Producing ArcCatalog 10 Metadata for the Minnesota Geospatial Commons

Although the standalone Minnesota Metadata Editor (MME) software is a straightforward route to producing metadata for the Minnesota Geospatial Commons, many people would prefer to use ArcCatalog to create their metadata. The ArcCatalog metadata tool set has several advantages:

  •  Bundles metadata with data for use and export
  •  Auto-populates certain metadata fields to jump-start metadata authoring
  •  Supports creation of metadata that meets federal and international standards
  •  Is familiar to many GIS data developers

For ArcGIS 8.x and 9.x, the Minnesota community had customized the ArcCatalog editor to follow the Minnesota Geospatial Metadata Guidelines, calling it the MGMG Editor.

At ArcGIS 10.0, the Esri metadata model radically changed, and the MGMG Editor no longer works. Since many organizations that could contribute GIS data to the Commons are accustomed to creating their metadata in ArcCatalog, MnGeo is researching ways to make metadata created in ArcCatalog work for the Commons with the least customization.

The following information is the result of our research so far. Contact us with questions or suggestions at:

Best Practices

The Best Practices document contains basic steps and screenshots.

Summary Points

ArcCatalog users can choose from several “metadata styles”

According to Esri documentation, the metadata style “determines how metadata is viewed, exported, and validated, and which pages appear when editing metadata.”

The default ArcCatalog metadata style and the native XML tags used by ArcCatalog cannot be used to produce Commons-ready metadata

  • ArcCatalog default metadata style is the “Item Description” style.
  • “Item Description” style includes title, summary, description, tags, credit, use limitations, scale range, and geographic extent. It is missing critical information such as time period of content, lineage, attribution, and accuracy. Because of these missing fields, metadata created using this style will not validate in the Commons.
  • The ArcCatalog XML uses Esri-specific tags and needs to be translated to standard tags that are readable by the Commons or by other metadata harvesters such as For example, Esri uses the tag pair "<resTitle> </resTitle>" instead of "<title> </title>" to identify a dataset's title.

To produce Commons-compliant metadata in ArcCatalog you must use the “FGDC-CSDGM” metadata style

  • The Minnesota Geographic Metadata Guidelines (MGMG) metadata standard is a subset of the FGDC-CSDGM (Federal Geographic Data Committee – Content Standard for Digital Geographic Metadata).
    • In most cases MGMG tags are identical to FGDC tags.
    • In a few cases, MGMG implements just one of multiple options in FGDC, or uses FGDC tags in a non-standard way.
    • For these cases, MnGeo researched procedures for entering metadata elements so that those metadata records would still validate. These are described in the Best Practices document.
    • The “FGDC-CSDGM” Style defaults to the ISO Editor in ArcCatalog. Not all fields in the ISO editor input form need to be filled out. The Esri editor highlights fields required for valid FGDC metadata. MnGeo’s Best Practices document documents ways to complete certain fields to comply with Commons validation.
    • For users creating FGDC metadata to meet federal reporting requirements, this metadata should still be acceptable to federal agencies. The Commons validation process looks for the XML tags that it needs and ignores the rest.
  • Setting the style to “FGDC-CSDGM” automatically makes changes to your ArcCatalog metadata implementation:
    •  Metadata View adds ISO fields and FGDC fields to what you see in the view window.
    •  Metadata Editor defaults to ISO editor.
    •  “Export XML” function defaults to FGDC (ArcGIS2FGDC transform).

For Commons validation, pay attention to these fields

  • Theme and Place Keywords – all keywords are placed within a single tag instead of multiple tags
  • Lineage – place all lineage information within the first “Process Description” tag set
  • Online Linkage
  • Time Period of Content – Use “Single Date”, not “Date Extent”
  • Citation Information - Originator and Publisher
  • Contact Information - There are many places in the ISO form to fill in contacts and you have to fill in the correct ones.

Export to FGDC XML format

  • This takes the native Esri XML and transforms it into an FGDC-format XML that the Commons and can read.
  • If you have set the metadata style to FGDC, this transformation becomes the default.
  • At this point you can validate your metadata using a Commons tool.

Create HTML

  • Use ArcToolbox to create the “FGDC Classic” HTML (Toolbox>Conversion Tools>Metadata>“USGS MP Metadata Translator”)


  • Open the FGDC XML in the Minnesota Metadata Editor to create an MGMG HTML (MME>Tools>View Metadata as HTML)

Overview of Steps to Create Commons-Compatible Metadata in ArcCatalog

  • Choose FGDC Metadata Style:
    • ArcCatalog>Customize>ArcCatalog Options>Metadata>Metadata Style: Choose from pulldown: “FGDC-CSDGM Metadata”
  • Enter metadata elements into the (ISO) Editor form and save edits
  • When all metadata elements have been entered, create an FGDC format XML
    • Export from the metadata form or toolbox:  Export uses translator “ARCGIS2FGDC”. This is the default if you have chosen the FGDC style.
  • Validate metadata using a Commons tool (not the ArcCatalog validation tools).
  • Create an HTML document: An HTML file can be created – using the “FGDC Classic” format, using the ArcToolbox Tool, “USGS MP Metadata Translator”:
    • Toolbox>Conversion Tools>Metadata>“USGS MP Metadata Translator”. Use your FGDC-format XML file to create this.
    • Or use Minnesota Metadata Editor: MME>Tools>View Metadata as HTML

Other Editor Options

Other editors can be used to create Commons-compliant metadata. Contact if you have questions about these options:

  • Standalone EPA Metadata Editor (version 3.2). MME was derived from EME. If sufficient fields are filled in to meet the MGMG guidelines, then it should be possible to create a valid MGMG record. You can select the “Contact Person Primary” set of Contact Tags which would enable the Commons to validate the metadata. Standard HTML output for EME is “FGDC Classic”.
  • EPA Metadata Editor add-in to ArcCatalog brings in the EPA Metadata Editor (simplified FGDC) format. You can select the “Contact Person Primary” set of Contact Tags which would enable the Commons to validate the metadata. This option will not auto-populate metadata elements in ArcCatalog as the ISO editor does.
  • FGDC Metadata Editor add-in to ArcCatalog brings in the original FGDC Editor format from ArcGIS 9. You can select the “Contact Person Primary” set of Contact Tags which would enable the Commons to validate the metadata. This option will not auto-populate metadata elements in ArcCatalog as the ISO editor does.

The main advantages to using one of these editors/add-ins is the readability of the editor and the ability to create the correct contact tag-set. Once the Commons is upgraded to read either contact tag-set, then the second advantage goes away. The main disadvantage is that these tools, used with ArcCatalog, cannot take advantage of ArcCatalog's auto-populate function.

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