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I created a custom list in SP 2010. Those I give Design access to are able to open the list but those with Contribute access can't. We can't use designer and I can't even change the permission settings for design and contribute access. But I noticed that Design it has "View Application Pages - View forms, views, and application pages. Enumerate lists." ticked while it is disabled in Contribute. I need to give contribute access to most people because that will prevent them from seeing creating a new View that will enable them to see everything in the list. I created the list so that users will only be able to see items assigned to them. Is the "View Application Pages" the reason why those with contribute access cannot open the list? Any idea how I can resolve this?

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SharePoint has a feature called “ViewFormPagesLockDown” at site collection scope. After enabling the feature, all groups / users not having the “View Application Pages” permission will not be able to navigate to pages like “_layouts/viewlsts.aspx” or “pages/forms/allitems.aspx”.

So, for your issue, please disable the ViewFormPagesLockDown feature via PowerShell command or add View Application pages in Contribute permission level:

$lockdownFeature = get-spfeature viewformpageslockdown
disable-spfeature $lockdownFeature -url [the URL of your site]

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