SharePoint Designer Kicks It Up a Notch

March 23, 2009
This week's ToTheSharePoint Update is chock full of interesting news about SharePoint.

SharePoint Designer Set Free (As in FREE)
Last week's SharePoint Weekly Webcast featured David McNamee discussing SharePoint Designer. I was caught by surprise when he announced that SPD will become a free download from microsoft.com starting April 1st. This is no "April Fool's Day" joke... it's the real deal! And starting with the next version of SharePoint, SPD will be free with SharePoint licenses.
I'm thrilled to hear (and to share) this news.

SPD is a fantastic tool, making it easy to achieve those "80/20" solutions involving workflow, data visibility, and custom web forms. Sadly, it is often the subject of criticism, for two reasons. First, it's the stepchild of FrontPage which deserved the criticism it received. But SPD is a long long way from FrontPage, so the guilt by association is not fair. Second, SPD, like any tool, is not a silver bullet. It has limitations, it has bugs, it has quirks. But put to use in the right places, it's a great tool, and the investment Microsoft put into SPD 2007 is a harbinger of further innovations in the 2010 release.

For power users and quick-and-dirty solutions, it's the tool of choice. A number of folks I run into are not yet familiar with SPD, so let me clear up a couple of things. • SPD is not something you're going to deploy to every user. It will be a specialized tool for SharePoint site owners and designers and will be something you'll deploy after those users have gone through training.

• SPD is not at all a replacement for Visual Studio as a development platform. Developers will likely use both tools, but power users can achieve some impressive things with SPD.
• SPD has a learning curve, like any application, but it's nowhere near as steep as you'd think. Start at Microsoft Online's SharePoint Designer training page and check out a few of the short training videos.

Customizing SharePoint Online with SPD
Tobias Zimmergren, a SharePoint MVP from Sweden, has continued his exploration of Microsoft Online with a great, short, how-to-focused article about Customizing Microsoft Office Online using SPD . Not only is this a great way to get away from the out-of-box look-and-feel of SharePoint Online, but it's also a quick start to the skills required to customize your internal SharePoint implementations as well. Tack så mycket to Tobias for his excellent work!

Visual Studio 2008 extensions for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, v1.3 - Mar 2009 CTP
The named-by-committee-resulting-in-a-Frankenstein-like-name tool has reached its next Community Technology Preview release. VSeWSS 1.3 can be downloaded from Microsoft's site.
There are several ways to approach developing solutions for SharePoint, and there are advantages to each. VSeWSS's advantage is that it's a Microsoft tool, so it's likely to be supported into the future, and to offer better prospects for an upgrade path. Last week, at Windows Connections, I received a lot of questions about the "upgrade" to SharePoint 2010. While the real answer is "nobody knows yet," you have to assume that if you're using Microsoft supported tools, you're at least in a better spot than if you're not. So go forth and conquer.

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