Metadata is any information that describes an item. In ArcGIS Online, an item's information is created, edited, and viewed on the item details page. Some examples of item information include the item title, type, description, source, author, last modified date, thumbnail, and tags. This information helps others discover and validate the usefulness of the items. Within ArcGIS, item information is saved with the item it describes. It is copied, moved, and deleted with the item.
Metadata can also take the form of standards-based metadata documents or records, which are commonly referred to as geospatial metadata or metadata. Organizations can enable metadata, which allows members of the organization to use a 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 applies a stylesheet for the metadata standard and the schema used to validate metadata according to the standard. The style also configures the organization’s experience for editing and viewing metadata according to the standard.
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.
A built-in metadata viewer is available to allow you to see the metadata associated with an item. If your organization has metadata enabled, this same viewer allows item owners and administrators to edit the metadata. To provide you with access to the viewer, a Metadata button appears on item pages in the following circumstances:
- For organizations that have enabled metadata, the Metadata button is available to item owners and administrators so they can add metadata and edit.
- Once an item has metadata, the Metadata button is available to anyone who has access to the item to allow them to view the item's metadata. This is true no matter how the metadata was added—directly to the item or included when you published the data from ArcGIS Pro or ArcMap. Even if metadata is disabled, you can view the metadata of those items that have it.
You will also see a Metadata button on the sublayer pages of hosted feature layers that have associated metadata. To view an individual layer's metadata in the metadata style configured for the organization, click the layer in the Layers or Tables list on the hosted feature layer or table layer's Overview tab and click Metadata on the sublayer's page.
Providing standards-based metadata with your item helps people learn about the item and decide which item best meets their needs. In ArcGIS, the metadata is saved with the item it describes. It is copied, moved, and deleted with the item and appears with items as they are used throughout the system. For example, if your organization has enabled Open Data, metadata documents managed from ArcGIS Online are available in ArcGIS Hub sites from dataset pages, and the documents are included in shapefile downloads. The availability of standards-based metadata for these datasets helps ensure that your content is findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR).
Enable metadata for the organization
Administrators configure metadata for the organization through the organization item page settings. The configuration includes choosing the metadata style. The style controls how the metadata appears and which elements are required and available for creating the metadata on an item. The organization administrators 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.
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.
For hosted feature layers that have associated metadata, you can access the metadata for individual layers from the Metadata button on the details page for each layer. To open the layer's page, click the layer name in the Layers list.
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 based on the style applied by the organization.
When you open the editor for the item for the first time, the editor is populated with existing item information metadata from the following item page elements:
If you upload a local metadata .xml file in the ArcGIS metadata format, you have the option to overwrite the item details with the imported metadata from the .xml file or use the existing item information.
Owners of hosted feature layers and administrators can also add or edit metadata for individual sublayers in a hosted feature layer. To open the layer's page, click the sublayer name in the Layers list.
Edit metadata for an item
Follow these steps to add or edit metadata for an item:
- Verify that you are signed in, have privileges to create content, and that your organization has enabled metadata.
- From the My Content tab of the content page, click the title of the item for which you want to include metadata.
The item's details page opens to the Overview tab.
- Click Metadata to open the metadata editor.
By default, metadata is edited in the new editor. To use the old editor, click the drop-down arrow on the Metadata button and choose Open in Metadata Editor Classic.
If the item is a hosted feature layer, you can edit each sublayer's metadata. To access the metadata editor for a sublayer, click the sublayer name in the Layers list on the Overview tab.
- Provide metadata content that describes the item.
How you input metadata information varies depending on the editor you use. See the sections below for the appropriate editor.
At minimum, you must provide metadata for the elements that are required for the metadata style you're using. These required elements have an asterisk (*) next to them. Some metadata elements that are not included in an official metadata standard or profile but are included in the item information are included as suggested elements, such as thumbnails. Both the required and suggested elements are presented on the Essential metadata tab.
To provide additional metadata beyond what is required or suggested, click the All metadata tab.
The metadata editor displays dynamic information about what metadata has been added and what is still required. The information is validated and updates as you edit the metadata.
Click Save when you finish editing and before you close the editor.
The following options are available from the Options button at the top of the editor:
- View XML—Opens the metadata document in XML format 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.
- View HTML—Opens the metadata document in HTML format 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.
- Download—Creates an .xml file of the metadata in ArcGIS metadata format without a metadata style applied to it and downloads it to the local machine.
- Overwrite—Replaces the current metadata information with content uploaded from a metadata .xml file you choose. The file must be in ArcGIS metadata format. If you check the box next to Populate metadata with item details on the Overwrite window, certain metadata values such as the item title will be populated using the values you configured in the item's details page.
- Reset—Deletes all metadata values other than those inherited from the item information.
Metadata editor classic
At minimum, you must provide metadata for the elements that are required for the metadata style you're using. Elements with an asterisk (*) are the ones that are required.
