Join(Parameters!SomeMultivalueParam.Value, ", ")

That generates the following output:

Displaying number of items selected=

Unjoining Some Stuff?

Okay, that’s enough about Join, what if we need the opposite?  To just get a particular selected value out of a multi-valued parameter, you can simply use the following array syntax:


Beware that the array indexes are zero-based, so the above expression gives us the second selected value from the object array.  In our example it would thus return “second val”.

But what if we’ve got a character-separated list of values coming out of the database?  In that case we don’t have an object array, right?  But that doesn’t stop us from creating one!

Which brings us to the opposite of the Join(): the Split()!

Here’s what the Split function looks like:

public static string[] Split(
    string Expression,
    string Delimiter,
    int Limit,
    CompareMethod Compare

Now let’s look at its usage by trying the following expression:

=Split("val1,val2,val3", ",").GetValue(1)

What do you think it returns?

That’s right: “val2”!

Would this also work for longer delimiters?  Well, the MSDN page contains some contradictory information in that perspective.  It mentions the following as description for the Delimiter parameter:

Type: System.String

Optional. Any single character used to identify substring limits. If Delimiter is omitted, the space character (” “) is assumed to be the delimiter.

Hang on, single character??  But some of the examples on that same page are using longer delimiters!

Hmm, let’s try that out!  What do you think the following returns?

=Split("val1,;val2,;val3", ",;").GetValue(1)

Yep, you guessed right, once more “val2”!

BTW: the following syntax works as well but the SSRS editor complains about it so better not use it:

=Split("val1,;val2,;val3", ",;")(1)

To be really sure that we’re actually looking at the right definition, let’s do one more test.

Here’s what I did.  I opened Visual Studio 2010 and created a new C# Windows Forms Application project.  Then I added a reference to the Microsoft.VisualBasic assembly.

Yes, you can do that!  Just right-click the References node in the Solution Explorer and select Add Reference…

Adding an assembly reference to the C# project

Switch to the .NET tab and select the Microsoft.VisualBasic component:

Adding the Microsoft.VisualBasic assembly to the C# project

To continue, I double-clicked the Windows form’s grey background to get to the code behind the form and added the following using:

using Microsoft.VisualBasic;

And then I typed the following code in the Form1_Load method:

MessageBox.Show(Strings.Split("val1,;val2,;val3", ",;").GetValue(1).ToString());

To conclude I hit F5!

What do you think that returned?


Output of the Split function using a multi-character delimiter

So the Split function does actually support a multi-character delimiter!

Have fun!



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This week I was asked twice, by two different (luckily) colleagues, if I knew how to change the order of the parameters in a report in SQL Server Reporting Services.  I still remember that the first time when I needed this after my upgrade to 2008, I also spent some time looking for it.  Apparently it’s still hard to find so I’ve now decided to write a quick post about it.  I promise you, once you know it you’ll say “how silly”.

The following screenshot should say it all:

Use the arrows in the Report Data pane to move parameters up or down

That’s right, those two small arrow buttons in the Report Data pane can be used to move the parameters up or down.  They may be difficult to spot but once you’ve found them you’ll never forget.  Why are they difficult to spot?

Move Up/Down buttons greyed out

For several reasons:

  • they are greyed out when no parameter is selected
  • they may not be visible when your Report Data pane is too small

How silly huh?

Have fun!



How to: Change the Order of a Report Parameter (Reporting Services)


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On the forums I now and then encounter questions regarding images on SSRS reports.  Instead of re-inventing the wheel each time, I decided to write an article about the subject.  So in this article I’ll be discussing and demonstrating several different ways of how images can be put on a report.

I’m using SQL Server Reporting Services 2008 R2 CTP, more precisely version 10.50.1352.12, but the methods explained here will work on any SSRS 2008.  Furthermore I’m using the AdventureWorks2008R2 database, available at CodePlex.

The resulting report, including image files, can be downloaded from my Skydrive.

The Scenario

The marketing department has requested a product catalogue.  This catalogue should contain all products produced by our two daughter companies: The Canyon Peak and Great Falls Soft.  The catalogue should be grouped on company, with the next company’s products starting on a new page.

