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Using Different Formats Within a Single

Textbox in SSRS
October 31, 2010

Lets say you want to mix formats of a single textbox on a SQL Server Reporting
Services report, as follows:

Different formats could include mixing font sizes, colors, and other things like
bold and italics within one textbox. The easiest way to handle different
formatting is to split it into 2 textboxes. However, you may have a need to stay
within one textbox depending on the string that needs to be concatenated, or to
avoid alignment issues with other textboxes. Within one textbox, Ive found 3
ways to format specific text, numbers, fields, or expressions:
1. Selected Text Properties
2. Placeholder Properties and Text Properties Panes
3. HTML Tags (which also involves Placeholder Properties)
The remainder of this entry discusses each of the 3 methods. This technique
applies only to SSRS 2008, R2, and Report Builder 3.0. SSRS 2008 R2 is used for
the examples shown.

Selected Text Properties


This is the most straightforward technique, and should be familiar as its used
throughout many Microsoft applications. After you highlight a portion of the
textbox, you may use the toolbar or the Properties Pane which will have
Selected Text as the object name. The key to making this work is you need a
simple expression, rather than a complex expression in the design view (i.e.,
make sure the design view does not show just <Expr> for the entire textbox within part of it is okay though - see "A Word About <Expr>" toward the end of
this entry).

Note that after mixed formatting is applied, if you right-click the textbox, the
Expressions option is no longer available:

Next lets get into the more interesting capabilities.

Placeholder Functionality
Placeholders were introduced in SSRS 2008 to accomplish the very goal we have.
As with the previous technique, this relies on a simple expression, rather than a
complex expression in the design view (i.e., make sure the design view does not
show just <Expr> for the entire textbox - within part of it is okay though - see "A
Word About <Expr>" toward the end of this entry). A simple expression will show
our sample field as [@ParamQtrEnd] instead of =Parameters!ParamQtrEnd.Value.
More information on simple versus complex expressions can be found in
the Understanding Simple and Complex Expressionsarticle on MSDN.
Just where are Placeholder Properties? In the design GUI, the Placeholder
Properties are not available through the right-click menu for the textbox. You
need to click twice inside a textbox (i.e., activate your cursor within the textbox)
and then right-click to see this menu item.

If theres nothing in the textbox yet: youll see Create Placeholder in the
menu.

If you highlight a field: youll see Placeholder Properties in the menu.

If you highlight text: youll see Text Properties in the menu.

The Placeholder Properties pane offers different tooltip, formatting, and action
for the text selected in the textbox. The Text Properties pane offers the same
options, with one exception: it doesnt have the Number page of options since
its only formatting text.

Use the various options to specify formatting desired for the selected portion of
the textbox. You may use several combinations of Placeholder Properties and
Text Properties within one single textbox. Valentino Vranken has a very nice
discussion on his blog entry: The Power of the Placeholder.

HTML Tags
This option delivers a bit more flexibility, particularly if you have a complex
expression in your textbox. Using HTML tags will work if you have a complex
expression (i.e., <Expr> shown in the design view).
First, you do need to define Placeholder Properties on the Expression:

Within the Placeholder Properties, change the default Markup type to be HTML
Interpret HTML tags as styles. If you forget to change this radio button, then
the html tags will be rendered as literal text.

Then within your expression, insert the HTML tags as needed.

Only a subset of HTML tags are supported within SSRS, such as bold, italics, and
underline. The MSDN page on Formatting Text and Importing HTML specifies the
valid HTML tags you may use within an SSRS textbox. If you use an HTML tag that
isnt supported in SSRS, it will be ignored.
As a sidenote, using HTML tags within a simple expression will work as well:

However, in a real situation, I would reserve using HTML tags to situations when I
have a complex expression. With a simple expression, Id opt to keep the
formatting options simpler.

A Word About <Expr>

Above I stated a couple of times that you can't have just <Expr> for
the entire textbox and have the placeholder technique work, except for the
HTML tags method. However, an <Expr> inside part of the textbox will still work.
An example to illustrate:
What won't support partial formatting (except using HTML tags):

Will support partial formatting (using any of the methods discussed above):

Summary
Reporting Services 2008 introduced enhanced rich text functionality to permit
mixed formatting, or even mixed tooltips & actions, within a single textbox.
Theres several ways mixed formatting can be accomplished. Placeholder
Properties can be used with the GUI formatting options, or with a subset of HTML
tags. The GUI formatting options work best with simple expressions, whereas the
HTML options provide a lot of flexibility for complex expressions.