This post is in response to several inquiries over at Facebook® since using metadata for photos is part of the Organization competition in the upcoming Genea-Bloggers Games.
What is Metadata and How Does It Get There?
Think of metadata as "data about data," meaning data such as file size, file name, fiel type, etc. The easiest way to see metadata for a file in Windows XP is to use Windows Explorer (which lists your files NOT Internet Explorer which is a web browser) and right-click over the file name, then select Properties.
In the example above, on the General tab, basic data such as File Size, File Type, etc. are shown.
These fields represent basic metadata that are embedded with the file when it is created. Also, when you use a digital camera, the metadata is written to the file and is populated when you connect the camera to the PC or laptop and download the file.
You can also supply more metadata youself - the type that helps to further categorize your photos. Clicking on the Summary tab displays even more data fields:
The Title, Subject, Author, Keywords and Comments fields are available for you to complete. By adding information about the photo you are supplying metadata - descriptive data about a data file. Enter information and click OK.
If you are curious about the Advanced button (and who isn't - if there's a button there you bet I'm going to check it out!), click it and more metadata is displayed including height, width, as well as the metadata you just entered.
So What Can I Do With Metadata?
Now that the metadata is embedded as part of the file, both supplied by the camera and by you, it can be displayed in Windows Explorer by adding the fields to be displayed. Right click over any of the fields in Windows Explorer and a quick list of fields in use appears with a check mark.
Select the Author and Comments fields and they will then be displayed in Windows Explorer.
Now, you can sort and organize your photos based on this new metadata.
Warning! Genea-geek speak ahead! If you want to learn more about the metadata standards used by most digital cameras, read about EXIF (exchangeable image file format). EXIF is the most common standard used with files stored in Windows XP but is today seen as somewhat inflexible and antiquated.
So I Have To Manually Input Metadata For Each Photo File?
You could spend have your life editing metadata manually for photo files in Windows XP and by time your done Microsoft will have come out with its next generation of Windows operating system.
There are several programs that are available for free that allow bulk editing of metadata - check them out at Download.com.