Create FGDC CSDGM metadata

The Federal Geographic Data Committee's (FGDC) Content Standard for Digital Spatial Metadata (CSDGM) is a well-known metadata content standard that has been used in North America and around the world for many years. This guide describes the workflows for editing metadata in ArcGIS Pro to produce content that complies with the FGDC CSDGM standard.

Configure ArcGIS Pro

The first step toward creating metadata content that complies with the FGDC CSDGM metadata standard is to configure ArcGIS Pro correctly. On the Options dialog box, choose FGDC CSDGM Metadata in the Metadata style drop-down list. This ensures that when you edit metadata in the metadata view, the validation errors you see are based on the CSDGM guidelines. When you view an item's metadata in the catalog view, all of its metadata content is displayed.

If the metadata style set in ArcGIS Pro doesn't match the metadata style used by your organization and by ArcGIS Desktop, you may see inconsistencies when you view and edit metadata throughout the ArcGIS platform.


The ArcGIS platform only works with metadata in the ArcGIS metadata format. If you have metadata content stored in the FGDC CSDGM XML format, it can't be used directly in ArcGIS Pro. When you try to view it, a message appears indicating the metadata content must be upgraded before the metadata can be viewed or edited.

Edit FGDC CSDGM metadata content

You can create full FGDC CSDGM metadata for an item in ArcGIS Pro. To get started, complete the following steps:

  1. Edit an item's metadata in the metadata view.
    The metadata view appears, displaying the first metadata editor page. All pages available for editing metadata are listed in the Contents pane.
  2. Click each page in the Contents pane where required content is identified as being missing Invalid Metadata and provide the appropriate content.

    When all required content has been provided the page will be identified in the Contents pane as being valid Valid Metadata.

  3. Apply or save your changes as appropriate.

    It may take some time to complete an item's metadata. You can save your changes and finish the remainder at a later time, even if required information is missing. The next time you work on the project, the metadata view will be open to the page you worked on last.

  4. Close the metadata view when your work is complete.

Create CSDGM-compliant metadata

The following table describes where you can find each of the minimum mandatory CSDGM metadata elements. You're not limited to the information below; this information is provided to help you get started. If information beyond the minimum is provided, additional content may be required to complement that information according to the CSDGM standard.

Metadata elements are identified by the data element names provided in the CSDGM.

Metadata editor pageSteps to fulfill FGDC CSDGM requirements
Overview > Item Description
  • Citation Title—Type the title in the Title text box.
  • Abstract—Type the abstract in the Description (Abstract) text box.
  • Purpose—Type the purpose in the Summary (Purpose) text box.
  • Use Constraints—If there are any use constraints, click New Use Limitation and type them in the Use Limitation text box. If there are no use constraints associated with this item, don't add the Use Limitation text box to the page.
  • Spatial Domain Bounding Coordinates—If a bounding box hasn't been provided automatically for the item, click New Bounding Box. Provide the bounding coordinates in the appropriate text boxes.
Overview > Topics & Keywords
  • Theme Keyword—Click New Theme Keywords if a Theme Keywords heading doesn't already exist. Type each keyword on a separate line in the Theme Keywords text box.
  • Theme Keyword Thesaurus—If the theme keywords came from a thesaurus, click Add Thesaurus Citation and type its name in the Title text box. If the keywords did not come from a specific thesaurus, don't add a Thesaurus Citation to the page.
  • If there are additional theme keywords associated with a different thesaurus, click New Theme Keywords and provide them under the new heading.
Overview > Citation
  • Citation Title—The title provided on the Item Description page also appears here in the Title text box.
  • Citation Publication Date—Click the Dates heading. Click the calendar button next to Published and select an appropriate date. Add a time if the information is significant.
Overview > Citation Contacts
  • Citation Originator—Click New Contact and click Originator in the Role drop-down list. Type an appropriate value in the Name or Organization text box to identify the individual or organization that developed the item.
  • If another individual or organization helped develop the item, click New Contact and provide their name under the new heading.
Metadata > Contacts
  • Metadata Contact—Click New Contact if an appropriate contact isn't listed in the drop-down list and available to be loaded onto the page. Click Point of Contact in the Role drop-down list. Click New Contact Information, and specify how to contact that person.
  • Contact Information Primary Person or Organization—Type a name in the Name or Organization text box. If both are provided, the organization is considered the primary contact.
  • Contact Information Address—Select an Address Type from the drop-down list. Type a City, State, and Postal Code in the appropriate text boxes. Type a street address in the Address text box if appropriate.
  • Contact Information Voice Telephone—Type a phone number in the Phone text box.
Resource > Details
  • Status Progress—Click New Status and click an appropriate value in the Status drop-down list.
Resource > Extents
  • Spatial Domain Bounding Coordinates—The bounding box provided on the Item Description page also appears here under the Extents heading.
  • Time Period of Content Currentness Reference—Click New Extent and type a description and any uncertainties in the Description text box.
  • Time Period of Content Time Period Information—Provide a date range or individual dates by clicking either New Temporal Period Extent or New Temporal Instant Extent under the Extent heading as many times as appropriate. Click the calendar button and select the appropriate dates. Add times if the information is significant.
Resource > Maintenance
  • Status Maintenance and Update Frequency—Click the appropriate value in the Update Frequency drop-down list.
Resource > Constraints
  • Use Constraints—Any use constraints provided on the Item Description page also appear here under the General Constraints heading.
  • Access Constraints—If there are any access constraints, click New Legal Constraints, click New Other Constraints, and type those restrictions in the Other Constraints text box. If there are no access constraints associated with this item, don't add the Other Constraints text box to the page.