Further requirements are:

  1. Each page needs an image in its header, with even pages displaying a different image than odd pages.
  2. Each company has a logo.  The logo should be displayed in the company’s header.
  3. Each product has a logo.  The logo should be displayed as part of the product details.

A design document containing the expected layout, including all image material, has been provided.

The Data

The following query provides us with all the data needed to produce the report:

SELECT 'The Canyon Peak' as Company, 'TheCanyonPeak_logo.png' CompanyLogo,
    'The Canyon Peak company specializes in all kinds of bikes, such as touring and road bikes.' CompanyDescription,
    P.Name as Product, PS.Name as Subcategory, PC.Name as Category,
    PP.LargePhoto, P.ListPrice, P.Weight, P.Size,
    P.SizeUnitMeasureCode, P.WeightUnitMeasureCode
FROM Production.Product AS P
    INNER JOIN Production.ProductSubcategory AS PS
        ON PS.ProductSubcategoryID = P.ProductSubcategoryID
    INNER JOIN Production.ProductCategory AS PC
        ON PC.ProductCategoryID = PS.ProductCategoryID
    LEFT OUTER JOIN Production.ProductProductPhoto PPP
        ON PPP.ProductID = P.ProductID
    LEFT OUTER JOIN Production.ProductPhoto PP
        ON PPP.ProductPhotoID = PP.ProductPhotoID
WHERE PC.Name = 'Bikes' --The Canyon Peak sells bikes
    and PP.ProductPhotoID > 1 --I don't want NO IMAGE AVAILABLE
SELECT 'Great Falls Soft' as Company, 'GreatFallsSoft_logo.png' CompanyLogo,
    'Great Falls Soft uses only the softest tissues available for those sporting clothes.  And on top of that, they''re waterproof.' CompanyDescription,
    P.Name as Product, PS.Name as Subcategory, PC.Name as Category,
    PP.LargePhoto, P.ListPrice, P.Weight, P.Size,
    P.SizeUnitMeasureCode, P.WeightUnitMeasureCode
FROM Production.Product AS P
    INNER JOIN Production.ProductSubcategory AS PS
        ON PS.ProductSubcategoryID = P.ProductSubcategoryID
    INNER JOIN Production.ProductCategory AS PC
        ON PC.ProductCategoryID = PS.ProductCategoryID
    LEFT OUTER JOIN Production.ProductProductPhoto PPP
        ON PPP.ProductID = P.ProductID
    LEFT OUTER JOIN Production.ProductPhoto PP
        ON PPP.ProductPhotoID = PP.ProductPhotoID
WHERE PC.Name = 'Clothing' --Great Falls Soft sells clothes, waterstopping soft clothes
    and PP.ProductPhotoID > 1 --I don't want NO IMAGE AVAILABLE
ORDER BY Category asc, Subcategory asc, Product asc;

I’m not going into the details of this query.  Let’s just say that I’m manipulating data from the database in combination with some hardcoded data to get usable data for our example.  I’ve added some comments to make it clear what the query is doing.  If you have a look at its output, you’ll see that it produces a list of products with some additional fields.

Results of the query

Different Ways Of Adding Images

To get started, open up a SSRS solution, add a new report, add a data source connecting to your AdventureWorks 2008 R2 DB, and add a dataset using the above query.

Embedding Images In Your Report

The first way of adding images to a report that we’ll take a look at is by embedding them inside the report.  Looking at the scenario requirements described earlier, this is requirement 1.

Let’s add a header to the report.  In the BIDS menu, select Report > Add Page Header.

Adding a header to a report

If you don’t see the Report menu item, you probably have not selected your report.  Click your report in the Design view to select it.

From the Toolbox, drag the Image report item onto the header portion of the report.  Doing that will show a pop-up window, the Image Properties.  By default, the Select the image source combobox is set to Embedded.  Good, that’s what we need at this point.  What we now need to do is import an image into the report, using the Import button.

