The title says it all. Microsoft has made SharePoint Designer available for free at http://www.microsoft.com/spd.
A few words of advice when using SharePoint Designer
- Use SharePoint designer on your development environment and then have a developer package up your modifications into a solution package (.WSP) that can be redeployed and reused in the future.
- Using SharePoint Designer for 1 off simple workflows is not a sin. Just remember that it is not a simple process to move an existing SharePoint Designer workflow to another location.
- Remember that if you make any change to a web page in SharePoint using SharePoint Designer it becomes “unghosted”. This means a copy of the page is now stored in the content database instead of living in its original location. If the original file that the page is based upon is changed or updated it will not be reflected in your unghosted page.
- SharePoint Designer is great for creating dataview web parts or for working out XSL formatting issues. Once you have the web part working the way you want, always export it and then revert the page back to the site definition. You can then import the web part back into the site and place it on the page. This will prevent the page from staying unghosted.
- SharePoint Designer can help you tweak your Master Pages and CSS files. Make sure that you do this only in your development server and then package the results into a solution package (.WSP) for deployment on your production servers.
- Make sure your server is patched up well before using SharePoint Designer. There was a bug fixed in a recent hot fix that would cause the W3WP worker process to crash when SharePoint Designer is connected to a site. You don’t want that to happen on your production site.
If you have any constructive best practices for using SharePoint Designer please post a comment. For those anti-SPD people, please don’t just say “Don’t use it”. :-,,)