No it’s not an April fools joke and yes as of April 2, 2009, SharePoint Designer 2007 is available as a free download. General SharePoint Designer info can be found here. This eliminates any cost issue associated with providing users the necessary tools for site customization and is a great opportunity for those companies that need to customize SharePoint sites as part of their enterprise plans. But it also emphasizes the need for defining site customization governance.
So, as part of maintaining control, how do I “lock down” SPD use? This is a very common question. There are two resources that should be required reading for all SharePoint admins and any business users that are site owners:
Many new awesome features are on tap for the next version of SharePoint Designer so stay tuned.
Visual Studio 2010
Soma’s blog gave a good introduction to what’s coming in VS2010 with regard to SharePoint development:
In Visual Studio 2010, we’re going to expand SharePoint support in two key areas. First, Visual Studio 2010 will deliver a broad set of project templates, designers, and deployment infrastructure that will make any .NET developer instantly more productive on the SharePoint platform. Second, we are exposing an extensibility API that will continue to foster the ecosystem of third party developers who create development tools and technologies.
Visual Studio 2010 will come with a broad set of project and items templates. You’ll be able to use these to quickly create or update SharePoint elements such as list definitions, list instances, site definitions, workflows, event receivers, Business Data Catalog models, and content types.
There were also several presentations at MIX09 discussing the SharePoint development experience. If you missed MIX, then you can check out the recorded presentations here, at least for awhile, not sure how long they will be available. Make sure to check out the keynotes, they will give you a good overview of what’s coming.
Expression Blend v3
Also at MIX, it was announced that the next version of Expression (v3) will have SharePoint integration so designers familiar with the Expression tool can apply these skills to SP design. I’ve gotten a number of questions from folks asking why is there another design tool for SharePoint? Is SharePoint Designer going away? No, SPD is not going away. You should read this is part of the heavy commitment for making the SharePoint design, customization and development experience the best it can be with the tools you are the most familiar. As EXv3 gets closer, there will be more information on the specifics.
So, the SharePoint design, customization and development experience is only getting better and the gaps in the tool sets that exist today are being filled. It’s an awesome time to be working with a great product, especially since we are on the verge of a new release.
As part of my governance discussions, I include 2 topics of relevance here:
1. Custom Artifacts (eg custom Web parts, custom workflows, etc.)
2. Customization vs Development (aka SharePoint Designer vs Visual Studio)
These are critical discussion points for any organization that is going to use SharePoint Designer and Visual Studio as part of their tools for meeting their design requirements.
Now I know that governance is definitely not a favorite topic and it can be overwhelming, but defining the customization and development requirements and how they will be delivered BEFORE you deploy is extremely important. Only bite off the necessary governance chunks that are absolutely necessary and then add more over time; this makes the whole process more successful.