This week I stumbled upon an undocumented “feature” in SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services as I was preparing a demonstration on how to set up and use report snapshots. If you’re familiar with the main changes in this latest release of Reporting Services, you probably already know that Report Manager got a facelift this time around. Although this facelift was generally a good thing, one of the casualties – in my opinion – is the loss of the snapshot label that served two purposes… First, it flagged the report as a snapshot. Second, it let you know when that snapshot was created.
As part of my standard operating procedure when demonstrating report snapshots, I point out this label, so I was rather taken aback when I didn’t see it in the demonstration I was preparing. It sort of upset my routine, and I’m rather partial to my routines. I thought perhaps I wasn’t looking in the right place and changed Report Manager from Tile View to Detail View, but no – that label was still missing. In the grand scheme of life, it’s not an earth-shattering change, but you’ll have to look at the Modified Date in Details View to know when the snapshot was run. Or hope that the report developer included a textbox to show the execution time in the report. (Hint: this is a good time to add this to your list of report development best practices, whether a report gets set up as a report snapshot or not!)
A snapshot from the past
In case you don’t remember how a snapshot appeared in Report Manager back in the old days (of SQL Server 2008 and earlier), here’s an image I snagged from my Reporting Services 2008 Step by Step manuscript:
A snapshot in the present
A report server running in SharePoint integrated mode had no such label. There you had to rely on the Report Modified date-time stamp to know the snapshot execution time. So I guess all platforms are now consistent.
Here’s a screenshot of Report Manager in the 2008 R2 version. One of these is a snapshot and the rest execute on demand. Can you tell which is the snapshot?
Consider descriptions as an alternative
So my report snapshot demonstration has one less step, and I’ll need to edit the Denali version of the Step by Step book. Things are simpler this way, but I sure wish we had an easier way to identify the execution methods of the reports. Consider using the description field to alert users that the report is a snapshot. It might save you a few questions about why the data isn’t up-to-date if the users know that something changed in the source of the report. Notice that the full description doesn’t display in Tile View, so keep it short and sweet or instruct users to open Details View to see the entire description.