DISL: ISO Metadata Generator Index

Welcome to DISL Data Management's ISO Metadata Generator!

Step One: Organize Your Data

Before you can describe your dataset, first you must organize it in a clear, concise manner that will be easy to read and understand by scientists unfamiliar with your work. How would you organize it if someone in Alaska needed a presentable copy of your data? Will they understand what everything means without having to ask you any questions? Will it still make sense 30+ years from now?

Some suggestions:
If your dataset is in a Microsoft Excel workbook: If your dataset is imagery: If your dataset consists of multiple files:
Step Two: Feature Catalogue

Now that your dataset is organized, you are ready to describe it in a feature catalogue. A feature catalogue is like the Entity/Attributes section of an FGDC metadata record, but in ISO 19139 it is a separate document (called ISO 19110) that is referenced in the main metadata document (ISO 19115-2). FGDC "entities" are called "feature types" in ISO.

Feature catalogues can be referenced by multiple metadata records with datasets that all use the same organization scheme or system - i.e. the same measured parameters in the same order with the same units, as a catalogue of all possible attributes that might appear in various specific datasets.

Example. Suppose that your dataset is in a Microsoft Excel workbook with three spreadsheets. The first two spreadsheets each have three columns of data: size, weight, and color. The third spreadsheet has: latitude, longitude, date, time, sampling depth, season.
If you have multiple MS Excel workbooks that are all organized the same way, such as for separate but similar projects over many years, you could cite the same feature catalogue for all of them.

The feature catalogue generator creates a customized form for you based on how many different kinds of spreadsheets you have (feature types), how many columns of data are in each spreadsheet (attributes), and how many different items are in each categorical column (values).
IMPORTANT NOTE: This auto-generator does not save any of your work. We strongly recommend that you test it with fake information to find out how it works first, before filling in real information.


Step Three: The Main Metadata Document for the Dataset

Once you have a feature catalogue for your dataset, you are ready to generate the main metadata document.
Please follow these DISL-specific guidelines for ISO metadata.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This auto-generator does not save any of your work either.


Step Four: Revise and Finalize
Do you need to make edits to the auto-generated metadata, for example to add additional information not provided by the forms?

  • This color-coded template in Google Drive shows the correct order of the underlying code for many possible types of information you may wish to add.

  • XML Notepad is an xml-specific text editor that can be downloaded for free. It will allow you to more conveniently view the content of your metadata records without having to see all of the code.

  • For a full preview of how the metadata record will appear in DISL's metadata archive (the XSL Output tab in the above editor), you can also download the stylesheets we use. The second line of the main metadata record (set to <?xml-stylesheet type="text/xsl" href="../ISO/style/xml-to-html-ISO.xsl"?> by the auto-generator) can be temporarily edited to point to the location of the unzipped stylesheets on your computer.


  • Step Five: Validate and Turn It In
  • If you made edits, would you like to validate your ISO code? This is relatively fast and painless to do with NOAA NGDC's Record Services. Use Well Formed XML first, then ISO Validate. Note: this will only work for the main metadata record, not the feature catalogue.

  • Finally, send the metadata, data, maps, and other documentation to the DISL Data Management Center. We will check everything and, per DISL policy, add it to our archive.

  • If you'd like to make your full dataset publicly available in NOAA NCEI's Ocean Archive System, you can submit it through Send2NCEI.


  • Additional Resources

    Resources for learning more about ISO metadata:

  • NOAA NCEI Metadata Training - The NOAA NCEI Metadata Team offers webinar training courses on a regular basis.
  • NOAA NCEI Workbooks in PDF - MD for the basics, BIO for additional biological information, MI for more detailed spatial information.
  • NOAA EDM Wiki - the same information as the workbooks, but presented in a wiki.


  • Resources for writing and editing ISO metadata:

  • NOAA NCEI ATRAC System - a dataset submission system for NCEI that includes an ISO metadata editor. Free to register and use just the editor. Includes Data Quality/Lineage section. Does not include Feature Catalogue.
  • GoMRI GRIIDC - an ISO metadata editor good for quick, minimal metadata records. Does not include Data Quality/Lineage or Feature Catalogue.
  • GeoNetwork - a dataset catalog application that includes an excellent metadata writing tool. It's intended to be server software, but can be downloaded and installed onto individual PCs for just metadata editing.



  • Please direct any questions, comments, or other feedback to Mimi Tzeng.