SharePoint Designer Tutorials, Tips and Tricks

/ Andreas Glaser

Microsoft SharePoint Designer is a tool from Microsoft used to rapidly create SharePoint solutions without code. It is intended for power users or even developers to quickly respond to changing business needs.

What does SharePoint Designer do?

SharePoint Designer allows you as an advanced user or even as a developer to rapidly create solutions without code.

SharePoint Designer starting screen showing what SharePoint Designer does.

Business needs are changing or new ones come up... instead of doing a huge specification and implementation phase which consumes a lot of resources we have the possibility to rapidly create solutions for the business needs.

It doesn't matter what these needs are: collaboration sites, web publishing, business intelligence, workflows to automate business processes or the integration of Line-Of-Business data, SharePoint Designer is the answer. And it's completely free.

How does it work? After installing SharePoint Designer you need to activate it. After that you connect to an existing SharePoint site and that's it. You can start to modify your site right now.

Important note: Using SharePoint Designer can result in behavior you don't want to. Example: By modifying a site you can detach the site from it's layout stored at a central location. Updating the layout doesn't show up on your modified site. So SharePoint Designer should only be used by advanced and trained persons.

The things you can do with SharePoint Designer can be grouped into 4 main categories:

  1. Data sources: Create and manage internal and external data sources.
  2. Views and forms: Create views and forms to work with data.
  3. Workflows: Create workflows to manage business processes.
  4. Branding: Customize the look and feel of your SharePoint site.
SharePoint Designer starting screen showing what SharePoint Designer does.

By the way: Back in 2007 you were able to edit every web site using SharePoint Designer...

...with 2010 you can’t do this anymore since it allows you only to open SharePoint 2010 sites.


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Can I still use SharePoint Designer?

Yes, you can still use SharePoint Designer to modify SharePoint sites or create workflows.




What is replacing SharePoint Designer?

There is no tool that replaces SharePoint Designer. You can still use it with the newest on-premise version of SharePoint.

For example, you can connect SharePoint Designer 2013 with SharePoint Server Subscription Edition or SharePoint 2019 and modify a SharePoint site or create workflows.



Is SharePoint Designer being discontinued?

No, SharePoint Designer 2013 will be supported until 2026.

"There will not be a new SharePoint Designer client shipped with this release. Microsoft will ensure that SharePoint Designer 2013 will work with SharePoint Server 2019 for the remainder of the client support lifecycle (2026). SharePoint Designer 2013 will not be supported beyond that timeframe." (Source)



What is SharePoint on-premise and Office 365?

SharePoint on-premise means that SharePoint will be installed on a server inside your company.

SharePoint Online in Office 365 is the cloud-based version of SharePoint maintained by Microsoft.

What is SharePoint in Office 365?
Image source


Can I use SharePoint Designer 2013 for SharePoint Online?

No, you shouldn't use SharePoint Designer with SharePoint Online sites in 2022.

Here's why:

  • You can't customize modern SharePoint sites because SharePoint Designer is based on an old concept named masterpages.
  • SharePoint Workflow 2013 and 2010 are not supported in SharePoint Online. Please use Power Automate instead.

Source 1, Source 2, Source 3



Can I use SharePoint Designer for Office 365?

No, you shouldn't use SharePoint Designer 2013 with Office 365 in 2022.

The same details as above apply because SharePoint Online is part of Office 365 / Microsoft 365.




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Where can I download SharePoint Designer?

Please download your required version of SharePoint Designer below:

SharePoint Designer 2013 Download

Download SharePoint Designer 2013 and updates below.

System requirements: Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 (or newer) and Microsoft .NET 4.0 Framework or higher.

Works with: SharePoint Server Subscription Edition, SharePoint 2019, SharePoint 2016, SharePoint 2013



SharePoint Designer 2010 Download

Download SharePoint Designer 2010 and updates below.

System requirements: Windows 7 (or newer), Windows Server 2008 (or newer) and Windows Vista Service Pack 1.

Works with: SharePoint 2010


SharePoint Designer 2010 is available in a 32bit and a 64bit version. If you intend to use SharePoint Designer 2007 besides the 2010 version you need to install the 32bit version of SharePoint Designer 2010.

One important complaint with the 2007 version was preventing people from using SharePoint Designer 2007 which has changed with SharePoint Designer 2010: You can now easily manage the capabilities at the web application or site collection level.



SharePoint Designer 2007 Download

Not available anymore. Please use a newer version instead.


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SharePoint Designer Tutorials, Videos & Books

Below is a list of tutorials, videos and books created by SharePoint experts & trainers.

SharePoint at Work: Creating a Workflow in SharePoint Designer

This course covers the fundamentals on how to create a SharePoint workflow in SharePoint Designer. This course applies to SharePoint 2010, 2013, 2016.

