There are at least four people over in Building 35 on the Microsoft campus who actually understand the reasoning behind the evolution of Report Designer. Each reinvention of Report Designer seems to cause stress to the compatibility between versions. I’ve laid out the particulars of each Report Designer, but that still doesn’t help us understand why we can’t do what we’ve been told to do when creating Reporting Services reports. Confused? Join the club.

  • Report Designer in Visual Studio (VS) 2003 with the Reporting Services add-in tacked on with binary duct tape. This designer can only work with SQL Server Reporting Services 2000 (SSRS 2000) RDL reports. This version of Visual Studio doesn’t support the ReportViewer control.
  • Report Designer in VS 2005. This designer can’t see or work with SSRS 2008, but it can import Reporting Services 2003 (SQL Server 2000) Reporting Services RDL reports and interface with SSRS 2005. It does support the first-generation ReportViewer control, which can cross-pollinate with SSRS 2005 RDL reports.
  • Report Designer in VS 2008. This designer also can’t see or work with SSRS 2008 nor can it even open Reporting Services 2005 projects. It still supports the first-generation ReportViewer control and can cross-pollinate with SSRS 2005 RDL reports.
  • Report Designer in VS 2008 SP1. This designer does work with SSRS 2008 and even opens SSRS 2005 projects, which it converts to the VS 2008 format. It supports first-generation ReportViewer control projects and can cross-pollinate with SSRS 2005 RDL reports but not SSRS 2008 RDL reports.
  • Report Designer Launched by the Reporting Services BI Tools. This new VS BI designer is specifically designed to work with SSRS 2008 and also SSRS 2005 projects, which it converts to the VS 2008 BI format. It doesn’t support Windows Forms or ASP development at all, so the ReportViewer control isn’t an issue here.