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Posted 14 Jul 2013


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Running a RDL/RDLC (SQL Report) in ASP.NET without SSRS

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12 Dec 2021CPOL8 min read
SSRS and Report Builder (or the old BIDS from 2008) are nice for making reports, but they don't embed into your ASP.NET project very nicely. This is one way to do it without the requirement for full SSRS (and the security hoops).


This is a common scenario: You have a web site, written in ASP.NET (or MVC or SharePoint) and you would like to display some reports. You might be planning to write some new reports and you are trying to decide on which technology to use or you might have several SSRS reports that were already made, earlier, and you want to run them from your ASP.NET site.

There are many good articles on CodeProject that show how to use an RDLC file to run a report, either from ASP.NET or WinForms, etc. After reading them, it would seem that your choices are:

  1. Put a report into SSRS and use the ReportViewer control to call SSRS to run your report
  2. Add the .RDL or .RDLC file into your project and create some objects to house the data so the report has an interface to the database
    I wanted a third choice:
  3. Just run it like SSRS does, but without installing the SSRS server. I’m talking bare-minimum footprint. I just want to pass the name of the .RDL or .RDLC file to an ASPX page and have it run. That is how SSRS does it. I should be able to do that too.

This is an implementation of the third choice.


  1. To run this, you still need to install the reporting run-time. You can add it as Nuget packages "Microsoft.ReportViewer.Runtime.Common" and "Microsoft.ReportViewer.WebForms" (or WinForms).  The redistributable is available on Microsoft Downloads site.
  2. I had some old reports, which were made with the old Business Intelligence Development Studio (2008). I also have some new reports which were made with ReportBuilder (built-into SSRS web). This solution will work with either.


A .RDLC file is all XML. If you open it with Notepad and inspect the contents, you can see that the XML describes the display/design, but it also contains several other useful characteristics. One of them is the query (to get the data) for the report.

My strategy is to extract the database query, set up any parameters, run the query, store the results in a DataTable(s) and feed it into the report.

My goal is to run my reports from a generic page and pass the report name and any query parameters via the URL QueryString, like this:


For simplicity, I will just use the same DB connection string that is used by the rest of the app, but I will wrap it in a local factory method, for maintainability.

Using the Code

Starting with the End in Mind

This is where I started. I borrowed from other articles on CodeProject (please see the credits, near the end of the article). The examples worked great, but didn’t have a means to use the query that was embedded in the report. In the code-block (below), you can see that I created a class called Report (namespace RDL) to encapsulate the RDLC’s content/structure. My RDL.Report class also contains a factory method to help with converting the XML into objects.

protected void ShowReport()
  System.IO.FileInfo reportFullPath = this.ReportFile;
  //check to make sure the file ACTUALLY exists, before we start working on it
  if (reportFullPath != null)
     //map the reporting engine to the .rdl/.rdlc file
     rvReportViewer.LocalReport.ReportPath = reportFullPath.FullName;  

     // 1. Clear Report Data

     // 2. Get the data for the report
     // Look-up the DB query in the "DataSets" 
     // element of the report file (.rdl/.rdlc which contains XML)
     RDL.ReportreportDef = RDL.Report.GetReportFromFile(reportFullPath.FullName);

     // Run each query (usually, there is only one) and attach it to the report
     foreach (RDL.DataSet ds in reportDef.DataSets)
        //copy the parameters from the QueryString into the ReportParameters definitions (objects)

        //run the query to get real data for the report
        System.Data.DataTable tbl = ds.GetDataTable(this.DBConnectionString);

        //attach the data/table to the Report's dataset(s), by name
        ReportDataSource rds = new ReportDataSource();
        rds.Name = ds.Name; //This refers to the dataset name in the RDLC file
        rds.Value = tbl;

The Rest of the Story

The (above) block of code shows the heart of the application; running queries and attaching data to the report, then running the report. Now, let’s look at the parts that get the data.

Get the Query from the RDLC File

Inside the .RDLC file, the XML for the query looks like this (after you remove everything else):

    <DataSet Name="IrrelevantToThisExample">
        <CommandText>SELECT * FROM sys.Tables</CommandText>

On my first attempt, I used XPath to extract the query from the XML (inside of the RDLC file). It worked for simple queries. However, I realized that things got messy if the query had any parameters (or for Stored Procedures, etc.).

