October 19, 2008

Making progress on metadata

Although it’s not especially glamorous, metadata–information about files–is vital.  Without metadata, files are like unlabeled cans on a shelf: you’d have to open up each one to find out what it contains.  Adobe has been making some notable progress with metadata lately:


  • The company has recently teamed up with Apple, Canon, Microsoft, Nokia, and Sony to form the Metadata Working Group.  The group aims to drive standards & best practices that’ll enable better compatibility now & in the future.  Metadata PM Gunar Penikis shares more details on his blog.


  • Save for Web has been enhanced in CS4 to help photographers preserve copyright and contact info without adding unnecessary bloat to Web-ready images.  A new menu (screenshot) enables fine-grained control over exactly what metadata goes out in a file.  Special thanks go to Richard Anderson and the ASMP/UPDIG folks, with whom we worked closely in defining the implementation, for their guidance & for keeping us on our toes.


  • File Info in Photoshop, Bridge, and the other CS4 apps is now Flash-based.  Most people may not know or care (that is, you don’t have to do anything different/weird because of this architectural change), but the door is now open to building network-aware metadata components.  A newspaper, for example, could have File Info pull a keyword list from a central server, ensuring that everyone uses the same controlled vocabulary. Here’s a screenshot of an experimental panel the metadata team whipped up with Yahoo, offering related terms for each keyword.  I look forward to sharing a mapping/geotagging example, hopefully soon.


  • You can also use a Flash UI to read/write metadata from a panel (palette).  A developer could, for example, create a panel that reads license terms from the image, determines whether you still have rights to use it, and displays the photographer’s contact info.


  • XMPScript, the XMP ExtendScript API, offers JavaScript access to the Adobe XMP Core and XMP Files
    libraries.  This support makes it easier to get, modify, and write metadata.  Details can be found in the JavaScript Tools Guide installed with the ExtendScript Toolkit (under Utilities).


  • Layer-based metadata makes it possible to associate information with individual layers.  This one deserves its own post.
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