When to Use SharePoint Designer vs. Visual Studio When Building Solutions Using BCS

Applies to: SharePoint Server 2010

Microsoft Business Connectivity Services (BCS) provides tooling support for creating External Content Types, Microsoft .NET Framework connectivity assemblies, and models in Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2010 and Microsoft Visual Studio 2010.

Business Connectivity Services Tools and Their Uses and Capabilities

The following table shows what is supported by each tool and when you should use a particular tool.


External Data Connectivity

External Data User Experience (UX) or Other Use

SharePoint Designer 2010

External Content Type Designer: Author simple External Content Types based on an existing Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), Microsoft SQL Server, or .NET Framework connectivity assembly.

External Content Type Designer: Generate and author external lists, generate and author InfoPath forms and generate External Content Type profile pages.

Workflow Designer: Integrate external data into workflows.

Visual Studio 2010

Visual Studio External Content Type Designer: Create custom back-end integration logic through code written in .NET Framework languages.

SharePoint development tools in Microsoft Visual Studio 2010: Create SharePoint projects that take advantage of Business Connectivity Services.

Visual Studio XML Editor: Edit BDC models in Visual Studio for features that are not supported by SharePoint Designer. IntelliSense is provided.

Visual Studio 2008 Tools for Office: Create Visual Studio 2008 Tools for Office add-ins that take advantage of Business Connectivity Services.

Visual Studio: Create Business Connectivity Services-aware reusable components (Office Business Parts, Web Parts).

The following table summarizes the capabilities of each tool.


SharePoint Designer 2010

Visual Studio 2010


Microsoft SQL Server, WCF/Web services, or .NET Framework connectivity assembly.

Any data source through .NET Framework connectivity assembly.

Modeling approach

Discover and use.

Create and publish.

Target scenarios

Author simple models with UX (external lists, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft SharePoint Workspace, InfoPath, Search, and simple foreign-key based associations).

Author complex models with custom connectivity logic for aggregation, transformation, and security.

Author custom UX via Visual Studio 2008 Tools for Office customizations.

Author reusable External Data Parts and Web Parts.


Foreign key-less associations, advanced stereotypes (bulk, batch), generic or polymorphic services, and interfaces containing complex (non-flat) parameter structures.

Visual Studio External Content Type Designer works only for .NET Framework connectivity–based models. No integrated UX development and packaging experience for creating declarative solutions.