Previewing Reports

When you design a report, you may want to view it before publishing it to a production environment. You can do this in several ways: by switching to Preview mode in Report Designer, by using the preview window in Report Designer, and by publishing the report to a report server in a test environment.


When you preview a report, the data for the report is cached to a file on the local computer. When you preview the same report again using the same query, parameters, and credentials, Report Designer retrieves the cached copy rather than rerunning the query. The data file is saved as <reportname> in the same directory as the report definition file. The file is not deleted when you close Report Designer.

Preview Mode

You can preview a report in Report Designer by clicking Preview. This runs the report locally, using the same report processing and rendering functionality that is provided with the report server. The report that is displayed is an interactive image; you can select parameters, click links, view the document map, and expand and collapse hidden areas of the report. You can also export the report to any of the installed rendering formats.

Standalone Preview

Another way to preview a report is to run the report project in a debug configuration, for example, to debug custom assemblies that you write. There are three ways to run a project:

  • By clicking Start on the Debug menu.

  • By clicking the Start button on the Visual Studio standard toolbar.

  • By pressing F5.

If you use a project configuration that builds the report but does not deploy it, the report that is specified in the StartItem property of the current configuration opens in a separate preview window. The preview window displays the report in the same way and has the same functionality as Preview mode.


Before debugging a report, you must set a start item. To set a start item, in Solution Explorer, right-click the report project, click Properties, and then in StartItem, select the name of the report to display.

If you wish to preview a particular report that is not the start item for the project, select a configuration that builds the report but does not deploy it (for example, the DebugLocal configuration), right-click the report, and then click Run. You must choose a configuration that does not deploy the report; otherwise, the report will be published to the report server instead of displayed locally in a preview window.

When you first view a report on in Preview mode or in the preview window, the view of the report resembles a report produced by the HTML rendering extension. The preview is not HTML, but the layout and pagination of the report is similar to HTML output.

You can change the view to represent a printed report by switching to print preview mode. Click the Print Preview button on the preview toolbar. The report will display as though it were on a physical page. This view resembles the output produced by the Image and PDF rendering extensions. Print preview is not an image or PDF file, but the layout and pagination of the report is similar the output in those formats.

Publishing to a Test Server

You can also test reports by publishing them to a test server. Publishing a report to a test server is the same as publishing to a production server. For information about publishing a report, see Publishing Reports to a Report Server.