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Metadata

Metadata is information that describes an item. In ArcGIS Online, an item's metadata is created, edited, and viewed on the item page. Item details include the title, the type, and the source, author, last modified date, thumbnail, and tags. It can also include additional information such a summary and description, how accurate and recent the item is, restrictions associated with using and sharing the item, credits, and so on. This information can help others discover and validate the usefulness of the items. Within ArcGIS, metadata is saved with the item it describes. It is copied, moved, and deleted with the item.

Organizations can enable metadata, which allows members of the organization to use the built-in metadata editor to include additional standards-based metadata for all item types. Metadata can be included for all items in a portal including web maps, web scenes, and web apps. Organizations select a metadata style, which configures the organization’s experience for editing and viewing metadata. In addition to determining the information available for viewing and editing, the metadata style identifies the metadata standard you are following and the schema used to validate an item's metadata for the standard. Regardless of the applied style, the metadata is always stored in ArcGIS metadata format. This means that metadata is not lost if the organization switches the metadata style.

For organizations that have enabled metadata, a Metadata button appears on their item pages for item owners and administrators. Item owners use the button to access the built-in editor and include additional standards-based metadata. When an item includes this additional metadata, anyone with access to the item also sees a Metadata button and can use it to view the metadata in the style configured by the organization.

You will also see a Metadata link in the Layers list for any hosted feature layer that has associated metadata. The link allows anyone with access to the hosted feature layer's item page to view the individual layer's metadata in the metadata style configured by the organization. Similarly, if a table was published with metadata, you'll see a Metadata link in the Tables list.

Providing standards-based metadata with your item helps people learn about the item and decide if they want to use it. For example, if your organization has enabled Open Data, metadata documents managed from ArcGIS Online are available in Open Data sites from dataset pages and the documents are included in shapefile downloads. The availability of standards-based metadata for these datasets helps the general public determine which dataset best meets their needs.

Enable metadata for the organization

Administrators configure metadata for the organization through the item page settings. The configuration includes choosing the metadata style. The style controls how the metadata appears and which fields are required and available for creating the metadata on an item. The organization should choose the style of metadata the organization already uses in other applications to create its metadata.

If the organization disables metadata, the metadata is still part of the item, but you can no longer edit the item-level metadata in ArcGIS Online. Any standards-based metadata authored while metadata was enabled for the organization can still be viewed from the item page. To remove standards-based metadata from an item, you must delete the metadata using the web editor while metadata is enabled for your organization.

Additionally, any metadata associated with layers in a hosted feature layer is not lost if metadata is disabled for the organization; you can still view the layer-level metadata.

View metadata

If an organization has enabled metadata, a Metadata button appears on their item pages for item owners. Item owners use the button to access a built-in editor and include metadata. When an item includes metadata, anyone with access to the item also sees a Metadata button and can use it to view the metadata in the metadata style configured by the organization. Once the item owner has added metadata to the item, the owner and administroator see a choice to View or Edit from within the Metadata button. All other users can only view the metadata.

You will also see a Metadata link in the Layers list for any hosted feature layer that has associated metadata. The link allows anyone with access to the hosted feature layer's item page to view the individual layer's metadata in the metadata style configured by the organization. Similarly, if a table was published with metadata, you'll see a Metadata link in the Tables list.

Edit metadata

If an organization has enabled metadata, item owners can include additional standards-based metadata for their items. Item owners use the built-in metadata editor on the item to include additional metadata and store it in ArcGIS metadata format. The ArcGIS metadata format contains fields that can store all content in all metadata standards supported by ArcGIS, including all FGDC CSDGM metadata content, all ISO 19139 metadata content, all North American Profile metadata content, and all INSPIRE metadata content. The ArcGIS format also stores item properties such as thumbnails that is not included in these official metadata standards and profiles.

When you open the editor for the item for the first time, the editor is populated with existing metadata from the following item page fields: title, tags, snippet, description, accessinformation, licenseinfo, and extent. If you upload a local metadata XML file, you have the option to overwrite the item details with the imported metadata from the XML file or use the existing item details.

Owners of hosted feature layers and administrators can also add metadata for individual layers in the hosted feature layer. If the layer did not include metadata when you published, you can open the editor and add metadata.

Edit metadata for an item

Follow these steps to add or edit metadata for an item:

  1. Verify that you are signed in, have privileges to create content, and that your organization has enabled metadata.
  2. From the My Content tab of the content page, click the title of the item for which you want to include metadata.
  3. Click Metadata and provide metadata content that describes the item. Fields with an asterisk (*) are required for the metadata style you're using.
    Tip:

    You can see the metadata style of your organization by opening the Metadata > Profile tab.

