Best practices for editing metadata

You can create metadata to describe most items in ArcGIS Pro.

When you view an item's metadata in the catalog view and edit it in the metadata view, an ArcGIS metadata document is created for the item. ArcGIS Pro is designed to create and use ArcGIS metadata content only. Metadata in other formats can't be viewed directly in the details panel, but it can be imported or upgraded as appropriate. The metadata editor pages that are available in the current release of ArcGIS Pro are essentially the same as those in the metadata editor provided with ArcMap.

When you author metadata content for an ArcGIS item, record the information that is important for your organization to know about that item. This might include how accurate and recent the item is, restrictions on using and sharing the item, important processes in its life cycle such as generalizing features, and so on. It's important to develop an organizational plan for metadata that accounts for many factors, such as the following:

  • Will you follow a metadata standard or profile? If so, do you require metadata to be valid for that standard or profile?
  • What legal matter must be included in the metadata?
  • Will you publish items to ArcGIS Online or an ArcGIS Enterprise portal? Information required on publication may be considered optional for a metadata standard.
  • Will you publish metadata to a separate metadata catalog or website? If so, does that catalog or site have requirements? Is specific content required to support searches on that catalog or site?
  • What information is already available on a website that can be referenced, such as contact and download, or ordering instructions? Reference the online content instead of adding a static copy of it to the metadata.
  • What content can be standardized in a metadata template?

Assemble a metadata checklist for your organization based on common sense. While complete and valid content is an ideal goal, it may be acceptable to create incomplete or invalid metadata. The most effort should be spent documenting the most valuable items; however, leaving many items undocumented can be a risk. Prioritize resources to provide appropriate levels of content for the most items. Incorporate metadata into your project plan to ensure it's completed.

It's important to periodically review and revise your metadata guidelines, and adapt to improve results. Metadata standards continue to be revised nationally and internationally, and the standards supported by a metadata catalog may change. Reassess your organization's metadata checklist periodically.

Create a metadata template

When creating metadata for many items, you can streamline the task by creating a metadata template. An organization-wide metadata template can include basic contact and distribution information and legal restrictions that apply to all items.

An organizational template can be the basis for project-specific templates that include the purpose for which the project and its items were created, standard place names describing the geographic region in which the work takes place, how the project's deliverables will be distributed and maintained, and so on. Templates should not include properties of a specific item, since these are automatically added and updated by ArcGIS.

With a template giving you a head start and ArcGIS automatically adding an item's current properties, you can focus on documenting important information such as the sources and quality of your data. It should take less overall effort to achieve higher quality metadata content.

The best way to create a metadata template is to fully document an item, and save a copy of its metadata as a template. This process creates a stand-alone metadata XML file that doesn't include unique identifiers or any content that was added automatically to the item's metadata. Edit the content of the stand-alone metadata XML file to generalize or remove any remaining content that is specific to the original item. The result should be appropriate to use with many items.

  1. Create a complete metadata document for an item following your organization's guidelines.
  2. On the Catalog tab on the ribbon, in the Metadata group, click Save As > Metadata Template.
  3. On the Save As Metadata Template dialog box, browse to the folder where the metadata template will be stored.
  4. Type a name for the template in the Name text box.
  5. Click Save.

    A new stand-alone metadata XML file is created. The original item's ArcGIS metadata content is filtered to remove content that uniquely describes the original item.

  6. Add a folder connection that accesses the location where the metadata template is stored if one is not yet available in the project.
  7. In the catalog view, browse to and select the metadata template.
  8. Edit the metadata template to remove or generalize the metadata content so it doesn't describe a specific item.
  9. Close the metadata view and save your changes.

Apply a metadata template

Import the content in a metadata template first, before adding new metadata content that describes an item. When you import a metadata template, the item's existing ArcGIS metadata content will be replaced by the content imported from the metadata template. However, the item's thumbnail, geoprocessing history, and other item-specific properties remain intact.

If you've already started writing metadata for an item, don't import a metadata template because you'll lose your work. Instead, open a second catalog view to view the metadata template's content. Start editing the item's metadata and copy content from the template's metadata display. Then paste it into the metadata editor in the appropriate field.

  1. In the catalog view, browse to and select the item to document.
  2. On the Catalog tab on the ribbon, in the Metadata group, click Import Import.
  3. On the Import Metadata dialog box, click the browse button Browse.
  4. On the Browse for source metadata dialog box, browse to the folder where the metadata template is stored.
  5. Click the metadata template XML file in the contents list.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Click the Type of metadata to import drop-down arrow and click ArcGIS Metadata.
  8. Click OK.

    The ArcGIS metadata content in the metadata template file is copied to the item selected in the catalog view.

  9. Edit the item's metadata to add information specific to the item.

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