A reader sent me the following question:

"What exactly do you need to use SQL Server Express Reporting Services? Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS) apparently works only if you have Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 (VS 2005) installed. BIDS uses VS 2005 for its IDE. I ripped out all my SQL Server 2005 Express stuff and installed only SQL Server Express Edition with Advanced Services, but there was no BIDS anywhere on my computer!"

SQL Server Express Report Designer is hosted in BIDS, and like SQL Server Management Studio, it's a customized version of the Visual Studio 2005 IDE. All the systems on which I've installed SQL Server Express tend to have some edition or other of Visual Studio installed--at the very least, one of the Visual Studio Express editions.

The reader's question inspired me to try to determine the actual requirements for BIDS and Reporting Services. I created a new SQL Server Express system and installed SQL Server 2005 Express with Advanced Services. For some reason, the setup refused to recognize the installed version of Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS), but that's another story. The installation was far from smooth. Two failed attempts and three reboots later, SQL Server with Advanced Services was installed, but sure enough there was no BIDS option.

To get BIDS, I needed to install the SQL Server 2005 Express Edition Toolkit. BIDS was listed in the install options, but the toolkit's setup program displayed an error that said the Workstation components were already installed. By checking the Workstation Components box, I found that the SQL Server Express Edition Toolkit setup program enabled me to update the existing installation.

When the toolkit installation had completed, BIDS and Report Designer were successfully installed on the system. Visual Studio wasn't needed (but three installs were--Microsoft really needs to improve the setup process for SQL Server 2008 Express).