  4. When in your current editing session, you have the following options:
    • View opens the metadata in a new browser tab with the style configured for the organization. To see changes made to the metadata, you must save them before you view the metadata.
    • Validate verifies that you have filled in the required fields for the metadata style. You get a message letting you know if your document is valid or about any required fields you haven't filled in with links to those fields.
    • Download downloads your current metadata document, including any changes made during the editing session, as an XML file in ArcGIS metadata format without a metadata style applied to it.
    • Delete deletes any metadata you've added to the item and hides the Metadata button when the item is viewed by others. The Delete option is only available if the item includes metadata. It does not delete item details.
    • Overwrite imports an existing metadata XML file on your computer. Click Overwrite, click the browse button, and choose the file on your computer. The metadata XML file needs to be in the ArcGIS metadata format.

      Check the box to populate metadata with item details. If you leave the box unchecked, metadata from your file updates item details.

    • Save saves your changes and keeps the metadata editor open.
    • Close closes the editing session without saving.

Edit metadata for a layer in a hosted feature layer

Follow these steps to add or edit metadata for a layer in a hosted feature layer:

  1. Verify that you are signed in as the owner of the hosted feature layer and that your organization has enabled metadata.
  2. From the My Content tab of the content page, click the title of the hosted feature layer for which you want to include sublayer metadata.
  3. For the sublayer to which you want to add or edit metadata, click the Metadata link
  4. Provide metadata content that describes the sublayer. Fields with an asterisk (*) are required for the metadata style you're using.
    Tip:

    You can see the metadata style of your organization by opening the Metadata > Profile tab.

  5. When in your current editing session, you have the following options:
    • View opens the metadata in a new browser tab with the style configured for the organization. To see changes made to the metadata, you must save them before you view the metadata.
    • Validate verifies that you have filled in the required fields for the metadata style. You get a message letting you know if your document is valid or about any required fields you haven't filled in with links to those fields.
    • Download downloads your current metadata document, including any changes made during the editing session, as an XML file in ArcGIS metadata format without a metadata style applied to it.
    • Overwrite imports an existing metadata XML file on your computer. Click Overwrite, click the browse button, and choose the file on your computer. The metadata XML file needs to be in the ArcGIS metadata format.
    • Delete deletes any metadata you've added to the specific layer and hides the Metadata button when the item is viewed by others. The Delete option is only available if the layer includes metadata. It does not delete metadata for other layers or the hosted feature layer.
    • Save saves your changes and keeps the metadata editor open.
    • Close closes the editing session without saving.

Metadata styles, standards, and profiles

A metadata style configures the editing and viewing experience of the metadata content. A metadata style is like applying a filter to an item's metadata. The style controls how you view the metadata and also the pages that appear in the metadata editor. A standards-based metadata style is designed to support a metadata standard or profile. The style determines how metadata is validated for that standard or profile.

The default item page allows you to see and edit a simple set of metadata properties for an item. The information is indexed and searchable and is available to be used by applications across the platform. The information in item details is straightforward and effective, suitable for anyone who doesn't need to adhere to specific metadata standards. When metadata is enabled for your organization, item details properties are synchronized with the item’s standards-based metadata.

Metadata styles

The following metadata styles are provided to support different metadata:

  • FGDC CSDGM Metadata—This style allows you to view and edit metadata following the FGDC Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM) guidelines and validate it using the CSDGM XML DTD.
  • INSPIRE Metadata Directive—This style allows you to view and edit a complete ISO 19139 metadata document that adheres to the INSPIRE Implementing Rules and validate it using the ISO 19139 XML Schemas.
  • ISO 19139 Metadata Implementation Specification—This style allows you to view and edit a complete metadata document that complies with ISO standard 19139, Geographic information — Metadata — XML schema implementation, and validate it using the standard's XML Schemas. Use this style to create metadata that complies with ISO standard 19115, Geographic information — Metadata.
  • ISO 19139 Metadata Implementation Specification GML3.2—This style is identical to the one above, except the files use the GML 3.2 namespace, and therefore can be validated with versions of the ISO 19139 XML Schemas that reference the GML 3.2 namespace. For example, use this style if you plan to validate the metadata files using the NOAA NCDDC XML Schemas.
  • North American Profile of ISO 19115 2003—This style allows you to view and edit a complete metadata document that complies with North American Profile of ISO 19115:2003 – Geographic information – Metadata, and validate it using the ISO 19139 XML Schemas.

