After deploying a report in Sql Server Reporting Services 2008, one discovers that the Report Server has the ability to display an informative Report Description next to each report. That report description can be very handy for users when there are many reports inside a given folder.
This realization leads right back to Visual Studio. Suprisingly, though, Visual Studio does not offer the opportunity to set report descriptions before deploying the report. There are many features of Reporting Services that cannot be set prior to deployment, such as Subscriptions, Cache behavior. It makes sense that the developer of the report would not need to be concerned with the way in which the report is used. Plus, when deploying a revision to a report, you don't want to override any of these settings that govern its behavior. But in the same way that good code needs comments, reports too benefit from as much descriptive clarity as possible.
This leads to three suggestions for those developing reports in SSRS.
- Make the name of the report as descriptive as possible. Use spaces to highlight the words. Rather than QuarterlyDetailReport01, consider Financial Quarterly Detail Report.
- Deploy to Folders that are themselves as descriptive as possible. Again, use spaces to make the content of the reports contained therein as clear as possible. More than five or six reports in a given folder is plenty.
- After testing the report after deployment, take the time to add a proper Report Description. The good news is that you will only have to do this one time. Each time a revision to the report is deployed, the Description will be carried forward.
Finally, it is possible to connect to the ReportServer programmatically to set Report Description, and Subscriptions for that matter. This approach, which involves connecting to the SSRS Web Service, is probably only worth the trouble when some other automation is required, such as setting up subscription based on conditional logic within the problem domain.