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I would like to crawl (Search) a custom database/table using SharePoint 2016. I know this is possible and doable using SharePoint Designer.

What I am wondering is since Microsoft has discontinued, or will not be releasing, SPD 2016 is the recommendation to still use SPD 2013? Or what is the recommended way of creating ECTs in SharePoint 2016? I am not finding much about this. I would like to future-proof the solution.

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Is the recommendation to still use SPD 2013?

As a short answer Yes, you can continue use SharePoint Designer 2013 to create External content type for Sharepoint 2016.

For more details check my article at SharePoint Designer 2016 and InfoPath 2016 in SharePoint Server 2016, What're the alternatives?

Note:

To create External Content Type and working with external data you should first configure Bussiness Connectivity Service as mentioned at Configure a Business Data Connectivity service application in SharePoint 2016

Also, check the details steps to create External Content Type in SharePoint 2016 at Business Connectivity Services Using Designer In SharePoint 2016

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