One of the great things about SQL Server Express that really sets it apart from its competition is that it includes Reporting Services. Reporting Services comes with both a wizard-based report designer and a more flexible graphical designer, both of which you can use to create reports that are driven by the data in a SQL Server Express database. However, getting started with Reporting Services for SQL Server Express can be a little tricky.

First, you need to realize that there are two versions of SQL Server Express. The basic version is SQL Server 2005 Express Edition; SQL Server Express with Advanced Services is the more full-featured version. Because the functionality of Reporting Services exceeds the basic relational database capabilities of Express Edition, Reporting Services is offered only in the Advanced Services edition.

The version of Reporting Services that’s included with SQL Server 2005 Express Edition with Advanced Services offers many of the same features as the full-blown Reporting Services subsystem that comes with the other editions of SQL Server. It shares the same designers and can render reports in a variety of formats, including Windows Forms, HTML, and Microsoft Excel. And the reports can be deployed with no additional licensing costs. Reporting Services for SQL Server Express also requires a minimum of 512MB of RAM (more is always better) and at least 600MB of free disk space.

The most important component of Reporting Services is Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS). IIS is often not installed on desktop OSs such as Windows Vista or Windows XP. To install IIS on XP, open Control Panel, select Add or Remove Programs, then choose Add/Remove Windows Components. Select the Internet Information Services (IIS) check box in the list of components and click Next to initiate the installation. For Windows Vista, open Control Panel, then click My Programs and Features. Click "Turn Windows features on or off," select the Internet Information Services check box, then click OK.

In addition to IIS, the system that runs Reporting Services needs to have Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 installed. In most cases the Framework will already be present, but if it isn't, you can download it and install it. The 32-bit .NET Framework 2.0 is available at www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=0856eacb-4362-4b0d-8edd-aab15c5e04f5, and the 64-bit Framework is at www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=b44a0000-acf8-4fa1-affb-40e78d788b00. However, if you’re setting up your system for the Framework, it’s probably a good idea to get the newest version, NET Framework 3.5. You can download this version from www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=333325fd-ae52-4e35-b531-508d977d32a6.

With the system requirements out of the way, you’re ready to download SQL Server 2005 Express Edition with Advanced Services; you'll find it at www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=4C6BA9FD-319A-4887-BC75-3B02B5E48A40. After finishing the 235MB download, run the SQLEXPR_ADV.EXE file to do the installation.

If you’re already running SQL Server Express, you can perform an in-place upgrade to the Advanced Services edition. I explain how to do an in-place upgrade in "Upgrading to SQL Server 2005 Express with Advanced Services," InstantDoc ID 50173.

After installing SQL Server Express with Advanced Services and its prerequisites, you’re ready to begin using Reporting Services. In my next column I’ll show you how use it to build your first reports.