Until the day when we have a direct USB connection to the brain (USB 4.0? 5.0?) we still need to set aside frequent chunks of time to learn new things, especially if we are working in the SharePoint environment. Since SharePoint Designer 2007 became a free download, there has been an increased interest in its various uses, both for site customisation and solution development.
Now it’s true to say SPD has its critics, and it’s also true that unless handled with care it can be a dangerous tool. There have been some interesting posts about its role over at End User SharePoint recently, like this one from Lori Gowin and this from Paul Galvin.
SharePoint Designer workflows provide a code-free method for developing process-based solutions on your site. They can be developed quickly and I’ve used them many times myself both for prototypes and full solutions. Of course they do have some drawbacks which can prove painful if you don’t take them into consideration – here are a few:
- No easy way to loop through selected items in a list or library
- Workflows are tied to the list or library you develop them against
- An SPD workflow runs in the context of the user who started the workflow (and respects their permissions)
- You can set a workflow to run when a list item changes, but it doesn’t know what the previous value was
There are various ways around these issues, with many workarounds and open source solutions available on line, but it would be difficult to recommend a lot of these in a production environment. So you need to consider the limitations before you commit too much time to developing that killer solution.
If you want to spend some of your “learning new things time” learning more about SharePoint Designer workflows, you should invest $14.95 in the latest edition of Understanding SharePoint from Bjørn Furuknaps. As well as getting a PDF issue of the journal, you can also download lots of screencasts demonstrating topics covered (in both .wmv and iPod .m4v format). Bjørn’s presenting style is very relaxed and humorous, but with lots of attention to detail. I get the impression he spent a great deal of time putting the screencasts together, and this shows in the quality of the material.
Prior to releasing the full package, Bjørn created some taster screencasts at EnduserSharePoint.com so you can take a look there if you want more convincing. By the way, you also get a “bonus issue” covering Nintex Workflow, one of several third party code-free workflow solutions that I’m hearing lots of good things about.
Update – Bjørn has written a review of Nintex Workflow 2007 for SharePoint Magazine.