SharePoint Designer 2013′s Missing Design View – It’s Official

4 minute read

Well, Keenan Newton did a post on the Microsoft SharePoint Team Blog entitle Changes to the Design View in SharePoint Designer 2013 yesterday that makes it official: the Design View in SharePoint Designer 2013 is not just missing, it’s not coming back. I’m reproducing Keenan’s post below, but you should also read it in situ, as the comments are already piling up, and they aren’t positive.

Hi, I’m Keenan Newton, a senior product marketing manager on the SharePoint team.

We’re making some changes to the Design View in SharePoint Designer 2013, and I wanted to talk about the reasoning behind the changes.

With SharePoint Server 2013 embracing new web standards for client side rendering of pages such as JavaScript, JSON, and OData, there is no longer a need to support a visual web page editor within SharePoint Designer. With that in mind, we removed the ability to visually edit pages in SharePoint Designer 2013 because its page editor is designed to only understand the unique features of a SharePoint web page. With our support of new web standards, any web page designer can now be used for editing web pages in SharePoint Server 2013. This includes form customization, conditional formatting of page content, layout, theming and branding. To simplify the process of integrating customized SharePoint pages, SharePoint Server 2013 includes a new feature called the SharePoint Design Manager. This feature enables a web designer to export a web page from SharePoint, customize it, and then import it back into SharePoint, all right from the SharePoint site.

SharePoint Designer 2013 will continue to support site, workflow, list, library, and external data customization and configuration. However, we will look for opportunities to leverage SharePoint itself as the primary tool for customization and configuration tasks.

I’m not going to be politic about it: this is going to hurt Microsoft and it’s a horrible decision. The things you may be able to use Design Manager to do and workflows are not what the majority of people use SharePoint Designer for. Code View will do those same people virtually zero good, and there’s no replacement strategy.

Here are some of my specific beefs with the “official” stance that Keenan puts forth.

…we removed the ability to visually edit pages in SharePoint Designer 2013 because its page editor is designed to only understand the unique features of a SharePoint web page.

Exactly! The reason we choose to use SharePoint Designer is *because* it understands “the unique features of a SharePoint web page”. Nothing else does. For better or worse, SharePoint 2013’s forms, for example, are the same as they have been in 2007 and 2010, based on the List Form Web Part. No other editor knows what that is. SharePoint Designer does.

…any web page designer can now be used for editing web pages in SharePoint Server 2013.

This has always been the case, but who has decided to use Notepad or anything else in the past? We’ve always had the option to copy aspx page content out into some other editor to work on it, and that seems to be what Microsoft is recommending now. SharePoint Designer was and is the only IDE that understands SharePoint’s page structures, controls, and Data Sources. With any other tool, we have to know ourselves how to set up a Data Source in a DVWP or which controls to add to take advantage of SharePoint-specific functionality. In the newly neutered SharePoint Designer, many of the ribbon buttons actually serve no purpose anymore. Things like Conditional Formatting, DVWP formatting options, etc. don’t function unless we write our own code first. On top of that, there is no longer a surface where SharePoint Designer can show us errors in that code. Errors, cryptic or not, have always been shown in the Design (or Split) View. Now we will be flying blind.

To simplify the process of integrating customized SharePoint pages, SharePoint Server 2013 includes a new feature called the SharePoint Design Manager…

Maybe Microsoft believes that the Designer word in SharePoint Designer means that people only use it for design. As you and I know, design is only one small piece of how we use SharePoint Designer. Design Manager also is only useful if you want to apply a design via a master page or page layout to an entire Site Collection that has publishing features enabled. It doesn’t do us any good on individual pages where we want to make small customizations in the design or structure for single-location functionality.

All in all, I’m very disappointed in Microsoft’s decision on this one. As I’ve been telling people, I’ll be fine. As a consultant, I can keep working with SharePoint 2007 and 2010 for a long time and make a decent living at it. I can even learn to work in the Code View exclusively in SharePoint Designer 2013. I’m worried about all of the unsung heroes out there in SharePointland who have been using SharePoint Designer to build solutions that their organizations actually use, rather than what IT typically jams down their throats. Those of us who believe in user empowerment and citizen development have lost a battle this day.

