We have been using SharePoint Designer …
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- Shows hidden lists
- Shows sharing links so I can delete them
- Easier to navigate from one list or library to get a quick comparison
- The interface is really dated
- Preview in Browser doesn't work half the time
- There's no help or tooltips
- Easy to go down a rabbit hole, but not always easy to revert back
- Product is obsolete and will be deprecated.
We have been using SharePoint Designer 2013 with both SharePoint Server 2013 and SharePoint Server 2016.
It is used by several departments in our organization :
- IT services
- BU like Data Center, DevOps, etc
How are we using SharePoint Designer ?
- Update specific pages
- Create workflows
- Access libraries
- Publish pages
- Update master pages
- Editing master pages
- Publishing features
- Application's size
- Application's speed
If you need to implement custom workflows for specific business processes, then SharePoint Designer is well suited.
SharePoint Designer allows you to create workflows with task approval, email notifications, assign variables and update SharePoint Lists / Documents properties.
In our company, we have created specific workflows for :
- Purchase order
- RH forms validation like annual employee review
- Dematerialized existing forms and validation
- Reviewing Workflows - but again, don't create new ones
- Reviewing content on old SharePoint farms
- It is being phased out by Microsoft so they are not improving it anymore.
- SP2010 workflows are the easiest way to get a text from a lookup field.
- Workflows are free.
- Fairly easy to use, intuitive interface.
- Branding and CSS styling on the master page.
- Cross-site and cross-site collection lookups.
- Get text from lookup fields in 2013 (or next release). It is cumbersome to need multiple workflows for one task.
- No ability to edit DispForm.aspx, etc.
- Customization of SharePoint.
- Deployment of workflow solutions.
- Tool itself needs improvement as it sometime crashes.
- SPFX page modification.
It is not suited for designing site pages and for developing highly customized solutions, as it will crash.
- Allows me to go directly to the file structure I want to examine.
- Allows me to move files from one area within a site to another.
- Good for editing the HTML code within a page.
- Navigation between sub-sites and beyond the entry point is not seamless. I find it difficult to get to the root of a directory structure if I have not started there.
- Would love to be able to do WYSIWYG in some form. I have only used it for a year but I have not found anything fancy to do.
- I would like to be able to work in a development site and easily move to the production site.
- SharePoint Designer offers more granularity of customizing a workflow that is more sophisticated solution that can effectively delegate tasks to responsible parties and reflects status updates of task status.
- SharePoint Designer offers form customization where Office products such as Word, Excel or PowerPoint cannot meet specific government requirements and or expectations.
- Microsoft will be deprecating SharePoint Designer in 2023, forcing organizations and developers to either start using SharePoint Online or invest in compatible third-party applications.
- SharePoint Designer is not user-friendly for new developers. The learning curve is moderate, depending on the background of SharePoint developers. Albeit, there are YouTube videos on how to configure a workflow, create an InfoPath form and manipulate a SharePoint site, but be prepared to invest time for training if someone has never seen nor used SharePoint Designer before.
- Deprecation of SharePoint Designer is indicative by the unavailability of SharePoint Designer 2016, because Microsoft will stop supporting it.
- One limitation I had to deal with when working with IP forms was the limited set of controls. Compared to ASP.NET, the IP control are very limited. Many times I had to find workaround. If you design the IP form to open up in the browser you will get more restrictions.
If you opt to use SharePoint Designer, latest version 2013 for SharePoint Online or on-premise, here is what you can do with a SharePoint list: Custom list, Permissions, Columns, Views, Forms, Content Type and set Custom Actions.
- Page customization
- Light BCS
- Workflow connectors to other systems would be useful.
- Page design can be made easier with WYSIWYG rich text edit capabilities.
- Workflow scheduling capability that ties in to something server-side - perhaps a timer job - would be very useful.
Weak on: scalability, portability, easy connection to other systems.
- List and Library configuration
- GUI Interface editing pages
- 2013 Workflows - Loops: You can build loops to work while a value (not) equals something, or N number of times. You can insert Parallel Blocks to do multiple things at once, or to watch for multiple things, and when 1 thing finishes, cancels the others and moves to the next step or stage.
