Share via

Import, export, and manage work item types

TFS 2018


For the On-premises XML process model, you can use witadmin to list, import, export, and modify a process for a project. For the Inherited and Hosted XML process models, you can only use witadmin to list and export process information. For an overview of process models and what is supported, see Customize your work tracking experience.

You can manage work item types for a project by using the following witadmin commands:

  • destroywitd: Destroys a work item type, and destroys every work item of that type permanently without recovery.
  • exportwitd: Exports the definition of a work item type to an XML file, or to the Command Prompt window.
  • importwitd: Imports work item types from an XML definition file into a project. If a work item type with the same name already exists, the new work item type definition overwrites the existing one. If the work item type doesn't exist, a new work item type is created. To validate the XML that defines a work item type, but not import the file, use the /v option.
  • listwitd: Displays the names of the work item types in the specified project in the Command Prompt window.
  • renamewitd: Changes the display name of a work item type within a specific project. After you run this command, work items of this type show the new name.

To learn more about how work item types are used to track work, see Track your work items in Azure Boards user stories, issues, bugs, features, and epics.

Run the witadmin command-line tool

To run the witadmin command-line tool, open a Command Prompt window where Visual Studio is installed. The witadmin command-line tool installs with any version of Visual Studio. You can access this tool by installing the free version of Visual Studio Community or Visual Studio Team Explorer.


To connect to an on-premises server, we recommend that you use the same or later version of Visual Studio as your Azure DevOps Server. For example, if you connect to Azure DevOps Server 2019, then connect to your project from a version of Visual Studio 2019.

For Visual Studio 2022

%programfiles(x86)%\Microsoft Visual Studio\2022\Community\Common7\IDE\CommonExtensions\Microsoft\TeamFoundation\Team Explorer

or Professional or Enterprise in place of Community, depending on the version you installed.

For Visual Studio 2019

%programfiles(x86)%\Microsoft Visual Studio\2019\Community\Common7\IDE\CommonExtensions\Microsoft\TeamFoundation\Team Explorer

or Professional or Enterprise in place of Community, depending on the version you installed.

For Visual Studio 2017

%programfiles(x86)%\Microsoft Visual Studio\2017\Enterprise\Common7\IDE\CommonExtensions\Microsoft\TeamFoundation\Team Explorer

or TeamExplorer or Professional in place of Enterprise, depending on the version you installed.

On a 32-bit edition of Windows, replace %programfiles(x86)% with %programfiles%. You can install Visual Studio Community (which provides access to Team Explorer) or Visual Studio Team Explorer 2017 for free.


With witadmin, you can import and export definition files. Other tools you can use include the Process Editor (requires that you have installed a version of Visual Studio). Install the TFS Process Template editor from the Visual Studio Marketplace. You can use this version of the Process Editor to modify the old-style work item forms. You can't use it to edit forms associated with the new web forms.

Or, you can use the TFS Team Project Manager, an open-source client available from GitHub.


For the project where the work item types are defined, you must have the following permissions set:

  • To export or list work item types, you must be a member of the Project Administrators group or have your View project-level information permission set to Allow.
  • To destroy, import, or rename work item types, you must be a member of the Team Foundation Administrators security group or the Project Administrators security group.

For more information, see Change project collection-level permissions.


Even if you sign in with administrative permissions, you must open an elevated Command Prompt window to perform this function on a server that is running Windows Server 2008. To open an elevated Command Prompt window, choose Start, open the shortcut menu for the Command Prompt, and then choose Run as Administrator. For more information, see the Microsoft Web site: User Access Control.


witadmin destroywitd /collection:CollectionURL /p:Project /n:TypeName [/noprompt]   
witadmin exportwitd /collection:CollectionURL /p:Project /n:TypeName [/f:FileName] [/e:Encoding] [/exportgloballists]  
witadmin importwitd /collection:CollectionURL [/p:Project] /f:FileName [/e:Encoding] [/v] 
witadmin listwitd /collection:CollectionURL /p:Project    
witadmin renamewitd /collection:CollectionURL /p:Project /n:TypeName /new:NewName [/noprompt]   


Parameter Description
/collection:CollectionURL Specifies the URI of the project collection. For example:

On-premises format: http://ServerName:Port/VirtualDirectoryName/CollectionName
If no virtual directory is used, then use the following format: http://ServerName:Port/CollectionName.
/p:Project The project for which the types of work items are to be managed. This project must be defined in the project collection specified by the /collection parameter.

The /p parameter is required unless you run the importwitd command with the /v option.
/n:TypeName The name of the work item type to destroy, export, import, or rename.
/f:FileName The path and file name of the XML definition file that contains the types of work items to be exported or imported. If you omit this parameter when you use the exportwitd command, the XML appears in the Command Prompt window.