Best practices for authoring CSDGM content in ArcGIS

ArcGIS allows you to create a full CSDGM-compliant metadata record to describe an item. However, there are a few differences between the CSDGM instructions and how you should provide the corresponding information in ArcGIS. By following some best practices, the metadata you create in ArcGIS will be accurate and easier to maintain, and will transition seamlessly to other metadata styles and formats in the future.

Inapplicable or unknown values

The CSDGM instructs you to provide the text None in mandatory elements where the information associated with that element is either unknown or inapplicable. For example, when keywords are provided, a thesaurus must be specified even if one wasn't used. The same practice is used when there are no access and use constraints associated with the item. Text such as unknown or unpublished material is also allowed for dates and times.

When a metadata element's value is unknown or inapplicable, leave its value blank. Don't provide the value None in a metadata element's text box when you edit metadata in ArcGIS.

When metadata is exported to an FGDC CSDGM-formatted XML file using other applications in the ArcGIS platform, these elements are automatically added with the value None or Unknown at that time. Other metadata standards have similar requirements, but different elements are considered mandatory and the manner in which the uncertainty or absence of a value is indicated in the exported XML file is different. Exporters for each style handle the situation in an appropriate manner.

Content defined by the metadata style

A metadata style configures ArcGIS to support a specific metadata standard or profile. Each metadata standard typically has metadata elements to record the name and version of the standard that was followed, how the metadata content was recorded, and so on. Exporters for each style handle the situation in an appropriate manner. When metadata is exported to an FGDC CSDGM-formatted XML file using other applications in the ArcGIS platform, the mandatory Metadata Standard Name and Metadata Standard Version elements are added at that time, along with the Metadata Time Convention element.

Dates and times

The CSDGM allows partial dates and times to be provided, and text to be used to describe a time period. However, ArcGIS metadata requires all dates to consist of a year, month, and day, and all times must include hours, minutes, and seconds. When the day and time are uncertain, one alternative is to provide a date range, such as from the beginning to the end of a year. Another alternative is to specify the first day of the month when the actual day is unknown, or January 1 if only the year is known. Date ranges are preferable when they are allowed.

Code list values

The CSDGM was originally designed for writing textual metadata documents. Many metadata elements have a domain where the value can be one of a specified set or free-form text. In existing CSDGM-format metadata, these elements often contain different phrases that express the same meaning. The equivalent metadata elements in other standards are typically associated with code lists—a set of coded values that communicate a specific concept unambiguously. Free-form text is not available in a code list.

In ArcGIS, the associated metadata elements use code lists. When FGDC CSDGM metadata is upgraded or imported using another ArcGIS application, the text provided is matched to a coded value if possible. If a suggested phrase is misspelled, an alternate phrase was used, or suggested values are combined, a match is unlikely even though the original text had the same meaning as a coded value. When editing an item's metadata, choose the appropriate value from the editor's drop-down list.

Content that can't or shouldn't be edited

For most items, ArcGIS automatically records the item's intrinsic properties in its metadata as appropriate. For example, if an item's spatial reference is set, full details of that spatial reference are recorded in its metadata. Detailed spatial reference properties can't be edited manually in the metadata view. This ensures the metadata reflects the item's actual spatial reference. With other metadata styles, you can manually provide information about an item's spatial reference for items that don't support synchronization, but you can only do so by providing the spatial reference identifier. The properties of the spatial reference are fixed for that identifier, and they can be examined in the appropriate registry where they're defined; individual spatial reference parameters are not manually typed into an item's metadata.

