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Document your SSIS Packages with BI Documenter Part2: Reading the Documentation

November 30, 2011

In my previous post we walked thorough the process of creating SSIS documentation using BI Documenter.  In this post we will reap the rewards of our work on from the last post and review the documentation(not much of a reward, I know, but its better than a sharp stick in the eye).

When we last saw our documentation we had created an .CHM file as our document type.  Remember that BI Documenter can create two types of documents, .CHM or an HTML document.  Inside the .CHM file you can see on the left side the navigation pane. This pane should look familiar to anyone who has ever opened a Help file before.  The tabs include a Contents tab that lets you navigate through the documentation in a logical hierarchical manner, the index tab and a search tab.

To the right is the information or details pane which gives you the details of which ever object you have navigated to on the left. image

Lets take a closer look at the contents of our package documentation

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The top level of the contents is the name of the snapshot that we took.  What BI Documenter does in this section is give you the information pertaining to the snapshot as you can see below.

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This is helpful because you can get an understanding for how new or out of date this documentation is.  As we will discuss in a later blog, this information will also come in handy when we do a snapshot comparison, another great feature of BI Documenter.

If we navigate down to the name of our package on the left we can see summary of our SSIS Package.

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The first thing you will notice on this page is the work flow diagram.  This diagram shows you the following things

  • Tasks
  • Variables
  • Connections
  • Precedence Constraints
  • Expression on Variables (Red circle on variable icon)
  • Expression on Tasks (Red circle on task icon)
  • Expression on Connection (Red circle on connection icon)

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In our diagram you can see the variables (with the red circle expression indicator on it), the connection managers as well as and image of the control flow.  After the work flow is the properties.  The properties are too numerous to mention here but some of the settings that are documented, Creation Date, Creator Name, Enable Configurations, and Protection Level.

After the properties comes the Executables, which is a list or the tasks inside the control flow.  The nice thing here is that there are hyperlinks that will take you directly to the section of the document for each executable.  The same thing is true for the next section, Connection Managers.  Next is log providers which will be tracked if you have set them up, or the section will be blank if you have not. Then comes the user defined variable list, which will only be populated if you have created any.  As you can see below it will display the name of the variable, the value and any expressions on the variable.  Finally the system variables are listed in the last section.

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That gives us a pretty good high level over view of what is going on in our package.  Lets drill in a little deeper in to the documentation and take a look at one of the executables, in this case our dataflow.

Again the first thing you will see is a screenshot of the components inside the data flow.  I really appreciate this inside the documentation because I am a very visual person.  Just by looking at the data flow diagram I have a good sense of what is going on inside the package.

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Just like in the package properties, the data flow properties are just to numerous to mention here.  However if you open up your package in BIDS, and inside the dataflow click on the properties tab you will have a pretty good idea of what this section of you document now looks like.

After properties comes the components list.  This will list the names, with hyperlinks to their section in the document, of all of the components inside the data flow

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Next in line is the column mappings.  The column mappings allows you to see how each column is mapped or even unmapped through every component inside the dataflow

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Then finally a list of any variables, and their properties if you have used them inside of the data flow.

The documentation also includes section on the connection managers, user variables and any configurations you have set on the package.  I know that creating this kind of detailed technical documentation manually would be nearly impossible, or at least so impractical from a time stand point as to not make much difference.  With BI Documenter this document literally took less than 5 minutes to make.  In my opinion you just can’t beat that kind of time saving. But please don’t take my word for it, download a copy of BI Documenter and give it a try.

In my next blog we’ll cover the snapshot comparison feature in BI Documenter.

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