Clicking the Import button shows a common file Open dialog.  Our marketing department has given me two images for use in the header: Cloudy_banner.png and AnotherCloudy_banner.png.  Let’s select the first one.

Adding an image to a report by using the Import button on the Image Properties window

If you don’t see any images, have a look at that filter dropdown as highlighted in the screenshot above.  By default this is set to JPEG files.

Here’s the result in the Image Properties:

Image Properties with an image selected

On the Size page, select Clip instead of Fit proportional.  This is a setting that you’ll need to look at case per case.  For our header images, Clip is the most suitable option.

Image Properties: set Display to Clip

Close the Image Properties window and enlarge the image placeholder so that it occupies the whole header area:

Image added to report header

As you can see, we now have an image in the header.  But we haven’t fully implemented the requirement yet.  The even pages should display a different image than the uneven ones.

To be able to do that, we’ll first add the second banner image to the report.  In the Report Data pane, locate the Images node and open it up.  You’ll notice that the image that we inserted earlier can be found here.

The Images node in the Report Data pane shows all embedded images

Right-click the Images node and select Add Image.

Right-click Images node to add an embedded image to the report

That opens up the familiar file Open dialog which was used to add the first image.  So I’m now selecting the file called AnotherCloudy_banner.png, after changing the default filter to PNG.  After clicking OK, the image gets added under the Images node.

Second banner image added to the report

With the second image added, all that remains to be done is tell the header that it should pick different images depending on the page number.

Right-click the image in the header and select Image Properties.  On the General page, when you click the dropdown of the setting called Use this image, you’ll notice that there are two values now.  These are the same values as displayed in the Report Data pane.  And these are the values to be used in the expression that we’ll create to rotate the images depending on page number.

Click the fx button next to the dropdown and enter the following expression:

=IIF(Globals!PageNumber Mod 2 = 0, "Cloudy_banner", "AnotherCloudy_banner")

This is a fairly simple expression, using the Mod operator and the IIF() function.  When page number can be divided by two, which means it’s an even page number, Cloudy_banner is displayed.  Otherwise the other banner is displayed.

That’s it, the report header is finished.  When you have a look at the report in Preview, it should now show the second banner on the first page – this is an uneven page.

To conclude this chapter I’d like to mention that this method is usually not the preferred one.  A disadvantage here is that the images are stored inside the report RDL and thus cannot be modified without altering the report itself.

Here’s the evidence:

    <EmbeddedImage Name="Cloudy_banner">

To have a look at the RDL yourself, just right-click the report in the Solution Explorer and select View Code.

On to requirement number two!

Displaying Images Through A URL

At the moment, the report body is still empty, so drag a Table onto it.  Put the Table in the upper-left corner, remove one of the columns so that two remain, remove the Header row and make it a bit wider.

Now set the DataSetName property of the Tablix to the name of your dataset, in my case that’s dsProducts.

The report should display the data grouped on company, so right-click on the line that says Details in the Row Groups window part at the bottom of the Design View.  Select Add Group > Parent Group.

Right-click the Details line in Row Groups to add a new parent group

Group by Company and add a group header:

Tablix grouping

Remove the extra first column that just got generated:

Remove unwanted column

We’ve now got an empty tablix with two columns, a Details row and a Company header row.  In our dataset, one of the fields is called CompanyDescription.  Hover the mouse pointer above the textbox in the top-right, click the small icon that appears and choose the field from the dropdown that appears when you click the icon.

Click the small icon to get a list of fields

To add the company’s logo, drag an Image from the Toolbox pane into the textbox on the left of the company description.  Doing this opens up the by now familiar Image Properties dialog.

Give it a good name, such as CompanyLogo, and select External as image source.

Click the fx button next to the Use this image box and enter an expression such as this one:

="file:C:\vavr\test\" + Fields!CompanyLogo.Value

When using External as image source, the image expression should result in a valid URL, any valid URL.  In my example the files are located in a local folder called c:\vavr\test.  Keep in mind that, when you deploy the report to a server, the images should be located in that same folder, this time located on the server.