On my second attempt, I took a different approach. I realized that the code would be much easier if I deserialized the XML into a stack of objects. It sounds complicated and scary, but once you see it, you will realize how incredibly simple XML Serialization/Deserialization can be.

The (simplified) classes that match this XML look like this:

[Serializable(), System.Xml.Serialization.XmlRoot("Report")]
public class Report : SerializableBase
   public List<DataSet> DataSets = new List<DataSet>();

public class DataSet
   public string Name;
   public Query Query = new Query();

public class Query
   public string DataSourceName;
   public string CommandText;

Once you deserialize the XML, you can easily extract the query like this:

Report report =Report.Deserialize(xml, typeof(RDL.Report));
String commandText = report.DataSets[0].Query.CommandText;

The SerializableBase object is something I have reused from several projects. It makes it simple to serialize or deserialize any object to XML or vice-versa. Here is the code:

public class SerializableBase
   public static SerializableBase Deserialize(String xml, Type type)
      //… some code omitted for brevity. See downloads.
      System.Xml.Serialization.XmlSerializer ser = 
         new System.Xml.Serialization.XmlSerializer(type);
      using (System.IO.StringReadersr = new System.IO.StringReader(xml))
         return (SerializableBase)ser.Deserialize(sr);

Set Up Any Parameters

As I mentioned earlier, the code was very simple until I dealt with parameterized queries and stored procedures. I had to add several more classes for deserialization. For brevity, I will include them in the downloaded code but save you the headache of reading the code here. Don’t worry. They are very simple (boring) classes that match the structure of the XML, just like the serialization classes above.


The rest of this code started out in utility classes. After looking at them, I realized that it would be more OO pure if I encapsulated the utility code within the serialization classes as methods rather than as external helper utility functions. It makes the serialization classes seem more complicated. That is why, for this article, I started by describing the original classes (above) in their simplest form.

Report Parameters/Query Parameters

Unfortunately, in the RDLC files, the query block defines its parameters, but doesn’t define types for them. The DB will choke on types that don’t cast easily, such as: DateTime, Numeric, and Integer. Luckily, the parameter types are defined in a separate part of the RDLC’s XML. I just need to copy those into the query parameter definitions. Unfortunately, it makes the code seem a little hackish, but it does get the job done reliably.

private void ResolveParameterTypes()
   //for each report parameter, find the matching query parameter and copy-in the data type
   foreach (ReportParameter rParam in this.ReportParameters)
      foreach (DataSet ds in this.DataSets)
      foreach (QueryParameter qParam in ds.Query.QueryParameters)
         if (qParam.Value == "=Parameters!" + rParam.Name + ".Value")
            qParam.DataType = rParam.DataType;
// override the constructor so the report param types are always resolved to the query params
//as a bonus, now you don't have to cast it after deserializing it
public static Report Deserialize(string xml, Type type)
   Report re;
   re = (Report)SerializableBase.Deserialize(xml, type);

   //copy the type-names from the ReportParameters to the QueryParameters

   return re;

URL Parameters

Now, I copy the parameters from the (URL) QueryString, into the report’s params. Naturally, I am making some big assumptions about the QueryString parameter names matching those of the report. If they don’t match, there will be an error but it should be simple to figure-out what went wrong. I could also add some diagnostics to detect which parameters didn’t get values assigned to them (maybe later).

private System.Collections.Hashtable ReportParameters
        System.Collections.Hashtable re = new System.Collections.Hashtable();
        //gather any params so they can be passed to the report
        foreach (string key in Request.QueryString.AllKeys)
            if (key.ToLower() != "path")
            //ignore the "path" param. It describes the report’s file path
                re.Add(key, Request.QueryString[key]);
        return re;

public void AssignParameters(System.Collections.HashtablewebParameters)
    foreach (RDL.QueryParameter param in this.Query.QueryParameters)
        string paramName = param.Name.Replace("@", "");
        //if this report param was passed as an arg to the report, then populate it
        if (webParameters[paramName] != null)
           param.Value = webParameters[paramName].ToString();