You can see the metadata style of your organization by clicking Metadata > Profile.
When you finish adding or editing metadata values, click Save. If you don't save before closing the editor or opening the view of the metadata, you will lose your changes.
You have the following options in the metadata editor:
- 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 provided the information required for the metadata style. A message communicates if your document is valid or about any required elements you haven't provided with links to those elements.
- 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 from your computer. Click Overwrite, click the browse button, and choose the file on your computer. The metadata .xml file must 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.
ArcGIS metadata storage format
Regardless of the applied style, ArcGIS Online stores the metadata in ArcGIS metadata storage format. Item owners use the built-in metadata editor on the item to include additional metadata. The ArcGIS metadata storage format contains all the elements that can have values in all metadata standards supported by ArcGIS, including FGDC CSDGM, ISO 19139, North America Profile of ISO 19115, INSPIRE, and ISO 19115-3. The ArcGIS format also stores item information, such as thumbnails, that are not included in the standards-based metadata styles. Metadata stored in the ArcGIS storage format can be transformed to a different standard by applying a different style. This means that metadata is not lost if the organization switches the metadata style.
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 stylesheet to the ArcGIS metadata. The style controls how you view the metadata and 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 elements for an item. The information is indexed and searchable and is available to be used by applications across the platform. The item information 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 information is synchronized with the item’s standards-based metadata.
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 America 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.
- ISO 19115-3 XML Schema Implementation—This style allows you to view and edit a complete metadata document that complies with ISO content standard 19115-1, Geographic information — Metadata — Part 1: Fundamentals, and validate it using the standard's XML schemas defined as part of ISO 19115-3, Geographic information — Metadata — Part 3: XML schema implementation for fundamental concepts.
Share and transform the metadata style and encoding format
Sometimes you need to share a standards-based metadata document outside the ArcGIS platform. Two common ways to share metadata are through a website URL and as a file.
Optionally, you can obtain the metadata style information by printing or saving the web page content if the web browser provides those options.
To share the metadata website URL, display the metadata, and copy the URL from the address bar of the web browser.
The item must be shared publicly to be viewed by external users.
In ArcGIS, the metadata is displayed using a well-known URL structure that supports two parameters—format and output—and includes the item's unique ID, as shown in the example URL below:
In this example URL, the item ID is a123b04cdef5.
To change the encoding format for the page, change the output value in the URL. In the example above, the encoding format is HTML (output=html). To change it to XML, replace html with xml.
By default, metadata is displayed using the current default style applied by the item owner’s organization. To change the style displayed using the metadata document website URL, modify the format value in the metadata URL. In the example above, replace default with the desired style. Use the appropriate short name value shown in the table below.
Because each style requires different elements, changing the format parameter to a different value may result in the metadata document missing some element values required for the metadata style to be considered complete.
The current default style applied by the item owner's organization
ISO 19139 Metadata Implementation Specification
ISO 19115-3 XML Schema Implementation
INSPIRE Metadata Directive
North America Profile of ISO 19115 2003
FGDC CSDGM Metadata
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 specify an XML schema describing the format in which the content should be conveyed. 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 whether a metadata element is optional, 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 America 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, you can 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, click the feedback link at the bottom of the page to submit it.
What metadata styles are supported in ArcGIS Online?
See the Metadata styles section above for a list of the standards-based metadata styles currently supported in ArcGIS Online.
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 for 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 Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) 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 or later 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.
- Beginning with ArcGIS Pro 3.0, when you publish a hosted feature layer from feature classes or tables in a mobile geodatabase and they contain metadata, 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 Pro or ArcMap into ArcGIS Online?
- See the previous question and answer for information on how metadata is published from ArcGIS Pro or ArcMap. 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.
- 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, ArcGIS Pro, or ArcMap.
How can I export my metadata from ArcGIS Online?
To download metadata for an item, click the Options button to open the drop-down menu and choose Download. If you're using the metadata editor (classic), click Download at the top of the editor. This creates a local copy of the metadata that includes any changes made during the editing session that have not been saved to the item.
You can also save a copy of an item's metadata to HTML or XML format in ArcGIS Pro. See Save a copy of an item's ArcGIS metadata in the ArcGIS Pro help for instructions.
Is my metadata searchable?
Yes, currently content search uses specific elements from item details: title, tags, snippet, description, accessinformation. Changes you make to these elements 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 ArcGIS Hub 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; 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 XSLT Transformation geoprocessing tool from ArcMap 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. See Copy or import metadata to an item in the ArcGIS Pro help for instructions.
Is metadata extracted when adding an item to the My Content tab of the content page?
When publishing a file geodatabase or shapefile, or when you publish a hosted feature layer from ArcGIS Pro or ArcMap, 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 zip file contains multiple shapefiles or the 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.
Consider the following when using metadata:
- Currently, organizations can choose only 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 element 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 element 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.