Microsoft has released SharePoint Designer as a free download (http://blogs.msdn.com/sharepoint/archive/2009/04/02/sharepoint-designer-available-as-a-free-download.aspx)! My friend and colleague Jeff Becraft discusses this news, and provides sage advice to proceed with caution (Becraft's Blog: The rumors are true! SharePoint Designer is now a FREE DOWNLOAD!).
From my vantage point as an architect and developer of SharePoint solutions, it is important to note where it is appropriate to use SharePoint Designer (SPD) and where it is more appropriate to develop SharePoint solution packages (WSP) using Visual Studio. I frequently use SPD for what I would consider “power user” tasks, such as creating one-off workflows. I also use SPD to create Data View Web Parts, although I will typically export the web part from WPD and move it into a Visual Studio project for deployment and version control.
In short, this is a great win for SharePoint users, be mindful as an organization and/or development team around some of the following: how will I version the work I’m doing in SPD? how will I perform code promotion (development, integration, staging, production)? is this solution generic and can I deploy it to other sites or site collections?