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.

11 thoughts on “Making progress on metadata

  1. What I’d like to see is an easy way to add new fields to the XMP data using Bridge and/or Lightroom. This is NOT easy today. For example, I’d like to be able to add fields for weather data (temperature, humidity, air pressure, …) to my images. Yes it can be done, but it ain’t easy. I want a simple editor for this.

  2. Making Photoshop and Extensis Portfolio work nice together has been a pain in the past. Something to do with choosing to work with, or not work with, xmp data vs IPCT Core vs IPTC legacy, or some such nonsense. Why is it that something created to be standardized could be so messed up?

  3. Hi John, is the SWF Panel you referred here was the same “Embedded Flash/Flex Content in Photoshop” you posted before some while ago. I haven’t got my Photoshop CS4, not sure whether the dynamic content bug in Intel Mac has been solved.
    [It’s all good now. The previous support (for dialogs only, not panels) was preliminary, and when Apple introduced 10.5, they changed the window drawing code in a way that broke support for SWF dialogs in PS. Now we’ve added SWF support in a first-class way that works across OSes. –J.]

  4. John
    Our workflow was written around a custom metadata panel we wrote in XMP. The info in this panel is read by a few different javascripts we wrote. Is the move to the SWF metadata panels going to cause us to have to rewrite all of this or will CS4 still support these old custom written panels?
    [Sorry, Phil: you’ll need to rework your custom panel via Flex. The good news is that you’ll now have *far* more power and flexibility than the old system could offer. The documentation is at –J.]

  5. Speaking of metadata, did you know that Photoshop removes GPS data from a JPEG image when resaved as a TIFF? An JPEG image from my digital camera has GPS data in the EXIF section. If I save the image in JPEG or PSD format, the GPS data is still there when I reopen the image. If I save the image as a TIFF however, all GPS data gets removed.
    I don’t know why this happens and as far as I know, a TIFF file can contain GPS data. If a TIFF file really can contain EXIF GPS data, I think this is a huge bug in Photoshop which needs to be corrected. I don’t know if CS4 fixes this problem but it’s there for me in CS3 and is actually a big problem in my situation. The only workaround I can think of is to use a command line utility to extract the GPS data and then re-insert it. I’ve never tried it but I imagine I could get it working (it’s one huge workaround which I don’t look forward to figuring out.)
    [I’m not aware of there being a problem here, but I’ve asked Photoshop QE to follow up with you to learn more. –J.]

  6. Hi, I was researching GPS exif info and came across this! We recently discovered that any changes made in Photoshop CS4 stripped out our GPS exif metadata. We also tried it in CS3 – same thing! In this case, we were starting with RAW files, converting to 16-bit and saving as Prophoto RGB TIFF files. We used to have no problem with this when we had GPS embedded data about a 1.5 years ago (CS3). Could this have anything to do with the Flash component you speak of? We are really lost –any help greatly appreciated Thanks – glad to have found your wonderful column!

  7. Did Photoshop show the GPS metadata in the File Info panel? How about in Lightroom?
    If the data is in the wrong place, or misformed (unreadable), Photoshop would drop it. And even if it’s in the wrong place, it should be visible in the file info panel.

  8. Hi Chris, no the GPS info was NOT present in Photoshop’s File Info panel. It also did not show up in Lightroom, Cumulus or IView (all able to read GPS data) But it DID show up in Bridge–very strange! After seeing what Mark wrote on Nov 12, I tried saving files as Photoshop instead of TIFF, and guess what…..the GPS data was NOT stripped out! Could TIFF format and the new Flash component be incompatible? Has anything changed with the way TIFFs handle EXIF or IPTC data? Thanks BTW!

  9. What happened to the drop down menu for the specific categories in the file info dialog box. I do not see anywhere where you can store the previous 10 entries or more? If this is how you expect someone to add metadata, it is a big step backwards.
    [If you’re referring to the list that would show the most recent entries, it’s still there: you just need to start typing in a field (or select a field and press the down arrow key) to activate the list. –J.]

  10. cs4 till strips the gps metadata.. what is that for a fucking bug? i spend hours on these things and adobe is ruining my work.. i think we should sue them……

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *