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Metadata, or "data about data," describe the content, quality, condition, and other characteristics of data. The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) approved the Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (FGDC-STD-001-1998) in June 1998.
Without metadata, persons acquiring geospatial data from outside sources might not be able to learn important information about the data, such as the datum, projection, date of last update, or creator. Even within an organization, metadata is often the easiest way to keep track of these types of details. Many times data is unusable because vital information has been lost and there is no way to contact the creator of the data.
Persons working with the FGDC have developed many tools for the creation of metadata, but they are often very cumbersome and confusing. ESRI's ArcCatalogue 8.x provides a fairly simple way to create or edit metadata for geospatial datasets. It stores the metadata in XML (extensible markup language) files so that it can be viewed in many different formats. Metadata can be created for any type of data that is recognized by ArcGIS, including coverages, grids, shapefiles, ArcMap layers, and tables.
Using ArcCatalogue 8.x
ArcCatalogue collects two kinds of information: properties and documentation. Properties are things such as projection, scale, resolution, and extent, all of which are derived from the data source. Documentation is information entered by the user, and includes contact information and the purpose of the data. To view metadata in ArcCatalogue, simply select the dataset and then click on the "Metadata" tab (Fig. 1).
You can view the metadata in five different formats, depending on what you are most comfortable with. The default is the ESRI format. The other formats are FGDC, FGDC FAQ, Geography Network, and XML. You can change the format with the dropdown list labeled "Stylesheet".
The five buttons to the right of the stylesheet dropdown list give you the options of editing, viewing the properties, creating/updating, importing, or exporting the metadata (Fig. 2). Figure 3 displays the options available to you when you edit the metadata.