Run the Query and Fill the DataTable

This is pretty 101. Set up the command object, add parameters, then just use a DataAdapter to populate a table.

public System.Data.DataTable GetDataTable(string DBConnectionString)
  System.Data.DataTable re = new System.Data.DataTable();
  using (System.Data.OleDb.OleDbDataAdapter da = 
     new System.Data.OleDb.OleDbDataAdapter(this.Query.CommandText, DBConnectionString))
     if (this.Query.QueryParameters.Count > 0)
        foreach (RDL.QueryParameter param in this.Query.QueryParameters)
           string paramName = param.Name.Replace("@", "");
           //OLEDB chokes on the @symbol, it prefers ? marks
           using (System.Data.OleDb.OleDbCommand cmd = da.SelectCommand)
               cmd.CommandText = cmd.CommandText.Replace(param.Name, "?");

           using (System.Data.OleDb.OleDbParameterCollection params = da.SelectCommand.Parameters)
               switch (param.DataType)
                   case "Text":
                       params.Add(new OleDbParameter(paramName, OleDbType.VarWChar) 
                       { Value = param.Value });
                   case "Boolean":
                        params.Add(new OleDbParameter(paramName, OleDbType.Boolean) 
                        { Value = param.Value });
                   case "DateTime":
                        params.Add(new OleDbParameter(paramName, OleDbType.Date) 
                        { Value = param.Value });
                   case "Integer":
                        params.Add(new OleDbParameter(paramName, OleDbType.Integer) 
                        { Value = param.Value });
                   case "Float":
                        params.Add(new OleDbParameter(paramName, OleDbType.Decimal) 
                        { Value = param.Value });
                        params.Add(new OleDbParameter(paramName, param.Value));
      re.TableName = this.Name;
      return re;

Follow-up (Refactor)

I did refactor this code (in the download) which made it a little messy. I wanted to make it flexible, so I could use it in several projects. Since I couldn’t be sure the db connection string will always be an OLEDB or SqlClient connection, I checked the connection string and used the appropriate set of libraries (OLEDB/SQLClient) for either one. The code became twice as long, but more portable.

Update: Other Things That Cause Errors

A friend helped me run some test reports and it revealed that the ReportViewer control does not generate any good/useful error messages, if there is a problem. In contrast, the "Download" button that I put on the View page, will easily report errors during processing. From this, I learned a few things:

  1. If a report has an external graphic or report parts, those files need to be available (meaning, you need those files in the /reports folder too) and in the correct path. For my test example, the report used graphics from a folder /Reports/Web Parts/.
  2. If a report has required parameters (or not "optional"), those must be provided or the report will not run.
  3. Parameters can be case-sensitive. Maybe it is just .NET. Either ways, if your report won't run, check to make sure you are providing a "PrintID" or a "PrintId" and not just a "printid".

Finally, I recently updated this example to run with Visual Studio 2013. I added a "Diagnostic" page, to check a few settings. I improved the "Download" option. I improved this example to work with external images, and to detect required report parameters.

I hope you find that it works better for you. If not, I would appreciate feedback and maybe even an example file (.rdl) so I can work-out any errors.


That is all it takes to extract the query from an RDLC file and run it in ASP.NET.

SSRS was originally written by Microsoft as an example of how to use these technologies to accomplish what I have shown here. Of course, SSRS has many features that go way beyond what I have shown, but if you don’t need all of those rich features, this code should be quick and portable for you and your .NET projects.

Advanced Options

This article has covered a very simple way of running simple RDLC files. However, you may have some more complicated reports. Here are a few resources that you can continue reading about to cover more advanced topics that build on this concept:


I borrowed some of this code from other projects. These guys did some excellent work and deserve credit for some of the tricky parts of my project.


  • Original version (current)
  • Feb 2016: Update for Visual Studio 2013, RDL 2010 (SSRS 2012 reports), and better diagnostics


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Tim Golisch
United States United States
I have been programming for 30 years(22 professionally). I mostly work with the Microsoft product stack (.NET, SQL Server, IIS, ASP.NET, Dynamics, TFS, etc) however, I have worked with a wide variety of others too (IBM DB2, Oracle, Java, PHP, ColdFusion, Perl, etc). I have taught classes at community colleges, and other speaking engagements. During the day, I am a consultant, programming and fixing programs.

