Sunday, November 09, 2008

to XMP or not to XMP (part II)

(Goto Part I)

Why XMP?

Ok, so I'm supposed to talk about XMP. Here's how it is. I think the best way to organize pictures is the same way that you should organize mp3s; metadata. Sure, you can create a database and store all of your info about each picture so that you can do nifty queries and stuff. Maybe even store the pictures themselves in the database. I know that certainly crossed my mind. That's one of the reasons why I went down the road with Gallery at the start. But it won't be long before you've copied a few pictures around and realized that all of your data telling people about when the picture was taken and who's in it is sitting back in your database where nobody can reach it.

Afterward I started thinking about all the reasons I liked ID3Tags for my mp3s. I won't go into all the pros and cons here, I'll just summarize that I think metadata tags is the best option. Why can't I have ID3Tags for images? It's something I never really paid much attention to before. I knew there was some sort of tagging going on cause some image viewers could show me various tidbits of information about my pictures that went beyond the normal information I thought would be stored in a .jpg. Things like ISO speed and focal length.

Some quick research on Wikipedia had the explanation (you'll find that I link to Wikipedia quite a bit). The are essentially 3 metadata tag formats for image files: EXIF, IPTC and XMP. Exif is an earlier standard specified in 1998 and is generally supported by all digital cameras. It has many shortcomings however that include the fact that it is no longer maintained by a governing standards body. Also, many camera manufactures use their own modifications of the structure and the data can easily be corrupted by other programs that don't fully parse and recode the data when modifying it. The biggest drawback though is that it is only supported for JPG and TIFF images. In any case, the odds are pretty good that all of your digital pictures have an EXIF tag.

Next is IPTC. This was actually developed as a standard for specifying metadata in news items and any media in general. What we commonly see in photos is a subset of this standard. Just like EXIF, it is really only supported in JPG and TIFF images.

This brings us to XMP. XMP was developed by Adobe in 2001. It is an XML schema that actually incorporates the IPTC definitions. The best part though is that it isn't limited to just JPG and TIFF, it is also supported for these file types too: JPEG2000, GIF, PNG, HTML, PostScript, PDF, SVG, Adobe Illustrator, and DNG.

I was a little hesitant when I found out that XMP is essentially under the control of Adobe but I felt a bit better when I discovered that they released a software toolkit for it under a BSD license. I'm still reading the documentation for the specification and the toolkit so I'll post some more info when I'm done.

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