Restricting SharePoint Designer Access

So, now that SharePoint Designer is free, your first question is going to be how to prevent people from using it, right?  Well, first, take a deep breath and sit back.  It’s time to think about what you actually want to accomplish.

SharePoint Designer is indeed totally free now.  What this means is that any pesky user can just go to Microsoft’s site and download it and install it.  If you work in an enterprise-level organization, you probably already have policies in place that dictate, if not downright restrict, what can be installed on people’s desktops, so this whole thing probably falls into that bailiwick.  If your users can’t actually install it, then the fact that it is free doesn’t matter.

However, let’s think about what Designer actually lets you accomplish.  Lifting straight from the Microsoft marketure (I’m copying and pasting a lot of text, and verbatim, to avoid confusion):

Q&A on SharePoint Designer 2007 Licensing Changes

Our different SharePoint server offerings provide a number of capabilities that can help improve organizational effectiveness through comprehensive content management and enterprise search, support for shared business processes and workflows, and capabilities for information-sharing and better business insight, across intranet, extranet, and internet-facing applications, all within one platform. SharePoint customizations include sophisticated no-code solutions such as Data Views, reports, and workflow tracking built by our customers quickly and easily using menus, task panes, and templates. In addition, our platform provides IT professionals and developers with the building blocks and tools for interoperability and extensibility that they need to build customized business solutions on SharePoint.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007 top 10 benefits

Reason 1Be more productive with next-generation Microsoft Web technologies.

Enjoy a new level of support for creating and customizing next-generation SharePoint Web sites and technologies. Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007 has deep editing support for the technologies underlying Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services technology, such as ASP.NET 2.0, cascading style sheets, and Microsoft Windows Workflow Foundation.

Reason 2Customize SharePoint sites exactly the way you want.

Choose the format and content of your SharePoint pages with Office SharePoint Designer 2007 — the customization tool for the entire SharePoint family. You can tailor SharePoint sites to your needs and set brand requirements using the latest ASP.NET technology, established Web standards such as XHTML, and cascading style sheets.

Reason 3Easily make or undo changes across entire SharePoint sites.

Make format and layout changes to entire SharePoint sites simply by editing the master page and modifying the SharePoint cascading style sheets. Undo changes to the home page using the Revert to Site Template Page command in Office SharePoint Designer 2007.

Reason 4Maintain control over site customization.

Site administrators and IT managers can control exactly how Office SharePoint Designer 2007 is used to help ensure information workers have an IT-managed and -compliant experience. Set up Contributor Settings for each role defined in the SharePoint site, and control access to specific actions.

Reason 5Create workflows to automate business processes.

Automate business processes associated with SharePoint lists and document libraries using the Workflow Designer, a powerful and easy-to-use tool that comes with Office SharePoint Designer 2007. Set up custom workflow conditions and actions, link them to your SharePoint data, and deploy them with a single click, without installing server code.

Reason 6Create interactive Web pages without writing code.

Office SharePoint Designer 2007 has a full set of tools to help you integrate data into SharePoint pages and present that data using XSLT in SharePoint sites. You can access tools for using XSLT Data Views, List View Web Parts, Web Part connections, ASP.NET controls, and workflow.

Reason 7Integrate business data.

Create views and forms for working with a variety of data sources using tools supported by Office SharePoint Designer 2007. Build SharePoint Web pages that present and edit data coming from SharePoint lists and document libraries, XML files, Microsoft SQL Server databases, Web services, and enterprise systems.

Reason 8Develop sites compatible with a wide range of browsers and Web standards.

Office SharePoint Designer 2007 has excellent support for creating Web pages based on Web standards such as XHTML and cascading style sheets and meeting Web accessibility requirements for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG and Section 508 (29 U.S.C. 794d), including built-in compatibility checkers for these standards.

Reason 9Build advanced ASP.NET pages.

Office SharePoint Designer 2007 supports creating and editing ASP.NET pages. It provides the same level of support as Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 for ASP.NET control hosting, property editing, toolbox, and Microsoft IntelliSense technology in Code View.

Reason 10Manage and help protect your site.

Use reports in Office SharePoint Designer 2007 to help manage your site by checking for broken links, unused pages, cascading style sheets usage, and master page usage. Site backup and restore features make it easy to save your site to a single file for helping to protect data or moving it to another server running Windows SharePoint Services technology.

Does any of that sound dangerous?  Of course not!  It was written by marketers who wanted you to buy the product (but now it’s free!).  The point is that the capabilities contained in SharePoint Designer can allow your users to do pretty cool stuff all on their own.  (So do Microsoft Word, Excel, etc., and we IT folks have pretty much gotten used to that, though we may ridicule their lack of “expertise” behind their backs.  Look in the mirror: are you actually that much better?)

So, let’s assume that those annoying users are able and willing to install SharePoint Designer on their machines.  What are the real issues for IT or the governance folks?  As I’ve mentioned in the past, SharePoint Designer respects all permissions.  If your user has Read permissions on a site, they aren’t going to be able to open it in SharePoint Designer.  Period.  SharePoint Designer is an editor, so Read permissions just won’t do it.  But what if they are Contributors?  Yes, they can then open the site, but they will only be able to do things that are allowed by the Contributor role.  (Time to re-acquaint yourself with what’s behind the roles and how they work.)

Time to convene a meeting of your governance committee.  Think through all of this, and what you want people to be able to do.  SharePoint is a collaborative platform.  It’s the most important new platform for Microsoft, and it isn’t going away anytime soon.  Microsoft has said that SharePoint Designer will be free for good, now – all future versions.  You’re going to want to get your hands around this one.

Ok, you’ve read this far, and you still just want to keep everyone from using SharePoint Designer, period, no questions asked.  Here’s the article that you’re looking for, direct from the SharePoint Designer Team Blog.  It gives every nitty-gritty detail on what your options are.  My recommendation: think before you act.

Have a thought or opinion?