Differences between VSTS and TFS process template customizations

VSTS (Hosted XML)


Feature availability:  Import process supports the Hosted XML process model which allows you to manage customizations through updating select XML definition files of a process template. This feature is only available for organizations that have been migrated to VSTS using the TFS Data Import Service. Contact us if you have any questions about VSTS process customization.

If you use the Inheritance process model, you can customize your work tracking through the user interface by creating an Inheritance process. If you use the On-premises XML process model, you can customize a process template, see Upload or download a process template and Customize a process template.

To learn more about process models, see Customize work tracking.

VSTS uses a different model than Team Foundation Server (TFS) for relating projects and process.

  • In TFS, process templates are used as starting points for projects and once a project is created, the project is the scope you customize.
  • In VSTS, process is shared across multiple projects and is the scope you customize.

The structure and overall syntax used in defining process templates remains the same, with only a few minor differences existing between templates you customize for import into VSTSand those you upload to support an on-premises TFS.

Unsupported customizations and unreferenced plug-in files

Any reference to the following objects in any of the XML definition files will result in a validation error upon import.

  • Custom controls on work item forms
  • Custom link types
  • Global workflow
  • Team field support
  • for and not rules support

The following plug-ins and their associated files aren't used in defining a process, nor used to update existing team projects. However, they are used to create objects or artifacts when you create a new team project.

  • Classification
  • Work item queries (defined using the WIQL syntax)
  • Test Management
  • Work items


The WIQL length must not exceed 32K characters. The system won't allow you to create or run queries that exceed that length.

The following plug-ins and their associated files are replaced by system defaults.

  • Build
  • Groups and Permissions
  • Lab
  • Version Control

The following plug-ins and their associated files are ignored.

  • Microsoft Project Mappings
  • Reports
  • Windows SharePoint Services

Custom plug-ins aren't supported.

Object limits

When customizing a process template for import, limit the number of the objects you define as specified in Work tracking object limits.

Tools with limited support

When you connect to VSTS, you can use the following tools subject to limitations:

  • Visual Studio Process Template Manager: You can download a process template, but all other functions are disabled.
  • Process Editor: You can use select functions to view or export a WIT definition or global list, or use the Work Item Field Explorer. Access is denied to save modified WIT and global list definitions.
  • witadmin command line tool: Select commands, such as export and list commands, work when connected to VSTS. Review witAdmin: Customize and manage objects for tracking work for which commands are supported.