A comparison of SQL Server Reporting Services and Power BI
Part five of a seven-part series of blogs

Power BI improves with each monthly update. Will it reach a point where SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services) becomes redundant? This detailed blog compares the two products, and considers the future of SSRS.

  1. Reporting Services (SSRS) versus Power BI
  2. An overview of Power BI and SSRS
  3. Loading data (SSRS and Power BI compared)
  4. Creating reports for viewing on-screen
  5. Exporting and printing reports (this blog)
  6. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
  7. Conclusions

Posted by Andy Brown on 18 October 2019

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Exporting and printing reports

From one of Power BI's great strengths, we turn to one of its weaknesses (and conversely, Reporting Services' great strength).

Exporting and printing in Power BI

So you've created the perfect report.  You've published it either to Power BI Service or to your internal reporting portal, and everyone can see it.  But Bobby in Accounts has a question for you: "I can print this or export it to Excel ... can't I?".  Well, Bobby - no, you can't - or at least not very well.

You can export a report in Power BI Service as follows:

Exporting a report

You can send a report to either PowerPoint, a PDF file or a printer.

Here's what each gives.  First, PowerPoint:

PowerPoint presentation

You get a presentation, with one slide for each page of your report - plus a cover sheet.

 

A PDF is probably the best option for printing:

PDF report

The PDF output from a single-page report.

Finally, here's what the print preview option looks like for this report:

Print preview

The print preview screen for Power BI.

The problem isn't really that Power BI doesn't print; more that the sort of reports that you create using Power BI aren't meant to be printed.

As for Excel, you can export the data for an individual visual to a CSV file or Excel workbook:

Exporting to CSV

Here I'm exporting the data for a chart to Excel.

Here's what I get for this in Excel:

Excel output

This shows the underlying data for the chart, with the current filter applied.

 

So you can export the data for each visual, but you can't save an entire report as an Excel workbook.

Exporting and printing reporting from SSRS

By contrast, SSRS is designed to create reports for printing or for saving as Excel workbooks:

Preview tools

The tools which appear in preview mode include options to export data to a variety of different formats, or (as here) to change the page set-up.

Page set-up allows you to set your page margins and orientation:

Changing page set-up

It's not quite as whizzy as Excel, but it contains all the basics.

You can save a report to one of seven different formats:

Saving to Excel

Excel is the most commonly used export format for SSRS.

You can automatically generate a workbook containing one group's data on each worksheet:

Worksheet tabs

This workbook was created automatically by exporting a report of films grouped by genre to Excel.

So we've reached the unsurprising conclusion that SSRS is good for producing printed reports and for automatically generating Excel workbooks, and Power BI is good at showing pretty visuals on screen!

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