Watch the Course for Free*


* 10-day free trial




Planning and Configuring Business Connectivity Services in SharePoint 2019

Since its inception, SharePoint has always been about empowering the end users to do more, without depending on longer development cycles. This course will teach you how to work with data sources as SharePoint external lists, by leveraging BCS.

Watch the Course for Free*


* 10-day free trial




Power Automate

Business process automation is the goal of most organizations and Microsoft Power Automate can help you reach that goal. This course will help you get started automating your own processes with Microsoft Power Automate!

Getting Started with Microsoft Power Automate
Demonstrating the Business Value of Power Automate
RPA with Microsoft Power Automate: Getting Started


* 10-day free trial




There are also free SharePoint Designer tutorials you can use to learn SharePoint Designer 2013:

Free SharePoint Designer tutorials on YouTube.

  1. SharePoint Designer Videos on Youtube
  2. What's new in workflow in SharePoint Server 2013
  3. Creating a workflow by using SharePoint Designer 2013 and the SharePoint 2013 Workflow platform

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What is the best SharePoint Designer Tutorial?

I highly recommend on of the tutorials or video courses above which are created by well-known SharePoint Experts. The video courses can be used with a free trial.

SharePoint Designer starting screen showing what SharePoint Designer does.


How do I create SharePoint Designer Workflows?

Follow these 3 steps to create a SharePoint Designer workflow:


Step 1) Create a SharePoint site for test purposes

I highly recommend creating a test site that is similar to your live SharePoint site where the workflow should run. You can test everything you want to without causing problems if you mess up.

SharePoint Designer starting screen showing what SharePoint Designer does.


Step 2) Download and Install SharePoint Designer 2013

Download the version of SharePoint Designer that works with your environment.

Note: Skip this step if you want to create a workflow for SharePoint Online sites.



Step 3) Create a SharePoint Designer Workflow

Once you have SharePoint Designer installed use one of the tutorials above to create a workflow. The video courses can be used with a free trial.

Note: Please use Power Automate instead of SharePoint Designer 2013 if you want to create a workflow for SharePoint Online in Office 365.

SharePoint Designer starting screen showing what SharePoint Designer does.

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FAQ

What is the newest version of SharePoint Designer?

The newest version of SharePoint Designer is SharePoint Designer 2013 which works with SharePoint Server Subscription Edition, 2019, 2016 and 2013.

SharePoint Designer starting screen showing what SharePoint Designer does.


SharePoint Designer 2021

There's no SharePoint Designer 2021 and there won't be a release of another product. You can still use SharePoint Designer 2013 to connect to SharePoint Server Subscription Edition, 2019 and 2016.

In my opinion Microsoft is moving away from the idea that a Power User is capable of customizing SharePoint. There must be thousands of different customized environments out there and Microsoft has to care about them when releasing a new version of SharePoint. SharePoint Designer made it easy to modify SharePoint but also impacted migration.


SharePoint Designer 2019

There's no SharePoint Designer 2019 and there won't be a release of another product. You can still use SharePoint Designer 2013 to connect to SharePoint Server Subscription Edition, 2019 and 2016.


SharePoint Designer 2016

There's no SharePoint Designer 2016 and there won't be a release of another product. You can still use SharePoint Designer 2013 to connect to SharePoint Server Subscription Edition, 2019 and 2016.


SharePoint Designer 2013

SharePoint Designer 2013 is the latest release and supports SharePoint 2013 or newer versions of Sharepoint.


SharePoint Designer 2010

What is new in SharePoint Designer 2010 and which advantages does it have.

What's new?

SharePoint Designer 2010 offers a lot of new and enhanced features compared to the 2007 version.

The first thing you will notice after installing and starting SharePoint Designer is the new user interface.

User interface

Now we have the ribbon too... well using the tool is a little bit confusing and not intuitive. At least for me  i had some trouble using it the right way and knowing my current position in the SharePoint site structure. I hope this gets better with more experience and usage.

Workflow designer

SharePoint Designer workflows are now reusable... that itself is a great enhancement. Further more you can modify the out-of-the-box workflows like approval, collect feedback or collect signatures. Also new are sub-steps and impersonation steps.

Business Connectivity Services

Integrating external data wasn't easy in 2007 saying it with some nice words and it didn't fulfill the expectations. Now we have external content types and we can read and write.

Visual Studio 2010

SharePoint Designer and Visual Studio 2010 go hand in hand and complement each other. Workflows created with SharePoint Designer can be reused in Visual Studio and activities created in Visual Studio can be used with the designer.

So an advanced user knowing business requirements can model a workflow for the developer.

Visio

Visio 2010 can be used too by an user knowing business requirements to develop a process model. This can be imported using the designer to create a workflow for SharePoint 2010.

Custom actions

In SharePoint 2007 it was possible to enhance the out-of-the-box menus with custom actions. Now you can use SharePoint Designer 2010 to extend the ribbon.

