No matter how convenient you make it for your users to access reports in a browser, and no matter how many interactive drill-down and drill-through features you provide, your users always want to print their reports on paper. You can explain all the wonders of the multiple, cascading parameters you have created until you are blue in the face, but some users always need to touch and feel the numbers on paper. They need to be able to put something in a briefcase and take it home with them at night. It doesn’t matter that they could receive up-to-date numbers through their VPN at home. They want ink on paper.
Reporting Services provides several options for printing a report from Report Manager. Each provides some advantages and disadvantages for the user.
These users could just press the Print button in their browser and get whatever type of printout HTML printing provides. As you are probably aware, HTML printing is not a good choice when formatting is important as it usually is for reports. Lines of text can wrap in unusual ways or simply be cut off. A line of text at the bottom of the page can even be cut right in half, with the top-half on one page and the bottom-half on the next page.
Fortunately, the Report Manager provides a couple of alternatives to HTML printing.
As discussed previously, a PDF document or a TIFF file does an excellent job of maintaining report format when a report is printed. Therefore, when users want to have a high-quality report printout, they can export the report to a PDF document or a TIFF file. Once this is complete, they can view the exported report using the appropriate viewer: Adobe Acrobat Reader for the PDF document and the Windows Picture and Fax Viewer for a TIFF file. The report can then be printed using the view.
This process provides the user with a quality printout. However, not all users are comfortable with saving a file to a local disk, finding that file and opening it in the appropriate viewer, and then printing the report. There is another printing alternative, which is even more straightforward.
You may have noticed a button with a printer icon on the report toolbar. This button is for the client-side printing feature of Reporting Services. Client-side printing works through an ActiveX object downloaded to the user’s computer. From then on, whenever the Client-Side Printing button is clicked, this ActiveX object provides the user interface and controls the printing.
The first time a user activates the client-side printing feature, they may be prompted with a security warning about the ActiveX download. After taking the appropriate precautions, such as making sure the ActiveX object is signed by Microsoft, the user should approve the download to enable client-side printing. Once the ActiveX has been downloaded by this first use, it does not need to be downloaded again.
If a user has trouble downloading the ActiveX control, they may need to set the Report Manager as a trusted site in their browser. This is done on the Security tab of the Internet Options dialog box. The user should not lower their security setting for all sites in general to accomplish the ActiveX download.
Once downloaded, client-slide printing enables users to set various report attributes. These include margins, page size, and even page orientation. Users can also preview a report before putting it on paper.