The Image Properties configured to display an External image

By default the image gets displayed using the Fit Proportional setting.  You can verify this in the Size page of the Image Properties.  We want the image to get fully displayed while maintaining the aspect ratio, so leave the setting as it is.  Close the image properties dialog.

Vertically enlarge the first row in our tablix to an acceptable size.  In my case the marketing department specified to use a height of 1.5 inches for the company logo.  With the image selected, locate the Size > Height property and set it to “1,5in”.  Note that the decimal separator used here depends on your local settings.

Now have a look at the report in Preview:

The report with company logos added

Note that I’ve removed the borders of all textboxes by setting their BorderStyle property to None.

With the logo images implemented we have fulfilled requirement two.  On to number three.

Retrieving Images From The Database

In this last requirement we’ll have a look at displaying images that are retrieved from the database, also known as data-bound images.

The retrieving part is actually already implemented.  In our dataset there’s a field called LargePhoto, that one contains a picture of the product.

Let’s add some product details and a picture in that remaining blank row.  To get full control over layout I want to make the detail part of the tablix a freestyle part.  First merge the two cells together by selecting both of them, then right-click and choose Merge Cells.

Merging two cells together in a tablix

Now select a Rectangle in the Toolbox pane and drop it into the merged area.  To add fields such as Subcategory and Product you can just select them from the Report Data pane and drop them inside the rectangle.  I’m also adding some additional labels and fields, as shown in the next screenshot.

The product details in Design view

As you can see I’ve modified the fonts a bit.  The rendered version:

The rendered product details

This is the expression used for displaying the weight:

    Fields!Weight.Value & " " & Fields!WeightUnitMeasureCode.Value

And here’s the expression for the size field:

=Fields!Size.Value & " " & Fields!SizeUnitMeasureCode.Value

For the layout of the price field I’ve just entered C in the Format property of the textbox.

With the textual product details completed, all that remains to be done is adding the product image.

From the Toolbox pane, drag an Image into the remaining whitespace in the rectangle, next to the product details.  (You did keep some space available, right?)

Again we get the familiar Image Properties popup.  Give it a good name, like ProductImage, and select the image source that we haven’t used yet, Database.  In the Use this field dropdown, select LargePhoto, and select image/gif as MIME type.

Note: the images are stored as GIF.  You can verify this by running a select on the Production.ProductPhoto table.  Looking at the LargePhotoFileName field we see that the extension is .gif.

There one textbox on the General page that’s still blank.  That one is called Tooltip.  Click the fx button next to it and enter following formula:


Click sufficient OK buttons until the properties dialog is gone, then resize the image placeholder so that it occupies the remaining whitespace.

Here’s what the result looks like in preview:

The final report, with a tooltip on the product image

When hovering the mouse pointer above the product image, you’ll get a nice tooltip.


In this article I have illustrated the three possible methods of adding an image to your Reporting Services report.

Have fun!



BOL: Adding Images to a Report


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This article is aimed at report developers who are used to develop reports using relational databases and have gotten a first-time assignment to develop reports on OLAP cubes.

It demonstrates how to build a report using SQL Server Reporting Services 2008 with data coming from an OLAP cube running on SQL Server Analysis Services 2008.

The OLAP database used in the article is called “Adventure Works DW 2008”, available for download at CodePlex.

If you’re fairly new to Reporting Services (aka SSRS) and you find that this article is going a bit too fast, I’d like to point you to my other article which explains how to build a report that’s retrieving data using regular stored procedures.


When people are talking about databases, what they are usually referring to are “regular” relational OLTP databases.  OLTP stands for Online Transaction Processing.  As the name implies, these types of databases are built to handle many simultaneous transactions (consisting of actions such as inserts, updates, deletes) in real-time.  I’m sure you’re familiar with these types of database so I won’t go further into them.

OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) on the other hand is a totally different story.  OLAP cubes are built to answer multi-dimensional analytical queries as fast as possible.  For that purpose, what you can find in such a database are measures (these are the numbers) stored in cubes, and dimensions which allow filtering the measures.  This filtering is often referred to as slicing and dicing.  Furthermore, OLAP cubes contain pre-aggregated data, again to be able to answer queries as fast as possible.

