Walkthrough: How to move or copy a SharePoint Designer 2010 List Workflow to another list on the same site or another site.

I had to develop a Holiday Approval Workflow with SharePoint Designer 2010. – I used a “List Workflow”. – Bad mistake! – It’s not possible to copy this kind of workflow to another list on the same site or another site.

I thought I could use the “Export to Visio” functionality with the workflow at my development site and the “Import from Visio” functionality at the destination list. – That’s impossible. You get this message:


(“This workflow cannot be imported because it was created in SharePoint Designer for a different site, or the original workflow has been moved or deleted. To move a workflow between sites, use Save as Template (.wsp file) instead of a Visio workflow drawing.”)

You cannot “Save as Template” because it’s a “List Workflow”.

Okay. – I’ve found a workaround.

Let’s do it in detail.

1. Create a site collection “http://sharepoint.local/sites/dev”.

2. Open SharePoint Designer 2010. Open the previously created site.

3. Open the “Workflows” view.

4. On the Ribbon click “List Workflow” and select “Shared Documents”. – We will create a workflow for the list “Shared Documents”.


Name the workflow “Workflow 1”. Leave “Description” empty.


5. Insert any workflow steps you like.


6. Change the workflow settings. Select “Task List” and “History List”.


7. Click “Publish” to publish the workflow Winking smile

8. Click “Export to Visio”. Save to Workflow as .vwi file, e.g. on the desktop.


9. Let’s test the workflow. – I’ve created a text file “test.txt” on the desktop. Now I upload the file to the “Shared Documents” library of “http://sharepoint.local/sites/dev”.


Open the item context menu. Click “Workflow”.


Manually start the “Workflow 1”.


Click “Start”.


In the list view you see the workflow status.


Click on the status. In my case it’s “Completed”.


The workflow history says “Workflow executed” as specified in the workflow definition above.

10. Okay. Let’s copy the workflow to the production site “http://sharepoint.local”. – A simple “import” is impossible, because it’s a list workflow… Follow my steps.

11. Start the SharePoint Designer 2010 and open the site “http://sharepoint.local”.

12. On the Ribbon click “List Workflow” and select “Shared Documents”. – We will create a workflow for the list “Shared Documents”.


Name the workflow “Workflow 1 Production”. Leave “Description” empty.


11. Do not add any workflow step!

12. Click on “Workflow Settings” menu item on the Ribbon.

13. Click “Publish” to publish the (empty) workflow.

14. After publishing click “Export to Visio” and save the file as “workflow 1 production.vwi” on the desktop.

15. Open a Windows Explorer. Select “Desktop”. You see both “.vwi” files.

16. Add the extension “.zip” to both files.



17. Open both “.vwi.zip” files. You see:


18. Copy “workflow.xoml.wfconfig” from “workflow 1 production.vwi.zip” to “workflow 1.vwi.zip”.


19. Now remove the “.zip” extension from both files. You’ll get two “.vwi” files.


20. In SharePoint Designer 2010 open the site “http://sharepoint.local”.

21. Click “Import from Visio” and select “workflow 1.vwi”



Click “Next”. (Maybe you get a message: “You must close all views of this workflow before importing this file.” Then stop the import. Close all views of the Workflow and restart from Step 21.)

22. Now you see the this window:


That it!

23. Now the workflow designer opens:


24. Now you can publish the workflow and test it…

25. Be as happy as me with that !!!

PS: Of course you can use any library as destination. In the sample above it does not have to be “Shared Documents” on “http://sharepoint.local” It could be another list or library as well!

68 Responses to “Walkthrough: How to move or copy a SharePoint Designer 2010 List Workflow to another list on the same site or another site.”

  1. Burdell

    AWESOME – thanks so much! I was about to make huge changes to a workflow at the client’s request, and I really wanted to save a copy of all the work I’d already put into the thing, just in case she changed her mind later.

  2. John

    hi, really good job. Does anybody knows how to copy the forms of the workflow?

  3. Moe

    Really good work! Does anybody know how i copy the workflow forms with the workflow?

    • ikarstein


      this forms are XSN files, aren’t they? You shout be able to copy them with SharePoint designer. Maybe you need to change their names in the Workflow Visio file. Just rename the Visio-Export-File to “.zip”, open it as described in my article, and look for the workflow forms. I’ve seen them. – Try to copy them with SharEPoint Designer 2010 from the source location to the destination after importing the workflow.


      • Daniel

        hi ingo,

        this doesn’t seem to work for me. i got a list workflow which includes two approval workflows with forms. i cannot find these forms in the zip file. in sharepoint designer i’m also unable to copy the forms; the only options i get are open and delete.

        everything works as you describe regarding the copying, but when i check the approval steps, not only the forms are missing, the outcomes are not there either. i cannot add any outcomes manually for some reason.

        so the copied workflow starts off as expected, sends the emails out and all, but the user cannot open the form, as they are not there.

        any ideas?

        thank you very much for your brilliant blog and especially these instructions. they have helped me copy a number of list workflows from my dev to production …

        kind regards,


  4. user

    Thanks a bunch for your excellent post here. Saved us a lot of time. THANK YOU!!!

  5. thendral58

    Hi Karstein,

    Thanks for the post………

    Is it possible to create loops inside a List workflow………like in a workflow with steps 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 …..
    If “Yes” there will be steps in between like 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, else if “No” few steps will be skipped like 1,2,6,7,8 ….

    Is this possible…….in SPD2010 Worflows……..

    else atleast is it possible to copy a few steps in a workflow and paste them elsewhere in the same workflow…….

    Need a quick solution….. Thanks a lot


  6. Ashutosh Dhande

    Hey Ingo,

    Great Post…

    Very Helpful…



  7. Senthil

    Awesome! It works like charm.. i have been running around for this and finally got urs and made my day easier. Though it looks a bit unorthodox, it works.