Note: If you are using Windows Vista you might not have permissions to certain folders. If you try to export the work item type to a location where you do not have permissions, the registry virtualization technology automatically redirects the exported file and saves it to the virtual store. To avoid this redirection, you can export the file to a location where you have permissions. For more information, see the Registry Virtualization page on the Microsoft web site.
/e:*Encoding The name of a .NET Framework 2.0 encoding format. The command uses the specified encoding to export or import the XML data. For example, /e:utf-7 specifies Unicode (UTF-7) encoding. If you omit this parameter, witadmin tries to detect the encoding, and if detection fails, witadmin uses UTF-8.
/exportgloballists Exports the definitions of global lists referenced by the work item type. The definitions for global lists will be embedded into the work item type definition XML. When not specified, the definitions for global lists are omitted.
/v Validates the XML that defines the work item type, but doesn't import the XML definition file. Note: You can validate the type definition without specifying a project. References to project-scoped groups is ignored.
/new:NewName The new name of the work item type.
/noprompt Disables the prompt for confirmation.
/? or help Displays help about the command in the Command Prompt window.


When you use the destroywitd command, it destroys all the following objects:

  • The work item type
  • All work items of that type
  • Corresponding entries in the work item tables, the long text tables, and the link tables
  • Objects in the work item type metadata cache


Unless otherwise specified, the following values apply in each example:

  • URI for the project collection: http://AdventureWorksServer:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection
  • Project name: AdventureWorks
  • Input or output file name: myworkitems.xml
  • Work item type name: myworkitem
  • Default encoding: UTF-8

Export the definition of a WIT

The following command exports the definition for myworkitem to the file, myworkitems.xml.

witadmin exportwitd /collection:http://AdventureWorksServer:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection /p:AdventureWorks /f:myworkitems.xml /n:myworkitem  

The following example exports the work item by using Unicode (UTF-7) encoding.

witadmin exportwitd /collection:http://AdventureWorksServer:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection /p:AdventureWorks /f:myworkitems.xml /n:myworkitem /e:utf-7  

Export the definition of a WIT and its referenced global lists

The following example exports the work item type and its referenced global lists.

witadmin exportwitd /collection:http://AdventureWorksServer:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection /p:AdventureWorks /f:myworkitems.xml /n:myworkitem /exportgloballists  

List the definition of a WIT

The following example displays the definition of the work item type the Command Prompt window.

witadmin exportwitd /collection:http://AdventureWorksServer:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection /p:AdventureWorks /n:myworkitem  

Import the definition of WITs

The following example imports the work item definition from the XML file.

witadmin importwitd /collection:http://AdventureWorksServer:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection /f:myworkitem.xml /p:AdventureWorks  

Validate the XML definition of a WIT

The following example validates the XML that defines the work item type but doesn't import the definition.

witadmin importwitd /collection:http://AdventureWorksServer:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection /f:myworkitem.xml /p:AdventureWorks /v  

Q & A

Q: What customizations can I make and still use the Configure Features Wizard to update my project after an upgrade?

A: You can add custom WITs and change the form layout. The Configure Features Wizard will update your projects and you'll get access to the latest features.

Changing the workflow or renaming a WIT might require you to perform some manual operations when updating your project. To learn about which customizations you can safely make and which you should avoid, see Customize the work tracking experience: Before you customize, understand the maintenance and upgrade implications.

Q: How do I change the color associated with a WIT?

A: In the web portal, work items appear in query results and on the backlog and board pages of the Agile planning tools. To change the color associated with an existing WIT or add the color to use for a new WIT, edit the process configuration.

Color assignments to different work item types

Q: How do I deactivate or disable a WIT? How do I restrict users from creating work items of a certain type?

A: If you have a work item type that you want to retire, but maintain the work items that have been created based on that type, you can add a rule that disables all valid users from saving the work item type.

    <TRANSITION from=" " to="New">  
         <FIELD refname="System.CreatedBy">  
              <VALIDUSER not="[Team Project Name]Project Valid Users" />  

If you want to restrict creation of a specific WIT to a group of users, there are two ways to restrict access:

  • Add the WIT to the Hidden Categories group to prevent the majority of contributors from creating them. If you want to allow a group of users access, you can create a hyperlink to a template that opens the work item form and share that link with those team members who you do want to create them.
  • Add a field rule to the workflow for the System.CreatedBy field to effectively restrict a group of users from creating a work item of a specific type. As the following example shows, the user who creates the work item must belong to the Allowed Group in order to save the work item.
<TRANSITION from=" " to="New">  
     <FIELD refname="System.CreatedBy">  
         <VALIDUSER for="Allowed Group" not="Disallowed Group" />  

Q: How do I delete a WIT?

A: To prevent team members from using a specific WIT to create a work item, you can remove it from the project. When you use witadmin destroywitd, you permanently remove all work items that were created using that WIT as well as the WIT itself. For example, if your team doesn't use Impediment you can delete the WIT labeled Impediment from the Fabrikam Web Site project.

witadmin destroywitd /collection:"http://FabrikamPrime:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection" /p:"Fabrikam Web Site" /n:"Impediment"   

When you delete a WIT that belongs to a category, you must update the categories definition for the project to reflect the new name. In particular, the Agile planning tools will not work until you update the categories definition.

For more information, see Import and export categories.