Let’s make this clear with an example.  Imagine the following request:

“Give me the sum of all sales of product X for period Y in country Z.”

Three dimensions can be recognized in that request: “product X” is found in the Product dimension, “period Y” in the Date dimension and “country Z” in the Geography dimension.  (I’ve used the actual dimension names as they are called in the Adventure Works OLAP database.)

Each dimension consists of attributes and attribute hierarchies and it’s those attributes that you’re actually referring to when building an MDX query.  MDX stands for Multidimensional Expressions and that is the language used to query an OLAP database, just like you use SQL to query a relational database.

Looking at our example, what we need is for the Product attribute in the Product dimension to be equal to X.  An attribute in a dimension can also be written as [Dimension].[Attribute], thus we also want [Date].[Date] to be equal to Y and [Geography].[Country] equal to Z.

As for the measure part, that’s what “the sum of all sales” is referring to.  When looking at the measures available in the Adventure Works cube, one of the measures that would fulfill the request is the Reseller Sales Amount in the Reseller Sales measure group.  The Analysis Services engine searches the cube and retrieves the aggregated number for [Measures].[Reseller Sales Amount] available at the intersection of [Product].[Product] X, [Date].[Date] Y and [Geography].[Country] Z.

OLAP cubes are usually, although not necessarily, build on top of a data warehouse.  In SQL Server, a data warehouse is still a relational database, unlike an OLAP cube, but the table structure is different from an OLTP database.  A data warehouse contains tables that represent dimensions and other tables that contain the facts.  The facts are the numbers, so the measures that were mentioned earlier.  This is called a dimensional model.  Dimensional modeling was invented by Ralph Kimball, one of the pioneers in data warehousing.  For completeness I’d like to mention that another data warehousing approach was described by Bill Inmon.  I’ll leave it up to you to do some research on both approaches and decide for yourself which one you prefer, possibly even a mix of both.

As far as the “Adventure Works DW 2008” OLAP database is concerned, it’s built on top of the AdventureWorksDW2008 dimensional database.

Okay, I believe this theoretical explanation was sufficient for now, let’s start with the report!

Your First Report

Business Requirements

You’ve gotten the assignment to create a report that shows the reseller sales numbers by region.  The highest level to be shown is Country, with drilldown through State/Province to City.

Creating The Shared Data Source

Just like when building reports on OLTP databases, we’re not going anywhere without a Data Source.  I’m going to create a Shared Data Source called OLAP_AdventureWorks.rds:

Shared Data Source connecting to Adventure Works OLAP Database

The Type that we need is Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services, which is the SQL Server service that’s running the OLAP databases.  Furthermore I’ve selected the “Adventure Works DW 2008” database.

Connection Properties specifying the Adventure Works DW 2008 OLAP database

There’s no need to type the database name yourself.  After you’ve provided sufficient credentials in the Credentials page, you can just select it from the dropdown in the Connection Properties screen.  This screen is opened by clicking that Edit button on the Shared Data Source Properties window.

Your First OLAP Dataset

I’ve created a new report called FirstOLAPReport.rdl.  In that report I’ve specified that I’ll be using the Shared Data Source created earlier.  This source is known as srcAdventureWorksOLAP in my report.

Next step is to create the dataset.  I’m calling it dsResellerSalesByRegion.  As this is our first OLAP report, we’re not going to write the MDX ourselves but we will use the Query Designer which is opened by clicking the button that has the words Query Designer printed on them, how difficult can that be?!

How to open the MDX Query Designer

The BIDS knows that it should open the MDX Query Designer because our data source is connecting to an Analysis Services server.  All we need to do now is to drag the measures and dimension attributes that we require into the area marked with “Drag levels or measures here to add to the query.”.

Let’s start by dragging our measures into that area.  We need two measures, both located in the Reseller Sales measure group.  They are called Reseller Order Quantity and Reseller Sales Amount.  Following screenshot shows the situation after the first measure has been added.  The second measure was being dragged into it as well.  When dragging items into the area, a vertical blue line appears to indicate where the item can be added.

