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  • SharePoint Designer – Free?

    Posted on March 31st, 2009 Andy Parkes No comments

    There has been a rumour kicking around the last few weeks that Microsoft are to make SharePoint designer available for free

    (Posts from various SharePoint based blogs here, here and here)

    Any software announcement scheduled for April 1st always makes me suspicious (a couple of the blog posts I’ve mentioned have updated to say it’ll be the April 2nd now) but the post that made me think this could be the real deal was from the Lady Licensing blog (If you haven’t already subscribed to her blog do it…it’s very helpful!)

    Product Licensing Changes to SharePoint Designer, PerformancePoint Server and Forms Server – April 2009

    The post outlines that SharePoint Designer will become free (if you have software assurance you can get a copy of Expression Web 2 in replacement) and also says that Performance Point Server 2007 and Forms Server 2007 are to be retired

    I’ve got a few thoughts on this so lets start with SharePoint Designer

    If this is true then i think it’s a move that makes sense. When your working with SharePoint you have three ways to customise your site

    1) Through the browser

    2) With SharePoint Designer (SPD)

    3) Using developer tools such as Visual Studio

    SharePoint designer is sort of pitched as an advanced end user tool but in reality (based on my own experience) someone with specific knowledge would do this on your behalf (such as your IT consultant)

    If you want to do anything more advanced then you’d get developers involved who would side step SPD completely so I’ll bet Microsoft aren’t selling too many copies of SPD and I imagine the people who are at this level are using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) as opposed to Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) so they are already paying customers

    Since WSS is free making it a part of that adds to the overall feature set and wont make too much of a difference to the Microsoft bottom line

    Just for the ability to create workflows alone i think SharePoint Designer is an excellent tool, that’s before you look at any of the other stuff it can do

    While it can be quite a scary product (people worry about “breaking” their SharePoint sites) it is extremely powerful and worth getting to know (Penny Coventry’s book on the subject is great!)

    Forms Server 2007 and PerformancePoint

    According to the information on Emma’s post both of these products are being retired

    PerformancePoint is being rolled up into the next release of Sharepoint and will be called “PerformancePoint Services for Sharepoint” (see here for official details). They did the same thing with Content Management Server which helps build on the feature set of MOSS

    Forms Server though is an odd one which falls under the same category of InfoPath

    I personally think Microsoft missed a trick with InfoPath and the small business market. InfoPath is a very useful tool when combined with SharePoint but it’s one of those products no one knows about. (I have the same argument about OneNote – but that’s for another time)

    This is because of the way it is bundled. InfoPath 2007 comes with Office 2007 Professional Plus and Office Enterprise (we’ll just pretend “Office Ultimate” doesn’t exist) which means buying it under a volume license agreement. While we do have customers who buy office in this way lots of them prefer to buy their office software OEM with a new PC

    You can buy InfoPath separately but that means boxed product (expensive) or via volume licensing but if you going to do that you may as well get Office Professional Plus right?

    So if you don’t already know InfoPath lets you create electronic forms which are much more powerful than anything you could create in Word (which is where most people create their forms!)

    They also integrate nicely with SharePoint so you can unlock the data within them and when combined with workflows you can create powerful solutions (timesheets and expense claims i always think are a good examples)

    The downside to this is that obviously you must have InfoPath installed to work with the forms. This is where Forms Server steps in. You can create a form and then convert it into a web form so all you need to fill it in is a browser (you can even create forms for your mobile device!)

    This functionality is “baked in” to MOSS so the product is aimed for those people using WSS but with the need for web based forms. Generally this means smaller businesses so as an example what costs more?

    10 user system

    1 copy of InfoPath  + Forms server 2007 and CALs

    or

    10 copies of InfoPath

    I imagine Microsoft aren’t selling too many copies of Forms Server so i can see why this is being retired. I couldn’t find any official announcement so I’m not sure if that’s the end of Forms Server and if you want that functionality you’ll have to move to MOSS or if we’ll see some Forms Server functionality in the next version of WSS (fingers crossed!)

    It’s April 1st tomorrow so i guess we’ll at least find out something then!

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    Andy Parkes is Technical Director at Coventry based IT support company IBIT Solutions. He is also Microsoft Partner Area Lead for 2012-2013 and coordinates AMITPRO which is a peer group for IT Professionals in the Midlands area. He also isn't a fan of describing himself in the third person.

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