How to enable SharePoint Designer 2013 Advanced Mode.

SharePoint Designer is on its way out but it is still one of the critical ways to modify and manage your SharePoint sites.     Recently, a customer was unable to open SharePoint designer and modify Unghosted pages, layouts, and master pages.  The beauty of SharePoint Designer was the ability of farm/tenant and site collection administrators to lock down usage of SharePoint Designer (SPD).  SPD can perform damaging changes to a site and is typically locked down to prohibit that action.

Scenario: you have an unghosted page or need to make changes to a page and break it from the site definition.  If you do not have the correct SPD permissions you will not be able to edit or access the Advanced Mode design capabilities of SPD.



A site owner opens SharePoint Designer, navigates to the Page in the Site Pages library, and attempts to Edit the file.

SharePoint Designer Edit Page


The file is unghosted [Reference: 2] which indicates it is no longer using the Site Definition layout, markup, or structure.  You can only modify this page in Advanced Mode

SharePoint Designer - Modification is Disabled


A site owner or developer opens the List to modify the Custom form.

SharePoint Designer - List Custom Form



The file is unghosted [Reference: 2] which indicates it is no longer using the Site Definition layout, markup, or structure.  You can only modify this page in Advanced Mode

SharePoint Designer - Lack of Permissions



Notice the Advanced Mode is Disabled.  All text in Yellow is not modifiable according to SharePoint Designer markup engine

SharePoint Designer - Advanced Mode Disabled




Each Site collection controls how SharePoint Designer can be used

SharePoint Designer Advanced Permissions


The permissions and their details are documented in [Reference : 2] .  Check 'Enable Detaching pages from Site Definition' which will allow you to modify those un-ghosted pages that are only accessible through Advanced Mode modifications.    I've highlighted Enable Customizing Master Pages and Layout Pages.  Unless you absolutely need your site owners customizing the site design, I would highly recommend you leave this unchecked.   Design manager would be a more appropriate approach at customizing your site.  Take a look at the OfficeDevPnP site for additional guidance on design options.  [Reference: 4]

SharePoint Designer - Permissions


Expected Outcome:

First communicate with your Tenant Admin, Farm Admin, or Site Collection Administrator to enable the correct SPD permissions (see Resolution above) on the site you need to modify.  Close any existing SPD connection with the site.  Reconnect to your Site as a Site Owner or Developer.

SharePoint Designer - Close Connections


Navigate to the Site Pages library, open the page, and then click Edit.  You will receive a new prompt.  Notice the prompt opens immediately in Advanced Mode.  In this instance the page was already unghosted or customized from the Site definition.

SharePoint Designer - Advanced Mode is enabled


Navigate to your List/Library and open the custom form.  You will receive the prompt that the List Form will be opened in Advanced Mode.

SharePoint Designer - Custom List Form


Of note: the HTML is not highlighted in Yellow which indicates areas that we can modify.  I would suggest you leave the HTML alone and focus on the Ribbon components to make changes to the form.

SharePoint Designer - Editable Html




  1.  - Demonstrates the issue but doesn't tell you how to enable the feature.
  2. - Details the difference between Ghosted and Un-ghosted.
  3. - Outlines each setting for SharePoint Designer
  4.   - SharePoint design tools and practices
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