My latest book effort, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services Step by Step, was released a couple of months ago. It’s always a nice feeling to see the finished work in print, especially after having some distance from the writing and editing process. Microsoft Press asked me to call out a few things that distinguished this book from its predecessors (Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services Step by Step and Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services Step by Step) and so many more things came to mind than they were looking for to put in the Microsoft Press blog about the book.

First, this was a solo effort, well – relatively solo. I should say instead that it was the first time I worked on an entire book without my good friend Reed Jacobsen who has been so incredibly helpful in the earlier books and is my co-author in (Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services Step by Step). I missed his direct guidance throughout this project, but his voice was always in my head so he is an indirect influence still. Hopefully, I have done justice to all he has taught me. To flip things around, it was my turn to teach someone about the process of authoring a step-by-step book. My contributing author, Erika Bakse, helped a great deal in translating many of my thoughts about exercises to perform into the actual steps that became part of the book. While she may be new to the publishing business, she is certainly not new to me – she’s my daughter! She groans when I explain how she came to work with me because apparently we see it differently (how unusual is that?), so suffice it to say that my version of the story is on the acknowledgments page of the book. Regardless of the reason, I was glad to have her work with me on the book and am still glad to have her help on various BI engagements.

Second, this book was a complete rewrite. Any similarities to the previous Reporting Services books are structural only, stemming from the fact that I’ve been working with and teaching Reporting Services in the classroom for many years. Since 2002, I think? Yes, that is before Reporting Services 2000 released but I was privileged at the time to participate in some projects that gave me exposure to the product long before RTM. I’ve had similar opportunities with SSRS 2005 and SSRS 2008. At any rate, I tend to think about the progression of topics the same way, although features and functions have changed. Now the difference between the 2000 and the 2005 product was not huge, so the 2005 Step by Step book was an update to the 2000 book with revisions made and new content added where appropriate. But the changes in SSRS 2008 were considerable and warranted a fresh start on the entire book. In the years since the 2000 book, I have taught many more classes and developed many more reports which gave me some different experiences and perspectives to draw upon and to incorporate into the book.

There are a lot of great new features in SSRS 2008, all of which are covered in the book. I have some projects underway now where I wish I could be using the Tablix data region which would simplify things considerably. In one particular case, I need matrix behavior on columns, but table behavior on rows. That is, I want to group rows, but I want the groups to stack one on top of the other in a single column, but I want to have column groups expand dynamically. (Add to the scenario the fact that I have to use an MDX query and things get really interesting!) The Tablix can handle this design quite easily and is a crowd pleaser in demos to people familiar with early versions of SSRS. I guess I promised a blog about this once upon a time in my SQLSkills blog, so I will work that in soon. Of course, I cover the Tablix in depth in the book! Along with other great features like the new chart controls, the new report designer features, and more…