[important]For another great slant on all of this, check out Michal Pisarek’s (@michalpisarek) great post from yesterday SharePoint 2013 Design View Changes and Change Management 101. In it, he makes some excellent points about how the change management around all of this has been abysmal.[/important]



  1. Dears friends:

    I recently discovered that SharePoint Designer 2013 has not Design view. Only Code view.

    From everything I’ve seen in SharePoint since 2001, honestly this is the most -mmm- how to say not to sound so ugly? … “irrelevant” as I can remember …

    For starters, if you do not have Design view, then it should be called SharePoint “Designer” … now be simply “SharePoint Encoder” or “SharePoint Programmer” …

    I checked the arguments responsible for this change in Microsoft, and anything that poses as relevant as it seems to remove this feature Designer … in fact, I think they’re just killing this application, because if I want to edit code, I served up Notepad.

    Moreover, the true grace of SharePoint Designer is that-as the name indicated-enabled visually customize pages, without going into the code, which I and perhaps many more who are not programmers, was what we liked the program.

    Finally, the manager argued that “now SharePoint sites can be designed in any design program” … and that hurt me even more, because I spent years arguing with me saying “you can used Dreamweaver” or other editors, and always answered was precisely for that is “SharePoint Designer”…

    Anyway, I think that Microsoft’s many bright people, and most are very smart, but sometimes I think -excuse the frankness- there are some idiots.

    Alexis López Tapia
    CEO S.A.

  2. My psychic prediction at this point is that Microsoft wants SPD to go away. Dropping support for features in a version change and not really talking about it much are the first signs that Microsoft has lost interest in a product. Combined with the pathetic non-upgrade in InfoPath 2013, I have to wonder if MSFT just doesn’t want to do desktop applications any more. Their Google Generation of developers should be moving into PM roles, so they can start flexing their muscles to move functionality off the desktop for the “power user” niche, leaving just the pure technician stuff in VS, SSMS, etc.

    I absolutely loathe this “web only” mentality the Google Generation has, but I guess that’s a personal preference. The problem I’m seeing is that recently when MSFT paradigm shifts, they leave behind an incredibly powerful codebase and start from scratch, giving us a crap product. Look at Zune -> Windows Phone Music thing.

    If this progression keeps up, it’s really a bad sign.

  3. We migrated to SP2013 this weekend for a gov’t facility and I can not do anything with the branded site I did in SP2010. I can not open in SP designer 2010 and when I open in SP Designer (coder) 2013 it really does not help. I tried to open the pages in Dreamweaver 6 or Expression and it is no help. Before I was able to customize any page or site exactly the way the my customers would want them and No Microsoft took that away Very sad day and will have to find a solution to customize sites and pages. very bummed with Microsoft

    • I don’t think you’re done. You migrated the content to sp2013 but did you upgrade the content to the 15 hive? Right now, all your web part pages are still using the v4.master pages and are ghosted to the 14 hive. When you finally move them to 2013, you should have the ability to rebrand those pages — new master page ghosted to 15 hive. I think thats right.
      In 2013 land, everything is an app and dataview webpart really doesn’t make any sense now. You should be able to customize everything with simple HTML, javascript, CSS3, and CSOM. At least thats what they keep telling me.

  4. Yes, fully agree, great post. Microsoft have lost the plot even more than usual these days. Whi the hell cares about HTML5 and JavaScript? Why not all switch to Google Android or Apple iOS and be done with it? I seriously believe the Java Nutcase Clan have infiltrated Microsoft and are now proceeding to completely destroy Microsoft by silly decisions like this. My view is that Microsoft only need worry about Windows platforms, that’s the formula that got it where it is today. Nowadays they are “sleeping with the enemy” instead of “competing with the enemy”.

    So we should now all become java programmers just to have software run on iOS and Andriod. What an idiotic strategy. Microsoft beware of the dark side, Java Vader is taking over and will destroy you!

  5. SP Designer is just a power tool for Developers; the “designer” part of that was simply a failed experiment. You can still do all the things you’ve bemoaned in SP Designer 2013, just not through a visual UI. Now you have to do it via code, as it was meant to be.


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