  8. Osman Kumas

    This is the most helpfully post regarding to workflow moving I have ever read. Thank you

  9. Vishwas Setty


    This is an amazing post, worked so very well… So very clear in understanding and following. One thing I would like to add is about renaming it. Once the file is renamed to .vwi.zip and to rename it back to .vwi use the folder options in the folder where you save and choose and uncheck “Hide file extensions for known file types”. Then click rename and delete the .zip from it.

    Thanks again….

  10. Donal

    When I look in the source workflow zip, it includes a workflow.xoml.rules file that is not in the target zip, should I copy this also?

    Also, the workflow.xoml file in the target zip is 2kb, whereas the file in the source is 27kb.


  11. daxbabyar

    :( didn’t work for me. Getting an error

    “The file could not be found or is not a valid .vwi”

    Can you help me…?

    • ikarstein


      you have made mistakes while manipulating the file. you should start over. may be you have infopath forma to collect user input. if so you have to do some additional steps.


    • Neuro

      I did this again today (after moving all my workflows from Prod to Dev)
      and then Tried going back from Dev to Prod

      I made the silly mistake of naming the workflows in dev what i wanted the final workflows to be called , so when I tried to put the new ones on Prod I had the same error you had

      So thats something to be aware of as well.

      Now I would just need to write some power shell script to cancel some of the running workflows
      and kick off the new ones, Ideally I would have liked to do it in PS but I havent found a decent script which would also let me check the state of a list item before it cancelled and started the new workflow
      unfortunately I have been told I dont have time to do that so im giving that stop-start business to the owners of the list items to do

  12. Waheed

    i am facing a problem all the previous steps fine when i add .zip extension to the both files system shows a message (if you change file extension, you may unable to use this file). after adding .zip extension my both files converted into zip format files.

    sharepoint designer unable to import it as .vwi file. how i could resolve this issue ??????

    • Waheed

      i resolve this issue by disabling hide extensions form known sites. thank you so much for nice post

  13. ssvv

    I am consistently getting “You must close all view of this workflow before importing this file.” I closed all my SharePoint sites, designer and explorer, but when I reopen designer and attempt to import the vwi file, I get the same message.

    Please advise. Thank you!!

  14. Chris H

    Good tip – I didn’t know that the vwi files were simply zips. Bookmarking blog!

    I ended up modifying a bit for my case which was to copy a list workflow to a reusable workflow (to attached to a content type). Case being that I wanted to put multiple content types in a list that I had a workflow attached to, but didn’t want list workflow to run on all content types.

    1) Export list workflow, create new reusable workflow in same environment, export reusable workflow
    2) Open both workflows as zip files
    3) Copy the workflow.xoml file from list workflow to reusable workflow
    4) Import reusable workflow

    On editing I needed to re-input some of the conditions and actions that were linked to other lists (although not all) but the structure of workflow and bulk of actions came through great. I had some quite complex security assignments in the workflow, these were retained so saved me having to rewrite.

    I’m pretty sure that this won’t work if you aren’t using content types & site columns already, and am tempted to compare the old and new xoml files to see where the discrepancies are.


  15. toe han

    Thank you very much… it save me alot of work…..cheer….

  16. JYR

    I almost got confused by step 18. Thanks much for extra effort on the screen shots :)

  17. Mike AF

    I just crossed this and believe I found a winner here! I can’t wait to try this out at work!

  18. Niyaz

    HI Karstein

    Is it possible to import the SPD workflows in cross domain?, means we have two different web applications and would like to import the SPD workflow in other web app. If Yes, could you please share your view.

    Thanks in Advance

  19. Sukhver

    i’m not able to change it back to vwi format from zip, please help..

      • Sukhver

        i’m able to change it to “filename.vwi.zip” the name changes to “filename.vwi”. copy over the file to the folder but when i’ve need to change it back to vwi fomat, there’s no .zip shown on the filename. I tried to change it to .vwi but its only changing the file name not the format. How can i change it back to vwi format if the .zip extension is not shown on the filename. Thanks

  20. John

    I have two questions that other commenters mentioned but I did not see a reply. In step 18, it looks like you are copying the empty prod file to the original that actually contains the workflow. Is that a typo? And my original has a xoml.rules file. Should that be copied? Thank you

  21. Joe

    It may be a system security setting — but, at step 18, I am unable to paste the wfconfig file into the other zip folder. Paste is greyed out. any ideas?

    • Monique

      I’m having the same problem, where I cannot paste the file into the other folder. Did you come up with a solution for that?

  22. Von

    Thanks! I’ve tried this in Sharepont Online and I got the same error of “cannot be imported”.

  23. Waseem

    Joe, You have to unzip the file then you will be able to paste it. Once you paste it, zip it again, add extension .vwi and import it now

  24. Sean

    I am able to confirm that this works with Sharepoint 2013 list workflows as well!!! – with one additional step…

    In the 2013 platform, instead of “workflow.xoml.wfconfig”, the file you want to copy over is “workflowconfiguration.xml”. Additionally, I had to make an edit in this xml file. In the tag, look for a parameter called “Name”. The name of the workflow needs to be changed to match the name of the originally created workflow. This enables you to successfully import.

    Thank you for this original post!

  25. Sean

    Another note – I ran into an issue on one of my workflows where as soon as I would try to replace the config file within the zip folder, it would corrupt the zip to some extent and made it unable to import.

    The solution was to use 7zip instead of Windows Explorer to open the zip archive when replacing the config file.

  26. sherwin

    i’m not able to find the cancel in workflow information unlike on the manually created.


Leave a Reply