Document properties in MS Office, Photographs, Audio and Outlook files
First, the linguistic defintion. The word “metadata” is made of two parts:
- “Meta” is the Greek word for “after”, “beyond” or “with”
- “Data” is pieces of information, including files stored on computers.
So, “meta”-“data” is something stored with files on computers. That’s probably not clarified much. Let’s try again.
Another definition of “metadata” is “document properties”, also known as “file properties”, that is things about the document, but not the document itself. But what could those be?
Let’s look at specific examples for:
- Microsoft Office file properties,
- Photograph file properties,
- GPS file properties,
- Audio/video file properties, and
- Email files, exported into Windows Explorer.
Microsoft Office document properties
You have a Word document. It contains all of your words, together with formatting, hyperlinks, pictures and anything else you have chosen to insert. That is the substance of the file, and when you click Save, it saves your work.
But, that’s not all it saves. First of all, there’s some internal stuff. The computer has to be able to remember where it saves it, so there is the human version, which is the file name and path, and there is the computer version, which tells it that it is located in this part of the disk. That’s a major part of the file system’s job – to be able to retrieve your information.
However, the application, in this Microsoft Word, also silently saves additional information that you may not think is strictly necessary – but Word thinks it is. First of all, it saves statistics about the document – number of pages, number of words, number of characters. It also saves information about the users – for example, who last saved it (and when), who created it (and when), and who last printed it. It can also save additional info if used, such as the revision and version number, the template originally used to create it.
Want to know more?
- If you are interested in Word itself, see this article on Microsoft Word metadata.
- See this list of Office-specific metadata, or see how it is put into practice.
Photographs document properties
If you take a picture, you may think what the camera is saving is the filename and the picture itself. However, there is a host of additional data which it silently saves. First all, you have set the camera date and time (you have set the camera data and time, haven’t you). Therefore, it saves what it thinks is the date and time that the photograph was taken. It also saves the camera maker and its model. If you have a higher end camera, it may also stamp a serial number.
Other attributes that the camera saves varies according to the camera, but it may save the focal length that the picture was taken with, along with the aperture, brightness, digital zoom, whether a flash was used.
In addition to photographic metadata, it also saves picture document properties, such as horizontal and vertical resolution and size, bit depth and compression.
For more information, see this list of picture and photograph-specific metadata.
Additionally, if the camera or camera-phone is GPS enabled, it may also save GPS co-ordinates, such as longitude and latitude, so that you can pin-point within a few metres the location where the picture was taken. It can also save direction and altitude and, depending on the type of camera, it can also include other data such as number of satellites used.
Audio/Video document properties
If you save an audio record or a video, the computer saves more than just the media.
For music, the device can save the album artist or title, lyrics, bitrate and track number.
For video, additional attributes such as encoding settings, the compression and director.
For recorded TV, it can save the channel number that it was recorded from, the Original Broadcast Date and Station Name.
Ever wonder where iTunes gets that information from? It’s encoded in the file itself.
For more information, see this list of audio and video-specific metadata.
E-mail (in MSG format) document properties
The metadata from emails is less hidden. Attributes like To, From, CC, Subject are essential to sending or receiving an email. There are additional document properties such as the Client Submit Time, which the time when an email was sent/received (according to the email) – this can be different to the date/time shown in Windows Explorer.
Additional hidden metadata include whether a Delivery Report or Read Receipt was requested, whether it has been marked as being Private or Read Only, and its attachments and attachment names. It can also be said that the Body of the text is also metadata.
Want to see a metadata extractor in action? Have a look at the video below.
- For more information, see this list of email-specific metadata,
- or if you are interested in other Outlook files, see this article.
How to view document properties
Now you know what metadata or document properties are, the next question is: how can you access it?
- For an introduction, see “How can I view metadata.”
- Alternatively, read “read document properties in Microsoft Windows?“
- or “Access document properties in MS Word“
It is possible (and better) to extract metadata into a table or spreadsheet using a metadata extractor.
- If you have Microsoft Excel, then you can use Filecats Professional.
- If you don’t have Microsoft Excel, then you can use Filecats Metadata.
To see it in action, see the video below – or download a free 7-day trial.