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When do we use Visual Studio 2010 for SharePoint 2010 web part development and when do we stick with Designer? Are there pros/cons? As a noob, it seems that for more robust, customized web parts, Visual Studio is the way to go. Thanks.

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the more I use SPD, the more I discover problems in deploying customization from dev to production platform. I feel that the MS deployment model is to work with SPD directly on the production. But when you enter in a industrial process (with dev to test to production requirements), VS is more suited. But also with a lot more things to learn. –  Steve B Jul 18 '11 at 14:46
    
Thanks, Steve. I've found Designer to be problematic for web part development. VS is the way to go for serious developers. –  Alex C Jul 19 '11 at 2:58
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you are right, SPD can only be used to customize native OOB webpart. you can't have custom webpart development with SPD. However, do not underestimate the power of native WebPart : DataFormWebPart, ContentByQueryWebPart, XslViewWebPart, etc. With a bit of habit, sometimes a bit of trick and hack, you can achieve specific requirements far more complex than with a custom WebPart. It's hard to emit an universal rule to decide when to use SPD + native webparts or VS and custom webpart, but OOB native webpart gains the full UI integration hard to reproduce with VS. –  Steve B Jul 19 '11 at 7:13
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

SharePoint Designer is intended as a "power user" tool, whereas Visual Studio is intended for developers. There is no real concept of deployment in SPD, so you can't really expect to use it to develop solutions. If you want to do development, you need Visual Studio and someone with development skills. But if you are just doing customization you can achieve a lot with SharePoint Designer.

Using Visual Studio you can create solutions that change files on your front-end servers and make modifications to your farm's configuration, whereas with SPD you are limited to making changes to the content database. Even so, SPD is powerful enough to do serious damage to a farm in the wrong hands. That is why the administrator has the option of disabling it.

Of course SPD is a useful tool for developers also. But artefacts created by developers with SPD, or by other means, would normally be packaged up using VS for deployment.

As far as web parts are concerned, as mentioned in the question, you are restricted to configuring web parts using SharePoint Designer. If you want to develop a web part you need VS, although you don't always need to - you can achieve a lot by skillful configuration of existing out-of-the-box web parts.

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