- 2013 Workflows - Stages: Previously all we had were steps, which worked sequentially. With the Concept of Stages, we can create blocks of steps and based on the data collected during those functions, we can tell the workflow to go to a different Stage in the workflow based on a set of 1, or multiple, Conditionals in a transition area after each Stage. Giving you the power to develop multiple entire processes and skipping to the correct part of the workflow, rather than going through 20 conditionals to find out you needed to do action 31.
- 2013 Workflows - REST API: the "Call HTTP Web Service" is a very powerful tool, but hard to understand if you have never seen it done, or have a guideline. It works very similar to the requirements in PowerShell to connect and get and post data to SharePoint using the Rest API. You can also use this to manage permissions on List Items, Lists, Sites, and Site Collections. Best part is when developed correctly, it is SUPER FAST!
- Intentionally Building Infinite Loops: I have built multiple review process from Managing Certifications to Updating Published Documentation, that monitors when an Item, based on provided approved metadata, when the "Author" needs to review the document within the given amount of time. They will get e-mails with links asking if changes are needed. If not, it is routed to the Approving Executive, and the Workflow Automatically updates the Metadata to push out the review dates to the next date, based on metadata provided on how how often the document should be reviews. By using conditionals in the transition of stages, it basically starts over, and goes into a parallel block to allow the monitoring of multiple values of metadata to move to the next stage. Very Powerful when you want to automate these types of process. It truly is a "Set It and Forget It" process.
- How to build the workflows is not apparent. Even the books out there published on SharePoint Development or Administration using SharePoint Designer tell you minor things; how to start, how to stop, how pause, etc., but nothing really defined as a Standard Best Practice to build (Insert Business Process Here) workflow. For example, a detailed explanation of how to use the action "Start an approval process". There are 3 different states in this workflow, and there are so many options in each state, and there is not a clear path. That is just one out of the box action that has 3-4 Levels of detail, without any direction. Your only hope is Google Searches, YouTube Videos, and if you are luck, there is a local college or university with Computer Education Training that focus on specific specific programs and teach you the in's and out's of the program, such as the University of Missouri - St. Louis. They have an entire division dedicated to the use of these types of applications such as SharePoint Designer, with actual Certificate Programs, of which I obtained (http://www.cetc.umsl.edu/). The classes there on SharePoint Designer gave me the knowledge to become the Architect and Designer I am today.
- The number of actions available out of the box are limited. Granted the 2013 platform workflows do have a larger number of actions available, but still they are limited. One of the things I have done is develop custom workflow actions for SharePoint Designer. Sadly this only works with SharePoint on Premise Systems and you have to develop it in Visual Studio, and that program is as intuitive as learning a new language. The workaround I have used to add nearly 40 additional actions, with AMAZINGLY DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS with examples is the Workflow Actions Pack by Plumsail.com. This $500 annual investment has elevated the level of development with SharePoint Designer to outer space. The best part, it is not difficult to use, and makes creating workflows exciting.
- The absolute worst thing about SharePoint Designer is that Microsoft is not releasing another version after the 2013 version. Microsoft will support SharePoint Designer 2013 for SharePoint 2013 & 2016 on Premise systems until 2026 (https://blogs.office.com/2016/01/20/sharepoint-server-2016-and-project-server-2016-release-candidate-available/). However, for the SharePoint Online (Office 365) environment may not support it for that amount of time. Microsoft may cut the time shorter due to SharePoint Online being a Multi-Tenant Environment.
To a SharePoint Developer, workflows are like a hammer to a carpenter. If there is a business process that needs automation, the first thing I look to is what are we automating? What/where is the data? How can we minimize the number of keystrokes by end-users to get from the start to finish? The answer to all of these is "build a workflow". With the introduction of "Call HTTP Web Service" action, you can now access data anywhere in a site collection and consume it in any site, on any list, for any form. SharePoint Designer Workflows makes the SharePoint world go round.
Less Appropriate - Building SharePoint Pages
- Workflow Development - SharePoint Designer is currently the go-to tool for creating custom workflows in SharePoint.
