SQL Server Reporting Services benefits from a major update in SQL Server 2016, which is obvious from the first interaction with the product. The old and bland Report Manager interface has been replaced with a more modern portal that more effectively displays at-a-glance business answers. In this post, I’ll describe some of the improvements in the all-new report portal in SSRS 2016.
Report Portal in SSRS 2016
As I mentioned in a previous post, it is impossible to mistake SSRS 2016 with any other version. Immediately upon opening the URL to the Reporting Services instance, one can see that the UI has received a significant refresh. No longer does the reporting interface look like it was designed by engineers for engineers; this thing is now user-friendly for technical and non-technical folks alike, and is functional enough to serve as the launch pad for most every reporting need.
As shown above, some of the elements from the old report manager remain, including a listing of folders and conventional reports (now referred to as paginated reports). New additions include KPIs and mobile reports exposed directly in the portal; I’ll cover each of these other report types in future posts.
Also worth a brief mention here is the old List View setting. In prior versions of SSRS, users could opt for the List View setting, which shows folders and reports in a detailed list rather than icons. In the initial release of SSRS 2016, the List View setting was removed. However, if you apply SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 1, this classic List View is restored, and is accessible under the View menu item on the portal.
This brand-new feature is small but very, very useful. Report users can mark as favorites any paginated report, mobile report, KPI, or data source, and that item will show up in a personalized Favorites view each time they visit the portal. The default view when browsing to the report portal is to display the objects at the root level (as was always the case with SSRS). When users add items to their favorites list, the default view changes, and will show them only those items they have marked as favorites in the default view.
Users can still navigate the reporting structure as normal by clicking the Browse button just below the logo, which will take the user to the root level view shown in the prior screenshot above.
Customizable Branding Packages
You may notice in the examples above that my company’s logo is shown in the report portal. In older versions, customizing the SSRS view was difficult; one had to hack the underlying cascading style sheet (.css) files to force SSRS to use nonstandard formatting. New to the report portal in SSRS 2016 is something called a brand package, which is a relatively easy way to create your own custom color and logo scheme in SSRS. Brand packages are made up of a .zip file containing the following files:
- A file named metadata.xml listing the assets of that brand package
- A JSON file that defines the colors to be used for each CSS element
- Optionally, a logo file to be used in the header
Although it can take a bit of up-front work to create the branding package – sadly, there is no GUI editor to manage the colors JSON file – the entire process is made easier by the fact that the brand package is a native part of SSRS now. In the Site Settings configuration pages, you’ll find a Branding tab which shows the current brand package (if one is in use), and allows you to upload a new brand package, download the current brand package to a .zip file, or remove the branding entirely. This page on the Microsoft SSRS team blog goes into more detail on brand packages, and has a couple of samples to download as well.
Report Subscription Improvements
Report subscriptions also get an update in the new report portal. It is now possible to enable and disable subscriptions, making it much easier to temporarily suspend reports during maintenance:
In addition, the new subscriptions page shows available parameter values when the list of possible values is provided in the report itself.
General UI Improvements
A handful of other small improvements make the new report portal in SSRS 2016 easier to use.
- Save to PowerPoint: In previous versions you could save a report to a PowerPoint presentation, but it required a lot of manual work. In SSRS 2016, it’s natively supported.
- High DPI support: Targeting very high-resolution monitors and devices, SSRS 2016 now supports high DPI output.
- Plugin-free printing: Printing was often a challenge in previous versions. In SSRS 2016, there is no more need for plug-ins to make printing work properly!
The all-new report portal in SSRS 2016 is a welcome addition to SQL Server Reporting Services. It retains the necessary behaviors of the old report manager, and adds many more valuable features. The report portal finally provides a functional and visually appealing gateway for enterprise reporting with SSRS.