MDX Query Designer: dragging a measure into the query

Next I’m going to drag the Geography hierarchy, located in the Geography dimension, into the design area.

MDX Query Designer: dragging a hierarchy into the query

Now we’ve got all the data we need for our report.

As you have noticed, the Query Designer automatically executes the query each time it gets modified when you’re dragging an item into the design area.  If you don’t want this behaviour, it can be switched off by clicking the Auto Execute button in the toolbar (indicated by a red 1 in the screenshot below).

Query Designer toolbar

Another interesting button is the Design Mode button (indicated by a green 2).  This one allows you to toggle between the graphical designer and the text editor.  By clicking it you can see the actual MDX query that the designer has prepared for you.

As you can see, the query is nicely formatted using capitals for the keywords and so on.  Well, no, actually it’s the worst editor around!  No syntax coloring, no multi-line formatting, nothing.  So if you are going to take a close look at the query, I recommend you to use the Management Studio.  Connect to your Analysis Services server, locate your database and right-click it in the Object Explorer.  Then choose New Query > MDX and paste the query into that new window.  You’ll still need to manually break it down into different lines but at least you get syntax coloring.  Furthermore, if you’re going to make manual modifications to it, you’ve got some command completion and error indicators as well.

Please take into account that once you’ve made manual changes to your query, you cannot switch back to the graphical designer.  Well, you can, but you will lose all manual modifications.  Don’t worry about doing it accidentally though, a nice pop-up will warn you:

Warning message when switching back to design mode.

Something else that you’ll also notice is that the results displayed in the Query Designer and those displayed in the Management Studio are not exactly the same.  That’s because both environments interpret the results differently.  Remember, you’re not retrieving two-dimensional row/column data like with a SQL query.  You’re retrieving multi-dimensional data!

If you take a closer look at the query that we’ve produced above, it’s similar to this:

    something_else ON ROWS
FROM [Adventure Works]
That query is selecting data on two axes: COLUMNS and ROWS.  But in fact, MDX supports up to 128 axes.  However, the client tools that we are using here are not able to visualize that kind of cellset (as the result set of an MDX query is also called).
Okay, enough about our dataset.  We’ve got the data, let’s put it on the report!

Displaying The Result Set

As a reference, these are the fields available in our dataset:

Fields available in OLAP dataset

Without going into too much detail – there’s no difference compared to reporting off a relational database – I’ve set up a table with three grouping levels on the rows.  I’ve also added some makeup like background colors and font modifications.

As shown in following screenshot, the highest-level group is Country, followed by State_Province and City to conclude, just as specified in the requirements mentioned at the start of this chapter.

Table with three groupings defined

Rendering the report in preview gives us something like this:

Report without any numeric formatting applied

What is still missing at this point is decent formatting for those numbers!  And here’s where we can take advantage of the fact that we’re retrieving data from an OLAP cube.  A cube developer has the possibility to define the format for the measures in the cube itself.  Doing that ensures that the same formatting is applied no matter what OLAP client tool is used.  Any client that supports this way of formatting will show the numbers using the same format.

As you’ve seen in that last screenshot, there’s no formatting applied at all.  Does this mean that there was no format defined in the cube?  Let’s find out!

A Little Walk Into The Analysis Project

We are going to open up the Analysis Services project that contains the cube definition.  If you don’t have any experience with SSAS, don’t worry!  We will just have a look at a couple of properties and that’s it, plus I’ll explain each step as needed.  In case you’ve forgotten where the sources are located, this is the default location: C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\100\Tools\Samples\AdventureWorks Analysis Services Project\.  I’m opening the project located under the \enterprise subfolder by double-clicking the Adventure Works.sln file.

Once the project is loaded into the BIDS, locate and open the Adventure Works.cube in the Solution Explorer.  You can find it in the Cubes folder of the Adventure Works DW project.

By default it will open the cube Design showing the first page called Cube Structure.  At the top-left, we’ve got the Measures pane.  The measures are shown in measure groups.  Open the group called Reseller Sales.  Now locate the measure called Reseller Sales Amount and select it.

