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Understanding SharePoint Designer

From: SharePoint 2010 Getting Started

Video: Understanding SharePoint Designer

Now, there's one more program worth mentioning. It's a program called SharePoint Designer 2010. Used to be installed as part of Office, but now you will typically find it under the SharePoint section. SharePoint Designer is a free download from Microsoft, and a completely separate product. You don't have to use it. Most people who use SharePoint don't need it. But the people who do really need it and are very glad for what it does. There are four reasons that you would want SharePoint Designer 2010, and some of these reasons really have nothing to do with each other.

Understanding SharePoint Designer

Now, there's one more program worth mentioning. It's a program called SharePoint Designer 2010. Used to be installed as part of Office, but now you will typically find it under the SharePoint section. SharePoint Designer is a free download from Microsoft, and a completely separate product. You don't have to use it. Most people who use SharePoint don't need it. But the people who do really need it and are very glad for what it does. There are four reasons that you would want SharePoint Designer 2010, and some of these reasons really have nothing to do with each other.

The first reason is to significantly change the look and feel of SharePoint sites. Using SharePoint Designer, I can open up an existing SharePoint site and do things to it to make it look less SharePointy. I can change the look of it. I can change the color scheme, the fonts, the overall layout. If I want to do substantial changes to the look of a SharePoint site, way beyond what themes can do, this is how I want to do it. It gives me the ability to edit the site Homepage and shifts it into kind of a Web design editing tool.

Now, a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that's all that SharePoint Designer is intended for. And it's really not. It is a very powerful Web design tool, but it can do much more than that. So if the first reason is that it allows us to shift into this mode, where we can actually start to manually edit the layout, the look and the feel of our SharePoint sites; now what else can we do? The second main reason for using SharePoint Designer is that we can use it to create what are called Workflows.

We have seen how to use Workflows inside SharePoint, but if you want to define your own, you can actually define a Workflow. Say what Document Library or List this is applied to. Give the Workflow a Name. And then without code, we can start entering our own lists of questions and actions that are listed up here as Conditions and Action. So if a document was created by a specific person or was in a certain file size range, then I might want to do things like Send an Email or Do a Calculation, Check In an Item, Create a Task.

Using SharePoint Designer, we can create substantially complex Workflows without code, effectively building applications inside our Web sites. And as you could imagine, you might be very interested in the Workflow section of SharePoint Designer and not at all interested in the visual look and feel stuff, or even the other way around. The third reason is that SharePoint Designer is an excellent way to actually change or manipulate your SharePoint site. When you point SharePoint Designer to an existing site, and you do have to have the right permissions on that site, you can even create New SharePoint Lists, or Document Libraries, or even Custom Lists using SharePoint Designer itself.

So it's a way to build out what the site is made of. And finally, the last reason for using SharePoint Designer is when you do have say a particular List or Library, you can use it to create your own Custom Forms, and by that I mean your own entry forms or edit forms. Instead of allowing SharePoint to generate them, you can even design them in InfoPath. So if you want a rich custom user interface for entering data, you can also do that using a combination of InfoPath and SharePoint Designer.

And the last reason is that you can actually create unique pages in your sites, that even connect to external data. That's on as needed basis, site-by-site and page-by-page, but can be very useful. The previous version of SharePoint Designer was really focused primarily on pretending that it was a Web design tool. This one is certainly a bit more advanced. SharePoint Designer is not just about design. It's really about customization, not just customizing the way SharePoint sites look, but the way they behave and what they are made of.

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SharePoint 2010 Getting Started

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Simon Allardice
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