Metadata standards and profiles

A metadata standard is a document identifying content that should be provided to describe geospatial resources such as maps, map services, vector data, imagery, and even nonspatial resources such as tables and tools that are relevant to your spatial work. A metadata standard may also provide an XML schema describing the format in which the content should be stored. Typically, a standard XML format is defined using XML Schema or document type definition (DTD). Standards are typically ratified by national or international standards bodies.

Many geospatial metadata standards are produced by ISO committees including ISO 19115 Geographic Information—Metadata and ISO 19119 Geographic Information—Metadata—Services, which are content standards. In contrast, ISO 19139 Geographic Information—Metadata—Implementation Specification provides a set of XML Schemas that define the XML format in which ISO 19115 and ISO 19119 metadata content should be stored.

The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) created the Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM) that has been used in the United States for many years; it is commonly referred to as the FGDC metadata standard. It is another example of a content standard. While there is an accepted format in which to store this content in XML format, there are also several other file formats that are commonly used to present the information.

A metadata profile is a document that modifies a metadata standard. A profile may reduce the overall number of metadata elements defined by a standard. A profile may further restrict the optionality of a metadata element, making it mandatory where before it was optional; however, a profile cannot make mandatory elements optional. A profile may further restrict the values allowed in a metadata element. Metadata profiles can be adopted by a standards body, agency, or organization in place of a metadata standard. One example of a metadata profile is the North American Profile of ISO 19115:2003 that has been jointly created and adopted by the United States and Canada.

Whether by choice or by obligation, if you plan to create metadata that follows a standard or profile, obtain a copy of the standard or profile document. For ISO standards, you must purchase the document from ISO or the national organization that participates in ISO, such as ANSI, in the United States. Profiles should be available from the organizations that create them.

Frequently asked questions

Listed below are common questions about metadata in ArcGIS Online. If you have a question that you think might come up often for other users, click the feedback link at the bottom of the page to submit it as a candidate.

What metadata styles are supported in ArcGIS Online?

Currently, the following standards-based metadata styles are supported in ArcGIS Online: FGDC CSDGM Metadata, INSPIRE Metadata Directive, ISO 19139 Metadata Implementation Specification GML3.2, ISO 19139 Metadata Implementation Specification, and North American Profile of ISO 19115 2003.

How is metadata supported in ArcGIS Online?

Organizations can create and share metadata on all of the items supported by ArcGIS Online including web maps, web scenes, web apps, layers, uploaded files, and tools. When you publish hosted feature layers, metadata associated with the data is made available with the layer.

Metadata can be created and edited using a web-based editor and viewed as HTML in a separate browser tab. Metadata is viewed with the style selected by the organization. Currently, organizations choose one metadata style for creating, editing, and viewing metadata. Organizations can change the style without losing the metadata.

The web-based editor uses the ArcGIS metadata format. The fields available for editing in the web editor are determined by the style configured by the organization. The ArcGIS metadata format contains fields that can store all content in all metadata standards supported by ArcGIS.

Is metadata automatically included when I publish a hosted layer?

Yes, when you publish a hosted layer to ArcGIS Online from ArcMap or a service definition file created in ArcMap, metadata is automatically made available with the layer item. If you publish from ArcGIS Pro, the metadata for the map or layer that you publish is included in the hosted layer.

For hosted feature layers, layer-level metadata is also included when you publish from ArcGIS Pro.

  • From ArcMap, when you publish a map document as a hosted layer, any metadata for the map document is automatically included and is available with the hosted layer item. Metadata from individual layers is not included in the metadata for the hosted layer item. You can make edits to the hosted layer metadata in ArcCatalog or ArcGIS Online. The metadata document from the feature class can be used to update the hosted layer’s metadata by opening and saving the document in the web editor or imported into ArcMap.
  • When you publish a hosted WFS layer from a hosted feature layer, the hosted WFS layer inherits metadata from the hosted feature layer. Subsequent edits to the hosted feature layer's metadata does not affect the hosted WFS layer's metadata, nor do edits to the hosted WFS layer's metadata affect the hosted feature layer's metadata.
  • In ArcGIS Online, when you publish a shapefile that contains metadata or a file geodatabase that contains feature classes and tables with metadata, that metadata is included in the hosted feature layer, and you can view each layer's metadata on the feature layer's item page in ArcGIS Online.
  • When the ArcGIS Pro 2.2 map you publish as a hosted feature layer contains feature classes or tables that have metadata, or metadata is saved with the layer in the map, that metadata is included in the hosted feature layer. You can view each layer's metadata on the feature layer's item page in ArcGIS Online.
  • When you create a hosted feature layer view from a hosted feature layer, the view inherits metadata from the hosted feature layer and its layers.