Cube in Design with Reseller Sales Amount selected

Now that we’ve selected one of the measures that we are retrieving in our report, have a look at the Properties window.  In case it’s not open yet you can right-click the measure and select Properties.  The property that we’re interested in is called FormatString.

Properties of the Reseller Sales Amount measure showing Currency as format string

The cube developer has specified that this measure should be shown as being a Currency.

Now that you’re in the cube, have a look at the properties for our other measure, the Reseller Order Quantity.  This one is being formatted as #,#.

The FormattedValue Field Property

So why are we not seeing those formats in our report?  Because by default they are not applied in an SSRS report!  When dragging fields from the Report Data window onto the design area, what the BIDS is retrieving is the Value property of the field.  However, there’s also a property called FormattedValue.

(You may want to make a copy of your report before applying the following changes.)

Now, change the six table cells that are showing the numbers (so including the ones showing the totals) to retrieve the FormattedValue property instead of the Value property.  The expression for the totals of the Reseller Sales Amount looks like this:


Once you’ve done that, have a look at the Preview:

Report Preview showing no numbers after retrieving the FormattedValue property

That doesn’t look right, does it?  We’ve lost our numbers!

Now hit the Refresh button: Refresh button in Report Preview

This time we’ve got some numbers:

Report Preview showing formatted numbers, and errors!

But we’ve also got some errors for free!  Looking at the Output window we get some extra details on the reason for the error.  Here’s one of them:

[rsAggregateOfNonNumericData] The Value expression for the textrun ‘Reseller_Order_Quantity1.Paragraphs[0].TextRuns[0]’ uses a numeric aggregate function on data that is not numeric.  Numeric aggregate functions (Sum, Avg, StDev, Var, StDevP, and VarP) can only aggregate numeric data.

In short, what it says is that our data is not numeric.  And this poses an issue when it tries to apply the SUM() aggregate function.  Right, as our data now contains formatting, it became a string instead of a number, and strings can’t be added together using SUM().

So that’s not a good way to apply the formatting, not in this case anyway.  Luckily there’s another method to do that.

But first, undo those last changes and replace the FormattedValue with the Value property.

(Or switch back to the original report if you took a copy earlier.)

The Cell Properties

What exactly is our MDX query doing?  I’m taking a closer look at it by taking it from the Dataset Properties window and pasting it into a MDX query window in the Management Studio:

NON EMPTY { [Measures].[Reseller Sales Amount], [Measures].[Reseller Order Quantity] }
NON EMPTY { ([Geography].[Geography].[Postal Code].ALLMEMBERS ) }
FROM [Adventure Works]

Besides retrieving the requested measures and dimension attributes, it’s retrieving several Cell Properties, including FORMATTED_VALUE and FORMAT_STRING.  I believe that the first one rings a bell by now.  What we’re going to do is to retrieve the second one and apply it as Format property for our numeric table cells.

In the report’s Design, select one of the table cells containing a number.  In the Properties window, one of the properties is called Format.  Click to select it, then in the dropdown choose Expression….  For each of the six numeric cells, create an expression similar to the following:


The example above tells the BIDS to retrieve the FORMAT_STRING cell property from the Reseller_Order_Quantity field.

Tip: you don’t need to open up the Expression builder for each of the six cells.  You can just copy/paste the string from the Format field.  Just ensure that you’re retrieving the format from the same field as the one that the cell is displaying.

Now let’s have a look at the Preview again:

Format is working for the quantity amounts but not for Currency!

Hmm,  the quantities are fine now, but the currencies are not!  So, let’s try out yet another method for those cells.

For the three cells containing a currency measure, remove the Format property – it’s not working anyway!

Next, change the expression that’s retrieving the Value property to something similar as this one:


This expression applies the value of the FORMAT_STRING property using the Format() function.  In this particular case it’s the expression used to produce the Reseller Sales Amount total.

Having modified all three currency cells, here’s another Preview look:

Both Currency and regular numeric cells are showing formatted values!