Restriction

Yes, restriction is the thing that was missing in SharePoint 2007. Now an administrator can decide how an user can modify the look and feel of a SharePoint site at the server-, web application- or site collection level.

Summary

SharePoint Designer 2010 has gotten a lot of improvements and additions... right now it feels a little bit un-intuitive but we will see. Looks like it has a lot of potential and if yes I hope it can eliminate the bad reputation of 2007 version.

Top Tips

Here are the top tips (or answers) to the most common questions regarding SharePoint Designer 2010 you should consider before you start to install the application.

There are also some tips about SharePoint Designer 2007.

What can I do with it?

SharePoint Designer allows you as an advanced user or even as a developer to rapidly create solutions without code. It covers the following topics:

  • Management… of sites and lists.
  • Data sources… create and manage internal and external data sources.
  • Views and forms… create views and forms to work with data.
  • Workflows… create workflows to manage business processes.
  • Branding… customize the look and feel of your SharePoint site.

Can I edit other sites than SharePoint 2010 sites?

  • No. You can't edit SharePoint 2007 sites or other sites using ftp which was possible with SharePoint Designer 2007.

Should I use the x64 or x32 version?

  • If you need to use SharePoint Designer 2007 in order to edit SharePoint 2007 sites you need to install the x32 version of SharePoint Designer 2010.
    Source: Matt Groves Blog

Can I control where and how people use SharePoint Designer within my sites?

Yes, but it depends on the version you are using:

Settings

The SharePoint Designer can be enabled independently of the SharePoint version you are using and the features you have activated in a template. Furthermore it’s a lot easier and more user friendly to setup the behavior of SharePoint Designer.

SharePoint 2010

SharePoint 2010 allows you to disable the capabilities of SharePoint Designer 2010 at two different levels:

  • Web application and
  • Site collection.

You can enable or disable:

  • SharePoint Designer
  • Enable Detaching Pages from the Site Definition
  • Enable Customizing Master Pages and Page Layouts
  • Enable Managing of the Web Site URL Structure

Disable SharePoint Designer 2010 at Web Application

Go to Application Management > Manage web applications and select the web application you want to modify. Click General Settings > SharePoint Designer:

Enable or disable SharePoint Designer 2010.

You have 4 different options in order to integrate SharePoint Designer within your SharePoint site.

Enable or disable custom SharePoint Designer settings:

Setup four different SharePoint Designer settings.

Disable SharePoint Designer 2010 at Site Collection

Go to Site Actions > Site Settings and under the Site Collection Administration category you will find the SharePoint Designer settings:

Go to site collection and enable or disable SharePoint Designer at site collection level.

Enable or disable custom SharePoint Designer settings:

Here you can again configure four different settings.


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SharePoint Designer 2007

SharePoint Designer faced a lot of bad critics and here's why.

What went wrong?

Before we talk about the things that went wrong with SharePoint Designer 2007 let's talk about the position of this tool in the market.

Microsoft did a research and discovered that there are 3 groups needed to be addressed by this tool:

  • "Information Workers: This group is interested in developing data-intensive and process-focused scenarios in an enterprise intranet."
  • "Designers: These users are all about designing great websites using the latest technologies."
  • "Developers: This group is all about designing software and applications using sophisticated coding tools."
    [Source: SharePoint Designer 2007 Positioning]

And in my opinion the addressed target groups are maybe a good idea but it's not working in the real world... let me tell you why:

Information workers

I have never met one person belonging to this group and calling himself an information worker. Since the last 4 years where I deployed SharePoint 2007 in a lot of different companies from  different economic sectors I have never met a person capable or interested in doing this stuff. Sorry...

Designers

Designers or publishers have their own tools using them each day. And a lot of them would never use a tool by Microsoft even if it's the best tool in the whole wide world. There are habits or prejudices... they would never use SharePoint Designer 2007. Sorry again.

Developers

Now it comes down to us... we developers have to do everything. Regardless of that a lot of us tried to use it and here it happened that it didn't work as expected all the time:

  • It changed or destroyed the layout...
  • Changes are stored in the database and can create update or migration problems...
  • Workflows aren't reusable...
  • ...

This is usually the point where a developer starts Visual Studio. Also a lot of developers didn't like the fact that there was a lot of Xml configuration.

Customers

Yes this group has to take responsibility too. It differs from country to country but usually my customers want more... and more... and more and at one point SharePoint Designer is not capable of doing all the things and the investments made are lost because a solution has to be created from scratch using Visual Studio.

Summary

So maybe I'm living in the wrong country or there's something true about that. SharePoint Designer 2007 had a bad start and talking about SharePoint Designer in front of other people... yes you guess it: a murmur goes through the crowd.

I hope this changes and the 2010 version get's a fair opportunity.

I think SharePoint Designer is a good tool and you can do a lot of stuff out-of-the-box without coding. It's easy, it's fast and if you know what you are doing I suggest using it.


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