I had a good time at the PASS European conference last week – had a few drinks, met a lot of people, and learnt a lot too. One of the sponsors of the event was a new company who have a product for Reporting Services that I hadn’t heard of:
What their product does is offer a user-friendly way of creating Reporting Services reports. At this point you’re probably saying, hold on – isn’t that what Report Builder does? Well, yes, and even though in their marketing materials they go to great lengths to say that they aren’t competing with Report Builder (a great example of the ‘big lie’ theory applied) anyone with half a brain can see that they are. Which, of course, might be a big problem if Report Builder didn’t suck… well, maybe that’s harsh, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who actually likes it. Its big problem is its confusing UI, which is in turn linked to RB’s ability to create queries which span multiple tables – it’s not easy to convey table relationships, which fields it makes sense to display next to each other etc. Bob SQL Reporting Services blog has some good detail on this:
Having seen some demos of it – although not actually used it – RSInteract has a slick AJAX-y UI, quite smart-looking and clear, so I’d put it that down in its favour. It achieves this through not being anywhere near as ambitious as Report Builder – you can only write reports which are based on one table, view or stored procedure as I understand it. On one hand this is quite limiting, and it does push work back to the IT guys to make sure all the data you want is available in that table/view/sp, but if you genuinely do want a tool that non-technical users can use then I think that’s a necessary sacrifice because it removes a lot of complexity.
One downer, at least from my point of view, is that I understand that their Analysis Services support isn’t ready yet, although it’s coming soon. Overall though, definitely worth checking out.