For other properties, such as an item's feature count, raster size, or attribute labels, it's possible to change the information derived from the item when editing metadata in ArcGIS. However, these values should be left unaltered. As long as these values aren't edited in the metadata view, ArcGIS will continue to update them as the item's properties change and they'll remain accurate. For example, if attributes are provided in an item's metadata but their names don't match field names in the item's attribute table, they'll be removed from the item's metadata the next time it's synchronized with the item's intrinsic properties.

The ArcGIS metadata editor automatically provides the current date as the date when the metadata was last updated. This value typically should not be modified, but if you're transcribing metadata that describes an archived item, for example, you may want to change the metadata date to reflect the date when the metadata content was originally authored.

Describe how to get an item

Some information is organized differently in ArcGIS metadata than in the CSDGM to better support multiple metadata standards. The CSDGM provides a lot of freedom when describing all the methods and formats for getting an item, and every organization tends to arrange this information differently. The data formats and versions in which an item is provided, the software required to use it, the media on which it will be delivered, and so on, tend to change more frequently than an item's metadata is typically updated. In most cases, the organization has Internet pages from which items can be directly used, downloaded, or ordered. Provide links to these pages as much as possible. Over time, metadata created in this manner will be easier to read and maintain, and the distribution information can be maintained in only one place.

If an item is shared with your organization's portal or can be directly used from another online location, provide a URL that takes you directly to the item. On the Distribution page, click New Digital Transfer Options, click New Online Resource, and type the URL in the Linkage text box. This element in the item's ArcGIS metadata corresponds with the CSDGM Citation Online Linkage for the item. Additional distribution information should not be required, particularly for items shared with a portal; the item details page provides legal information, supports downloading the item, and so on.

If detailed distribution information must be provided in the item's metadata, it should be straightforward and succinct. Each distributor should have one process for ordering the item. On the Distribution page, click New Distributor. Load an existing contact or click New Contact and indicate how to contact the organization. Add information to describe the ordering process. If possible, provide a link to an online location where any remaining information can be found.

When a distributor is provided, the CSDGM Distribution Liability element is required to describe legal information with regard to sharing the item. In ArcGIS metadata, this content is provided on the Resource > Constraints page. Click New Legal Constraints or an existing Legal Constraints heading if one is available, click New Use Limitation, and type the appropriate information in the Use Limitation text box.

If the manner in which the item is distributed must be described in its metadata, click New Digital Transfer Options and click the Offline Media heading. Click the Media Format drop-down list and click the appropriate digital or hard-copy media code. Add a separate Digital Transfer Options section for each appropriate media code.

Export metadata to the FGDC CSDGM XML format

If you need to provide information about an item to people or organizations outside the ArcGIS platform, you can export the item's metadata to a stand-alone metadata file in the FGDC CSDGM XML format. When ArcGIS Pro is set to use the FGDC CSDGM metadata style, the item's metadata will be exported by default to the CSDGM XML format. If you're using another metadata style, you can still choose to export your metadata in this format by selecting it in the drop-down list.

  1. On the Catalog tab on the ribbon, in the Metadata group, click Export Export.

    The Export Metadata dialog box appears.

  2. Click The metadata content to export drop-down list and click the amount of content to filter out of the item's metadata during the export process.
    • All Supported Content—The item's metadata is not filtered.
    • Without Machine Names—The item's metadata content is filtered to remove any machine names that may exist. Appropriate actions are taken depending on the context in which the machine name is found. The metadata element will be removed if it doesn't cause the document to be invalid, the machine name will be removed from the beginning of a UNC path, or the value will be changed to identify the location as being withheld.
    • Without Sensitive Information—Machine names are filtered as described above. Additionally, local and network file paths, and internet locations other than http or https addresses are removed in the same manner. Operating system information, database information, and geoprocessing history are also removed.
  3. If the FGDC CSDGM format is not already selected, click The type of metadata to export drop-down list and click FGDC CSDGM.
  4. Browse to or type the location and name of the XML file that will be created in the Export metadata to text box.
  5. Click OK.

    The filtered ArcGIS metadata elements are matched to the appropriate FGDC CSDGM metadata elements, and their content is transferred to an FGDC CSDGM-format XML file. ArcGIS metadata includes content that's not included in the FGDC CSDGM standard, such as thumbnails; this content can't be included in an FGDC CSDGM-format XML file.

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