I'm creating a simple workflow in Visual Studio: enter image description here

I can deploy it, and it works. I then try to open it with SharePoint designer: enter image description here However, the steps/activities/stages are missing. How come I'm not seeing the sequence I've created in Visual Studio in the designer? Shouldn't I see at least an IF statement?

Additionally, it does not work when I try it vice versa. Steps I took:

  1. Created a simple workflow in sharepoint designer.
  2. Opened Visual Studio and attempted to "Import a SharePoint 2013 project" because somehow, you can only import SharePoint 2010 reusable workflows, not SharePoint 2013 reusable workflows.enter image description here
  3. Visual Studio fails to open it. enter image description here

I can't even find anything relevant on Google. This seems like a huge omission to me. Tutorials such as this one on MSDN explain how to import a SharePoint 2010 workflow into Visual Studio 2012. Not a Sharepoint 2013 into Visual Studio 2012. Can anyone explain what's going on?

  • David, I know this thread is really, really old but did you ever manage to get this to work? I have a client who may lose all of their workflows because their WF farm is hosed but I can still pull out the workflow.xaml files. If I could import those into VS even just to get a visual representation then I would be a total hero. I'll even play Robin and you can be Batman in this story lol
    – Newclique
    Apr 17, 2020 at 14:38
  • @Newclique I want to help you but I really can't remember :( My feeling was that after 2 days of tearing my hair I'd figured it's not possible. Thankfully I've moved away from Sharepoint - I don't miss those days!
    – David
    Apr 18, 2020 at 7:56
  • Thanks, David. I'll tell you what, it is definitely possible. The trick it getting the namespaces to match. Pull down the workflow.xaml from SharePoint and compare it in a text editor to a new workflow you make in a VS SharePoint workflow project. With some fiddling around, at the very least you can render out the graphical design of a WF using VS. This might be enough to salvage a WF that didn't get exported to a template using SPD. You know, next new farm I have to do maintenance on, first thing I'll do is walk through each WF and click Export Template in SPD!
    – Newclique
    Apr 19, 2020 at 23:10

1 Answer 1


The workflow activities/actions are in separate assemblies, and each tool references a different one.

I have some tips on my site (http://www.schaeflein.net/setting-workflow-status-in-visual-studio-and-sharepoint-designer/) about referencing the SPD actions in VS. However, making changes to the SPD workflow in VS is not something that is advertised as an option.

I have successfully included an SPD workflow in a Sandboxed solution, but I did not make changes.

  • Do you know of any way to convert List workflow (SP2013) from SPD to a visual studio workflow?
    – Ofer Gal
    May 17, 2018 at 15:46
  • I tried a long time ago, and determined it is not possible. May 18, 2018 at 16:17
  • It's definitely possible. See my comment above.
    – Newclique
    Apr 19, 2020 at 23:11

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