Import, export, and manage work item types

TFS 2018 | TFS 2017 | TFS 2015 | TFS 2013


With witadmin, you can modify XML definition files to support the On-premises XML process model. For Hosted XML and Inheritance process models, you can only use witadmin commands to list 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 team 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 team project on a server that runs Team Foundation Server. 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 does not already exist, this command creates a new work item type. To validate the XML that defines a work item type, but not import the file, you use the /v option.
  • listwitd: Displays the names of the work item types in the specified project in the Command Prompt window. (can run against VSTS)
  • 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.

How to 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.


If you are connecting to TFS, you must use the same version of Visual Studio or Team Explorer as TFS. For example, if you connect to a TFS 2017 instance, you must connect from Visual Studio 2017 or Team Explorer 2017. There is no Team Explorer 2015 version.

TFS 2018 and TFS 2017

Visual Studio 2017 or Team Explorer 2017 client:

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

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

TFS 2015

Visual Studio 2015 client:

cd %programfiles(x86)%\Microsoft Visual Studio 14.0\Common7\IDE

TFS 2013

Visual Studio 2013 client:

cd %programfiles(x86)%\Microsoft Visual Studio 12.0\Common7\IDE

Team Explorer 2013 client:

cd %programfiles%\Microsoft Visual Studio 12.0\Common7\IDE\CommonExtensions\Microsoft\TeamFoundation\Team Explorer

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):

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


For the team 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 Add an administrator.


Even if you log on 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 team project collection. The format for the URI is the following: http://ServerName:Port/VirtualDirectoryName/CollectionName

If no virtual directory is used, then the format for the URI is the following:

/p: Project The team project for which the types of work items are to be managed. This team 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 about registry virtualization, see the Microsoft Web site: Registry Virtualization and Common file and registry virtualization issues in Windows Vista.
/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 does not import the XML definition file. Note: You can validate the type definition without specifying a team 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:

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 does not 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 team project after a TFS upgrade?

A: You can add custom WITs and change the form layout. The Configure Features Wizard will update your team 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 team 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 WIT 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 team 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 team 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.