In V1, the primary report authoring options are 1/ write SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) reports using Visual Studio Report Designer (part of the Business Intelligence Studio – or BIDS) 2/use Excel to connect to the cubes and build reports. Users can use also use Report Builder, a report authoring tool that ships with SSRS, but they need to build the appropriate report models first.
Report designer is an apt tool for developers. It provides a set of powerful features for SSRS reports. However, it is not a tool for the casual user, who wants to build ad hoc reports. Excel’s really meant for that purpose.
In addition to these, there are some cool report-authoring tools developed by our partner that provide powerful report authoring capabilities. Recently I had a chance to see Radius – a report designer developed by folks at 90 Degree Software. The tool allows users to author SSRS reports. The UI is very similar to the Office 2007 UI, so folks familiar with Office should feel pretty comfortable. Besides making it easy to develop reports, it allows report components to be reused. Users can “shred” their reports, save the reusable parts to a library. Other users can reuse these report parts in their reports. The V1 release supports building reports against SQL relational DBs and I have been told by the 90 Degree team that support for multi dimension cubes is coming soon. The tool is extensible and dev can write their own extensions to extract data (and build reports) from other data stores. They have already built an add-in that uses the TFS APIs as a data store. Check it out!