SharePoint 2013 Preview and SharePoint Designer: Q & A with Asif Rehmani

SharePoint 2013 Preview and SharePoint Designer: Q & A with Asif Rehmani

I'm not a SharePoint admin or developer, but during the past few years I've spent as an observer and analyst in the SharePoint community, I've noticed there are basically two kinds of people: the few who make you feel stupid for asking questions, and the majority who are kind, intelligent people who'll bust their chops to help you. SharePoint Server MVP and MCT Asif Rehmani is in that latter category.

Asif is a SharePoint trainer and solution architect who has a talent for visually explaining things—especially via videos, which he produces at his SharePoint Videos company. He has carved out a deep and useful niche helping people learn to work with SharePoint--and more specifically, SharePoint Designer.

If you're attending this fall's SharePoint Connections (co-located with Dev Connections and Windows Connections in Las Vegas Oct. 29-Nov. 1), I recommend you check out Asif's no-code solutions sessions on SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. You might have heard some of the controversy about the changes; he'll tell you what's changed and how to make it work for you.

Asif recently took some time out from his busy schedule to answer a few questions.

SharePoint Pro: It's always interesting to see how far back people go with SharePoint. How long have you been involved with SharePoint? And what do you say to people who are overwhelmed by SharePoint or who dislike it?

Asif Rehmani: I have been working with SharePoint since 2002 (SharePoint 2001). It hardly feels like it's been that long, however. SharePoint wasn't always a great product. In fact, SharePoint 2001 was extremely challenging and not ready at all for prime time (in my opinion). Microsoft released it anyway, and we all wondered if it was going to make it. Fast forward 10 years and we see SharePoint everywhere. Microsoft has made great strides in improving the product in many categories, and it still keeps getting better with every version.

It's pretty easy to get overwhelmed by all that SharePoint has to offer. My advice to those feeling like they are way in over their head is don't focus on all the functionality that SharePoint has to offer. Focus on your business needs instead. SharePoint may or may not be the answer to what you are trying to accomplish. Chances are, it will do what you need to build your business solution, since there is just so much functionality built into it now. Start with something simple first and build on it. Don't try to do everything right off the bat. That's a sure path to failure that many have already taken and now regret.

SharePoint Pro: What is the biggest challenge people face in using SharePoint Designer 2010?

Asif Rehmani: Not understanding the true power of SharePoint Designer and just hacking their way through it. Since SharePoint Designer 2010 is an extremely powerful product, care has to be taken in understanding your options first before moving forward. Understanding what you should not do (even if it's possible) is equally as important as understanding what you can do in this product. Otherwise, a lot of headaches can be waiting for you at the time of the next upgrade.

SharePoint Pro: What is the biggest benefit you've seen people get from using SharePoint Designer 2010?

Asif Rehmani: Workflows and Data Views. The type of power that these two functions provide in SharePoint Designer 2010 is beyond anything else we have in the "Power User" tools arena. Understanding what these can do, getting properly trained on them and then actually building your solutions is truly magical for a power user, with or without any programming knowledge. The power of what was previously available only to developers has now been put in the hands of "no-code programmers." To get a better understanding of what you are able to do, these videos give you a complete visual.

SharePoint Pro: What kinds of challenges await people using SharePoint Designer 2013?

Asif Rehmani:
Two things will challenge people:

1. The Design View interface has been ripped out of SharePoint Designer 2013.
This is a major change in direction by Microsoft. Only time will tell how it will play out in the SharePoint community. In SharePoint Designer 2013, you will not be able to use visual design view to do tons of things that you are able to currently do in SharePoint Designer 2010:
• Modifying SharePoint pages
• Configure conditional formatting
• Create web part connections
• Create formula expressions to display data
To get a complete picture, this blog post about what's changing in SharePoint Designer 2013 can help.

2. SharePoint Designer 2013 Workflow has been updated.
The SharePoint Designer 2013 Workflow engine has gotten a supreme update! You have the ability to create Loops, an action to call a web service. These changes are pretty huge in terms of creating workflows. Now for the challenge: Power users who have been using SharePoint Designer 2010 or earlier will find that the functionality has gotten pretty complex now. Workflows in SharePoint Designer 2013 will take some getting used to. If folks put enough time and effort to learn the new ways of building workflows, they will benefit from it greatly. However, some people, especially the ones with no development background, might shy away from the complexities being added to the new platform. It is starting to seem more and more like a tool for developers rather than power users.
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