- Allows you to easily upload resource files.
- It crashes...a lot! Be prepared to be making back-ups and hitting save frequently if you don't wan to loose your work.
- The HTML Editor is sub-par. I use other tools such as Visual Studio or Sublime for HTML Editing and just copy the code to Designer.
- It's being phased out. Microsoft announced that no new versions of SharePoint Designer will be released.
- Integrates very well with SharePoint, allowing you to change page layouts, display templates and css.
- Very easily allows you to create/change workflows.
- Would like the design view to come back, so I can see the changes I have made without having to preview them on my page.
- Helps developers create a custom look and feel for new, edit and display forms.
- Gives user the ability to create parameters and connect web parts.
- Gives users the ability to create custom workflows.
- SharePoint 2010 is very buggy and it often crashes.
- Allows ease and flexibility of creating custom workflows specific to the business needs. Emails can be configured to easily be sent based on specific conditions, and the inclusion of workflow variables allows increased functionality.
- It gives a quick interface to add, edit, and remove site pages as well as the ability to edit list item pages creating a custom look and feel for every business need and increasing the functionality of SharePoint lists.
- Allows a nicer user interface for the additions and management of the external content types linked to the specific sites.
- In the newest version of SharePoint Designer, they have gotten rid of the Design view which makes what used to be quick and easy changes much more code-intensive. This makes it harder for non-IT users and is more risker for all SharePoint Designer users.
- SharePoint Designer workflows have a lot of functionality, but there are also some crucial limitations, such as not being able to put lookup fields in email subjects or using parenthesis to separate/group logical conditions.
- Although this goes along with the Design view, there really isn't a good user interface anymore for adding conditional formatting and styles in views/pages.
Our company uses SharePoint Designer for ad-hoc customizations to its SharePoint 2010 intranet. My team, which is the web development team, is the only group allowed to use Designer in the production environment. Anybody who requests it can use it in the test environment. We have a deployment tool that facilitates deployment of sites from test to production.
- Designer is great for creating and applying custom master pages to sites. A custom master can be created anywhere, uploaded to a site, and applied to individual pages (rather than to an entire site).
- Designer is also really easy to use when I need to apply conditional formatting to a list, such as color-coding items needing attention.
- If you're not afraid of XSL, Designer is also a decent environment for customizing a page's layout by altering XSL templates.
- I also use Designer for building quick one-off workflows. The workflow building interface is easy to use and very powerful - much easier than getting into Visual Studio workflow and then deploying it.
- Most people don't choose whether or not to use SharePoint Designer - we are somewhat of a captive user group. If you want to customize SharePoint pages without building custom solutions every time, then Designer is your only option.
- Designer can be unstable. There is not a lot of room for error in playing around with the XSL it creates -- errors will often cause the application to crash. The code view is not particularly good at dealing with XSL either -- it doesn't group by tag, and XSL error messages are not informative. I have taught myself to look closely at the line numbering -- If I make a change to XSL, refresh the Design view, and get a vague XSL error message, having a line number reference to my last change saves me a lot of hunting, because Designer will not tell you where the error is.
- Designer has a variety of bugs, some more annoying than others. For instance, it gives you the ability to create a data source from SharePoint's web services (very handy for referencing data in a separate site collection), but the data source seems unable to use Windows authentication, and I am forced to hard-code an account name and password. Certainly not ideal.
Designer 2010 is a huge improvement over Designer 2007. I'm just now installing Designer 2013 for my next upgrade environment, and I hope it is similarly improved. Given that there aren't any easy alternatives to Designer, it is worth putting up with its idiosyncrasies in order to get quick results for my end users.
But it is a powerful tool, so I will not make it available to the various power users who have requested access to it in production. We can restrict what site(s) Designer users can change, but within those sites, everything becomes up for grabs. Since my company wants to (a) maintain consistent user interfaces, and (b) restrict the number of unghosted pages overall (for performance reasons), we opt to let users from outside my team create their designs/customizations/workflows in the test environment, then we vet them before moving them to production.