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Import items from an existing SharePoint site

The Import SharePoint Solution Package project template lets you reuse elements such as content types and fields from existing SharePoint sites in a new Visual Studio SharePoint solution. Although you can run most imported solutions without modification, there are certain restrictions and issues to consider, especially if you modify any items after importing them.


To import reusable workflows, use the Import Reusable Workflow project template. For more information, see Guidelines for importing reusable workflows.

Supported SharePoint solutions

Visual Studio 2012 fully supports the importing of solutions created in SharePoint Foundation and SharePoint Server.

Visual Studio 2012 does not support the importing of solutions created in the following applications:

  • Windows SharePoint Services 3.0

  • Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007

  • Visual Studio 2008

  • Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2007

  • Visual Studio 2010

    Although you can often successfully import solutions created by these applications, that functionality is not tested and not supported.

Item import restrictions

Although most SharePoint items can be imported from an existing .wsp file, the following items are not supported and may require modifications to work correctly:

  • BDC entities

  • Code workflow association elements

  • Code workflows

  • Visual Web parts (.ascx)

  • Web services (.asmx)

  • Content type bindings

  • Event receivers

  • List definitions (templates)

  • Site definitions

    When you export a solution from SharePoint Foundation or SharePoint Server, these items are automatically excluded from the .wsp file. However, other .wsp files generated from unsupported tools may contain these items. (See "Supported SharePoint Solutions" earlier in this topic.)

What happens when you import a solution

When you import a solution with the Import SharePoint Solution Package template, Visual Studio copies all of the contents of the .wsp file and tries to reconcile and retain as many associations and references between imported elements and their files as possible.

All imported items copy to corresponding folders in Solution Explorer. For example, content types appear under the folder Content types and list instances appear under List instances. Files associated with an imported item are also copied to the item's folder. For example, an imported list instance includes its modules, forms, and ASPX pages.

Dependent items

If you select an item in the Import SharePoint Solution Package wizard, but not its dependent items, a message box informs you that the dependent items must also be selected before importing.

What are features?

SharePoint Designer users may see unexpected files, called features, appear in their imported solutions in Solution Explorer. Although features existed in the SharePoint Designer solution, they were hidden from view. Features are now visible in Visual Studio.

Features are containers for SharePoint items. Each feature keeps a reference to each item, such as content types and list definitions, that it contains. When you import your solution, Visual Studio sets up features for all of the imported elements and attempts to maintain the feature-to-element relationships for the files. Any files whose references could not be resolved are put in the Other Imported Files folder.

For more information about features, see Develop SharePoint solutions and Working with Features.

Handle special cases

In some cases, Visual Studio cannot reconcile an item with its dependent files. Any files that Visual Studio could not resolve appear under the folder Other Imported Files. In addition, their DeploymentType properties are set to NoDeployment so that they are not deployed with the solution.

For example, if you import the list definition ExpenseForms, a list definition with that name appears under the List definitions folder in Solution Explorer along with its Elements.xml and Schema.xml files. However, its associated ASPX and HTML forms may be placed in a folder called ExpenseForms under the Other Imported Files folder. To complete the import, move these files under the ExpenseForms list definition in Solution Explorer and change the DeploymentType property for each file from NoDeployment to ElementFile.

When importing event receivers, the Elements.xml file is copied to the correct location, but you must manually include the assembly in the solution package so that it deploys with the solution. For more information about how to do this, see How to: Add and remove additional assemblies.

When importing workflows, InfoPath forms are copied to the Other Imported Files folder. If the .wsp file contains a Web template, it is set as the startup page in Solution Explorer.

Import fields and property bags

When you import a solution that has multiple fields, all of the separate field definitions are merged into a single Elements.xml file under a node in Solution Explorer called Fields. Similarly, all property bag entries are merged into an Elements.xml file under a node called PropertyBags.

