Reports and Report Definitions

Reporting Services uses a variety of terms to describe a report in different states, including the initial definition, the published report, and the viewed report as it appears to the user.

Report Definition (.rdl) Files

A report definition is a file that you create in Report Designer or Report Builder. It provides a complete description of data source connections, queries used to retrieve data, expressions, parameters, images, textboxes, tables, and any other design-time elements that you might include in a report.

Report definitions are rendered at run time as a processed report. Although report definitions can be complex, at a minimum they specify a query and other report content, report properties, and a report layout.

Report definitions are written in XML that conforms to an XML grammar called Report Definition Language (RDL). RDL describes the XML elements, encompassing all possible variations that a report can assume. For more information about report definitions or RDL, see Designing and Implementing Reports Using Report Designer (Reporting Services) and Report Definition Language Reference.

Client Report Definition (.rdlc) Files

The Visual Studio Report Designer produces client report definition (.rdlc) files for use with the ReportViewer control. The .rdlc files can be converted to .rdl files for use with Reporting Services Report Designer. For more information about .rdlc files, see the Visual Studio documentation and Reporting Services and ReportViewer Controls in Visual Studio.

Published Reports

After an .rdl file is created, it is published to a report server by deploying a report project solution from Report Designer, saving it from Report Builder, or uploading it through Report Manager. A published report is an item that is stored in a report server database and managed on a report server. The report is stored in a partially compiled intermediate format that prepares it for report user access.

A published report is secured through role assignments using the Reporting Services role-based security model. Published reports are accessed through URLs, through SharePoint Web parts, or through Report Manager.

Reports can be published in an intermediate format for on-demand access, or as a snapshot that contains both layout information and data as of the time the report was initially run. Report snapshots are not saved in a particular rendering format. Instead, report snapshots are rendered in a final viewing format (such as HTML) only when a user or an application requests it. For more information, see Creating, Modifying, and Deleting Snapshots in Report History.

Rendered Reports

A rendered report is a fully processed report that contains both data and layout information in a format suitable for viewing (such as HTML). Until a report is rendered into an output format, it cannot be viewed. Report rendering is performed by the report server. You can render a report by doing either one of the following things:

  • Open a published report from the report server.

  • Subscribe to a report, which is delivered to an e-mail inbox or a file share in an output format that you specify.

The default rendering format for Reporting Services reports is HTML 4.0. In addition to HTML, reports can be rendered in a variety of output formats, including Excel, Word, XML, PDF, TIFF, and CSV. As with published reports, rendered reports cannot be edited or saved back to a report server. For more information, see Exporting Reports.

For more information about how reports are processed, see Report Processor.