How do I get my metadata from ArcGIS Desktop into ArcGIS Online?

  • See the previous question and answer for information on how metadata is published from ArcGIS Desktop. Metadata is not published to the layer item when you publish from a tile package.
  • Metadata for any item can be updated using the web editor. In ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro, you can edit metadata for the items available in those apps.
  • All items in your organization can be updated to include metadata using one of the following methods:
    • Copy or import metadata in ArcGIS Pro.
    • Use the XSLT Transformation geoprocessing tool from ArcMap with one of the following style sheets to export the metadata content to a stand-alone metadata XML file in the ArcGIS metadata format: exact copy of.xslt, remove local storage info.xslt, or remove local storage info strict.xslt. The metadata XML file can be opened in the web editor and used to update the metadata for the hosted layer.

How is metadata supported in ArcGIS Pro?

ArcGIS Pro supports editing standards-based metadata for any item you own that can be accessed in ArcGIS Pro. See View and edit metadata in the ArcGIS Pro help for more information.

When I register an ArcGIS Server service, does the metadata become part of the item?

No. When you register an ArcGIS Server service as an item in ArcGIS Online, only the item details are automatically included. At this time, existing metadata does not become part of the item. Metadata for these items can be updated using the web editor or ArcGIS Desktop.

How can I export my metadata from ArcGIS Online?

To download metadata for an item, click Download from within the web editor. This local copy includes any changes made during the editing session that have not been saved to the item.

Is my metadata searchable?

Yes, currently content search uses specific fields from item details: title, tags, snippet, description, accessinformation. Changes you make to these fields from within the metadata editor or from the item page are automatically synchronized in both places. Metadata associated with the layers in a feature layer is not searchable. Future updates to Open Data will include support for searching the full metadata document.

Is metadata included when data is exported from my hosted feature layer?

Yes, any metadata associated with the layer is automatically included when you export data from a hosted feature layer in shapefile or file geodatabase format.

Can I import metadata formats other than ArcGIS metadata format?

No, other metadata formats cannot be imported. Currently, only the ArcGIS metadata format can be opened in the metadata editor. The web editor only opens metadata documents in ArcGIS metadata format. If you attempt to open a document in another format, the editor displays an error message and will not open the metadata. You can use the ArcGIS Desktop XSLT Transformation geoprocessing tool to convert other metadata formats to the ArcGIS metadata format. With ArcGIS Pro, you can import a standards-based metadata format to the item. As part of this process, the metadata is converted to the ArcGIS metadata format.

Is metadata extracted when adding an item to the My Content tab of the content page?

When publishing a file geodatabase, shapefile, or a hosted feature layer from ArcGIS Desktop, any metadata included with the data is automatically made available with the layer. If the shapefile or file geodatabase contains only one layer and has metadata, both the item and the layer will have the associated metadata. If the shapefile or file geodatabase contains multiple layers, metadata is only available with the layers that contain metadata; it is not associated with the item.

Can the organization switch metadata styles?

Yes, the organization can switch metadata style without losing any metadata. However, the style previously used for editing may not have all of the elements for the updated style. Item owners can update their metadata to the latest style through the editor. The latest style configured for the organization is the style that appears when viewing the metadata unless your metadata is already styled with an ISO-based standard and you switch style to a different ISO profile. In this case, your metadata is viewed with the authored style. At this time, you cannot switch styles within the editor.

Metadata considerations

  • Currently, organizations can only choose one metadata style.
  • ArcGIS metadata format is the only format supported for importing metadata.
  • For hosted web layers that already had metadata in the data from ArcMap when you published, and at the time your organization was not enabled for metadata (for example, before July 8, 2015), you can enable viewing that metadata in the hosted web layer item by opening the metadata editor and clicking Save. This populates the metadata editor with the metadata in the style configured by the organization.
  • Currently, the title field is not synchronized between the built-in editor and item page. This includes when you upload a metadata XML file. The first time you open the editor, the field has the title from the item page. Any changes you make (and save) to the title from within the editor are saved to the standards-based metadata. They are not saved to the item page.
  • Currently, edits you make to a hosted WFS layer's metadata do not update the capabilities file of the underlying WFS service.
  • To view layer-level metadata on public layers with FGDC styling, your organization must allow anonymous access. If your organization is private—that is, if anonymous access is disabled—layer-level metadata for public layers is available by default with ISO styling.
  • Edits to layer-lever metadata are not synchronized with the item. Similarly, edits to item metadata are not synchronized with layer-level metadata.