Fields in SharePoint are columns of a specified data type, such as a text, Boolean, or lookup. For more information, see Building Block: Columns and Field Types. Property bags enable you to add properties to objects in SharePoint, everything from a farm to a list on a SharePoint site. Property bags are implemented as a hash table of property names and values. For more information, see Managing SharePoint Configuration or SharePoint Property Bag Settings.

Delete items in the project

Most items in SharePoint solutions have one or more dependent items. For example, list instances depend on content types and content types depend on fields. After you import a SharePoint solution, Visual Studio does not notify you of any reference problems if you delete an item in the solution, but not its dependent items, until you attempt to deploy the solution. For example, if an imported solution has a list instance that depends on a content type and you delete that content type, an error might occur on deployment. The error occurs if the dependent item is not present on the SharePoint server. Similarly, if a deleted item also has a related property bag, then delete those property bag entries from the PropertyBags Elements.xml file. Therefore, if you delete any items from an imported solution and you get deployment errors, check to see if any dependent items need to also be deleted.

Restore missing feature attributes

When importing solutions, some optional feature attributes are omitted from the imported feature manifest. If you want to restore these attributes in the new feature file, identify the missing attributes by comparing the original feature file to the new feature manifest and follow the instructions in the topic How to: Customize a SharePoint feature.

Deployment conflict detection is not performed on built-in list instances

Visual Studio does not perform deployment conflict detection on built-in list instances (that is, default list instances that come with SharePoint). Not performing conflict detection is done to avoid overwriting the built-in list instances on SharePoint. The built-in list instances are still deployed or updated, but are never deleted or overwritten. For more information, see Troubleshoot SharePoint packaging and deployment.

Import SharePoint Server 2010 workflows

If you import a workflow created in SharePoint Server, it will not run correctly after you deploy it. The workflow does not run correctly because certain assemblies are missing and SharePoint Server workflows contain InfoPath forms which are not currently supported in Visual Studio workflow solutions. However, imported SharePoint Server workflows can be made to work correctly after fixing some items, such as adding references to the SharePoint Server assemblies and reconnecting the InfoPath forms. For more information, see Importing SharePoint Server 2010 Workflows.

Item name character limit

Visual Studio has a limit of 260 total characters for project and project item names, including the path. When importing a solution, if an item name exceeds this limit, you get the error:

The specified path, file name, or both are too long. The fully qualified file name must be less than 260 characters, and the directory name must be less than 248 characters.

When you get this error, the item is not created. This problem occurs most often with imported modules. To avoid this problem, do the following:

  • Use short names for your project when you enter them in the Add New Project dialog box.

  • Create the project in a location as close to the root folder as possible, so as to shorten the path.

The SharePointProductVersion attribute

If you import a solution created in an earlier version of SharePoint such as Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 or Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, either change the SharePointProductVersion attribute value in the package manifest to 12.0, or insert a script manager control into all imported Web pages and leave SharePointProductVersion set to 14.0. Otherwise, imported Web forms will not display in SharePoint.


Solutions in SharePoint Foundation and SharePoint Server include an attribute called SharePointProductVersion. SharePoint uses this attribute in its package manifests to determine the version of SharePoint the solution is designed for. The two valid values are 12.0 and 14.0. A value of 12.0 indicates that the item is designed for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 or Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007; a value of 14.0 indicates that the item is designed for SharePoint Foundation or SharePoint Server.

For enhanced security when rendering ASPX pages, SharePoint Foundation and SharePoint Server require that all ASPX or master pages contain a script manager control. For more information about script manager, see ScriptManager Control Overview. Because the script manager control was not available in Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, one must be added to any Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 or Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 page that is upgraded to SharePoint Foundation or SharePoint Server. ASPX pages that use a standard master page do not require a script manager control because one is already added to the standard master page. However, ASPX pages that do not use a master page or that use a custom master page must add a script control in order to work in SharePoint Foundation or SharePoint Server.

The absence of a script manager control can be a problem when you import a Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 or Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 project into Visual Studio 2010, because the SharePointProductVersion attribute of all new projects is set to 14.0. If you deploy an upgraded project that has a Web form without a script manager, the form will not display in SharePoint.

See also