OfficeWriter is an application that works with Reporting Services in two ways:
1. It Allows you to design a report in Word or Excel and render it to an RDL
2. It allows you to take data from an RDL report and use it in a Word or Excel document
I believe just those two point hold within them quite a lot, but we’ll get to that shortly.
I decided to try my hand at creating a report on Adventure Works data:
I won’t go through how to build a report using OfficeWriter as that’s explained in the site in much detail. I would say that it’s a matter of half an hour at most of playing with the application for you to learn it.
So, let’s jump straight into what I liked and didn’t like in OfficeWriter 8. I will refer mostly to using OfficeWriter in Excel though the pros and cons also apply to using it with Word:
- You can export your SSRS report to Excel 2007 and Word 2007 onwards even if you’re using SQL Server 2005 (no need to upgrade to SQL Server 2012 for that).
- The data showing in your Excel or Word report will be refreshed every time you press the refresh button allowing you to always be on top of your most current data. You can add fields or parameters to the SSRS report that’s the data source for your user’s Excel or Word report and they’ll show up automatically. That’s rather than rendering a new Excel or Word report every time the data changes.
- Your customers can actually connect directly to the updated data in your report without having to use PowerPivot on Excel 2010. That means they get refreshed data without having to move to Excel 2010 and without having to learn DAX to know how to manipulate the data. In my own report, I used the Excel year function to show just the year of the due date.
- OfficeWriter also offers you some SSRS functions in Excel as well if you need to extend your abilities for the Excel report. That means that if a customer created a report in excel and may need a complex calculation that he can’t do on his own, you as a developer can take that (Excel as RDL) report and do that for him.
- Every user of OfficeWriter has to publish his \ hers reports to the Report Server before they can view them. That means that all the reports your users are creating with OfficeWriter will necessarily be saved on the Report Server. Now, that doesn’t give you all the capabilities that SharePoint has for managing the organizational data, but it’s definitely a good aid in helping you manage those reports and the security on them. You can use the Report Server to give each user a folder of his own with specific security rights. You can also view the reports your users created when you export the SSRS report that’s in the folder to OfficeWriter Excel.
- The SSRS report your customers use as a data source for their own report has to have all its fields showing if they want to look at it as an SSRS report. Otherwise, the reporting services report won’t show the values for the fields that are hidden in the original data source of the SSRS report. The Excel and Word will show correctly.
Now all of this applies for OfficeWriter v8 which was out when I downloaded the application, but they have just now released OfficeWriter v8.1 and are offering a 15% discount if you like them on Facebook
So, in conclusion:
I have to be frank with you, if you’re a company that’s going to buy SQL Server 2012 and has SharePoint 2010 Enterprise Edition along with Office 2010 and PowerPivot, then maybe OfficeWriter is just a “nice to have” for you (though most companies I saw that have all of that, also have some “nice to have” too :)). But if perhaps you don’t have all of that and you’re interested in a solution to: your export to xlsx, docx (or even xls and doc), enhancing calculations in customers reports etc. etc. well, I suggest you give OfficeWriter for SSRS a look!