Comments and Discussions

QuestionThe report definition is not valid... Pin
Pong God20-Jan-22 11:07
MemberPong God20-Jan-22 11:07 
AnswerRe: The report definition is not valid... Pin
Tim Golisch27-Jan-22 3:17
MemberTim Golisch27-Jan-22 3:17 
QuestionExport a report into Excel Pin
Member 107731228-Dec-21 8:13
MemberMember 107731228-Dec-21 8:13 
Can I export a report into Excel when there is no SSRS server? Is there any runtime still available? The link in your article is no longer available.

AnswerRe: Export a report into Excel Pin
Tim Golisch12-Dec-21 0:24
MemberTim Golisch12-Dec-21 0:24 
AnswerRe: Export a report into Excel Pin
Klaus Oberdalhoff13-Dec-21 3:37
MemberKlaus Oberdalhoff13-Dec-21 3:37 
QuestionDoes this work for subreports Pin
jimboden8-Dec-20 7:21
Memberjimboden8-Dec-20 7:21 
AnswerRe: Does this work for subreports Pin
verger17-Jan-21 10:58
Memberverger17-Jan-21 10:58 
QuestionVB expressions as default parameters Pin
verger6-Jul-20 19:47
Memberverger6-Jul-20 19:47 
PraiseGreat solution for generic RDL/RDLC report viewer Pin
Member 1171857618-Jul-19 23:47
MemberMember 1171857618-Jul-19 23:47 
QuestionWhat is report containing other sub reports? Pin
sachin4dotnet3-May-19 4:20
Membersachin4dotnet3-May-19 4:20 
QuestionCan't run a RDL report Pin
Member 1379384626-Apr-18 7:34
MemberMember 1379384626-Apr-18 7:34 
QuestionCan I Use this project to create a new Library? Pin
Charles Oliveira26-Oct-17 5:51
MemberCharles Oliveira26-Oct-17 5:51 
AnswerRe: Can I Use this project to create a new Library? Pin
Tim Golisch10-Nov-17 6:59
MemberTim Golisch10-Nov-17 6:59 
GeneralRe: Can I Use this project to create a new Library? Pin
Charles Oliveira12-Nov-17 5:48
MemberCharles Oliveira12-Nov-17 5:48 
GeneralRe: Can I Use this project to create a new Library? Pin
Charles Oliveira2-Aug-18 3:38
MemberCharles Oliveira2-Aug-18 3:38 
GeneralRe: Can I Use this project to create a new Library? Pin
verger12-Jul-20 19:42
Memberverger12-Jul-20 19:42 
AnswerHow to use with report parameters without query string Pin
endrum1810-May-17 2:24
Memberendrum1810-May-17 2:24 
GeneralRe: How to use with report parameters without query string Pin
Tim Golisch12-May-17 2:18
MemberTim Golisch12-May-17 2:18 
SuggestionVisible property for ReportParameter class does not longer exists in RDL / RDLC structure Pin
eros2007mx15-Dec-16 7:59
Membereros2007mx15-Dec-16 7:59 
QuestionSorting and search functionality Pin
Member 1257726014-Oct-16 9:08
MemberMember 1257726014-Oct-16 9:08 
QuestionRDL Report render/load slow as compere to SQL Server Reporting Services from server Pin
imran_sarwar16-Sep-16 2:06
Memberimran_sarwar16-Sep-16 2:06 
AnswerRe: RDL Report render/load slow as compere to SQL Server Reporting Services from server Pin
Tim Golisch16-Sep-16 8:15
MemberTim Golisch16-Sep-16 8:15 
QuestionNice article. Pin
Hussain Patel23-Aug-16 4:44
professionalHussain Patel23-Aug-16 4:44 
QuestionThe page is loading with the header Pin
OmGanesh30-May-16 3:14
MemberOmGanesh30-May-16 3:14 
AnswerRe: The page is loading with the header Pin
OmGanesh31-May-16 4:09
MemberOmGanesh31-May-16 4:09 

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