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I was wondering what most people do when setting up web templates.

Do they create/customize it in sharepoint and then export the template and open it up in visual studio. Or do they create a template from scratch (new sharepoint project in visual studio).

I find it annoying when a template is imported into visual studio because a lot of additional items are created e.g. ContentTypes, ListInstances, Property Bags etc

I was wondering what the professional approach to this is?

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It depends wholly on the situation, if the template is going to be simple, then build it from scratch. Otherwise import it.

The professional approach in my opinion, is to use the fastest means possible, while maintaining structure.

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