That certainly looks better doesn’t it?!

Okay, to conclude, let’s activate drilldown by setting the subgroup levels to a collapsed state by default.

I will not go into full detail on this.  To start, make sure that the cells that are going to contain the +/- toggle have gotten a decent name, such as txtCountry for the cell that shows the Country name.  Then edit the properties of the subgroups by setting Visibility to Hide.  Also, activate the Display can be toggled by this report item checkbox and select the textbox showing the label one level higher.  Shown below is how to configure the group on State_Province.

Group Properties showing how to activate drilldown


Let’s have another look at the report Preview:

Fully working drilldown report

By default all nodes were collapsed.  I’ve expanded a couple of them just to show that it’s all working.

The InitialToggleState Property

Okay, I will not let you go just yet.  To really conclude I’ll let you in on a little feature related to the drilldown.  Open up the group properties for the State_Province group and set the initial visibility to Show (leave the “Display can be toggled by this report item” checked!).  Then checkout Preview:

Visibility toggle is broken!

Wow, that’s weird, the country level is expanded and yet there’s a plus icon in front of the country’s name.  Clicking it will collapse the states and change the icon to minus.  If that isn’t mixed up then I don’t know what is!

Well, the solution to this problem is simple.  Select the textbox showing the country name and locate the InitialToggleState property.  By default this is set to False, which means collapsed or in other words, False shows the plus icon.  Change it to True and now your initial state icon will be a minus!


With this article I believe to have shown you how to get started with reporting off an OLAP cube while throwing in a couple of tips in the process.

Have a look at another article that I wrote earlier, it explains an issue which you may run into when taking OLAP reporting a step further: SSRS and MDX: Detecting Missing Fields

Happy Reporting!



BOL 2008: The Basic MDX Query

BOL 2008: Using Cell Properties (MDX)

MDX: Retrieving Cell Properties by Greg Galloway


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Ever since I upgraded to SQL Server 2008 Service Pack 1 I noticed that the Management Studio was reporting incorrect version numbers when connected to Integration or Reporting Services.  This incorrect version number is located to the right of the server instance in the Object Explorer.

As usual, a picture says so much more than … :

Object Explorer showing wrong version numbers

As I have posted earlier, 10.0.2531 is the version number for SP1, while 10.0.1600 is the original RTM version number.

I never really spent time looking for an answer to this.  It was obviously a bug but I could live with it and someone else would probably already have filed it as being a bug.  So recently I came across a post by Phil Brammer that mentioned this issue.  This post got a comment from Matt Masson, a developer on the SSIS team.  Have a look at the comment but in short: the version numbers that are being shown in the Object Explorer are actually the version numbers of the service’s .exe file!  And SSMS is now showing the wrong number because these files didn’t get an update in SP1.

After a little search I found the bug report on Microsoft Connect, reported on March 11, 2009, by Dan English.  Its status is Fixed but it seems that it isn’t.  At least, looking at the comments, CU5 (Cumulative Update) for SQL Server 2008 SP1 is still showing the problem.  So I guess you could go over to the Connect page and click on that Yes button if you’re interested in seeing this fixed.  After all, it could be quite misleading to novice DB guys and gals…

On this same subject, there’s another interesting post by Adam W. Saxton, a member of the Microsoft SQL Server Escalation Services Team.  In this post he takes a closer look at the SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services version number after having installed CU2.

Conclusion: if you need to find out what version your server is running, do not rely on the version numbers that you see in the Object Explorer.  As Adam explained, one way is to look at the version numbers of the files that were included in the upgrade.  But that may a bit of an overkill.  My favorite way, assuming that all components of the SQL Server installation have been upgraded to the same version, is to use the following query:



On my machine that comes back with the following result:

Microsoft SQL Server 2008 (SP1) – 10.0.2531.0 (Intel X86)   Mar 29 2009 10:27:29   Copyright (c) 1988-2008 Microsoft Corporation  Developer Edition on Windows NT 5.1 <X86> (Build 2600: Service Pack 3)

And remember, have fun!


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