Metadata & Windows File Properties

In answer to many questions about the use of Windows File Properties for tagging files and trying to view photo tagging in Windows I’ve done a couple of experiments to make this more graphic.

I could simply advise you, as I’ve done in the past, to get some decent software, such as ExifToolGUI, XnView or GeoSetter which are all free. Or Photo Mechanic or IDimager’s Photo Supreme that will cost you. Do something besides trying to work with Windows File Properties which uses non-standard terminology and is basically a hacked together version of god-knows-what.

I’ll go through two examples of writing metadata with something else and then reading it in Windows. And then adding metadata with Windows File Properties and reading it elsewhere so you can get an idea of what goes on.

Metadata added with Photo Mechanic:

Caption: “Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1953,” index and images, FamilySearch (, Wm E Beeken, 1917.
Keywords: William Emmett Beeken
Title/Object name: death certificate
City: Sandusky, Erie County
State/Province: Ohio
Country: United States
Country code: USA
Source: FamilySearch
Copyright: n/a

Windows File Properties reads:

Title: death certificate
Tags: William Emmett Beeken
Copyright: n/a

Amazingly, although it’s not possible to see information in the standard Caption, Location and Source fields, Windows is able to find the content through its search function. It won’t find everything which you’ll find out if you use it.

Although I didn’t need it here, the only thing I would have been able to add in Windows File Properties was ‘Author’ which shows up in the ‘Creator/Photographer’ field in Photo Mechanic and GeoSetter.

Example #2

Metadata added with Photo Mechanic:

Keywords: Rufus W Stanley, Mayme G Ellis, Celesta F Stanley
Title/Object name: gravestone
City: Four Oaks, Johnston County
Location: Bethel Original Freewill Baptist Church Cemetery
State/Province: North Carolina
Country: United States
Country code: USA
Creator/Photographer: Scott Connor Barnard
Source: Find A Grave
Copyright: ©Scott Connor Barnard
Contact Emails:

Windows File Properties reads:

Title: gravestone
Tags: Rufus W Stanley, Mayme G Ellis, Celesta F Stanley
Authors: Scott Connor Barnard
Copyright: ©Scott Connor Barnard

It’s also possible to add some camera information in Windows but that’s generally already set in the maker notes by the camera itself.

Adding metadata using Windows File Properties

It’s very limited but doing what I can:

Adding Metadata, Windows File Properties

and then viewing it in Photo Mechanic:

Viewing Metadata Added in Windows File Properties

Besides looking a bit skimpy, what I add to the ‘Title’ field in Windows is going to show up under ‘Caption’ AND Title/Object Name, two entirely different fields in standard photo metadata.

Comments don’t show up at all in IPTC metadata although I am able to see it under ‘XP Comment’ in both XnView and GeoSetter.

This only describes my results using JPG’s. I had similar results using a TIFF file.

For viewing metadata, XnView is the simplest I’ve found. It comes in both a desktop and portable version.

Viewing Metadata in XnView

GeoSetter also does a thorough job of it, showing every last morsel of metadata that’s in your images.

7 thoughts on “Metadata & Windows File Properties

  1. Geoff Coupe

    JL – nice overview. Just one minor correction: IDimager is the name of the company, the product you refer to is Photo Supreme. Just to add to the confusion, the previous Digital Asset Management product from the company *was* called IDimager… Cheers.

    1. JL Beeken Post author

      Thanks, Geoff. I know what you mean. The link does go to Photo Supreme although the top of the page says IDimager and Photo Supreme only in the non-bolded text so that also adds …

      Anyway, I’ve heard it’s your cataloging software of choice and I believe you so I thought it was worth a mention.

  2. Eric A

    I have been trying to find advice regarding the quagmire that is the state of keyword/tagging, and you have scratched a bit deeper than most any I’ve found.

    First, it appears that metadata and tag/keywords as applied to image files are far more coordinated and coherent; unfortunately in trying to organize many sorts of documents including images, Adobe and others see pdf tags which Windows misses, and the reverse is also true. “Tagging” with Windows Properties, TaggedFrog or Document organizers seems to create a hodgepodge of words which may, or may not, be visible to various search engines or other management software. I have had better search results mostly thru full text searches, but that tactic is not the same as trying to organize or cross-reference via some consistent simple ploy that is universal, flexible, and self-evident as tagging would appear to be, but apparently is not.

    Image tagging makes sense because there is no text within to search, even if the results vary with the skillset of the tagger; tagging docs has been criticized as a cumbersome backwards methodology which is slow and tedious, complicated without being truly comprehensive.

    My own thinking is that a well-designed “virtual” filing system would be based on tagging principles, but use a GUI with clear boundaries to show whether the user was working within the actual file heirarchy or a virtual one at all times. In the virtual one, drag-and-drop would be moving files from one Boolean logic set/folder to another (which would just be adjusting the tag properties in the process), and views could be instantly altered based on which operators were manipulated. Dream on, I guess, since I have no actual tech skills to apply here.

  3. Kent

    You mention being able to see XP Comments (or Win 7) in GeoSetter. How do you do that? I can’t seem to find any information on the internet nor in GeoSetter itself (v. 3.4.16).

    1. JL Beeken Post author

      Since this specific thing isn’t part of my normal workflow now and I wrote this post a long time ago, all I can think of there is if you open the Image Info window in GeoSetter under View, all the embedded information is there. And if XP Comments isn’t listed, it would mean there aren’t any.

  4. Denise Levenick

    Thank you for this illustrated discussion. As a mostly-Mac user, I’ve been frustrated by the Windows meta properties functions. It looks like this is a common problem. When I used a PC for photo work, I liked the free XnView. Then I discovered Adobe Lightroom and haven’t looked back. It’s like the All Star Edition of XnView. That being said, for cross-platform work I agree that XnView is a great option.

    1. JL Beeken Post author

      Thanks for writing.

      “Frustrated” with Windows File Properties would be an understatement for me. As with so many Windows things it’s half-baked functionality. Someone had an idea, went out for lunch and forgot to come back.

      I just wanted to make it clear with a few examples why people can do better elsewhere. Since I use photo metadata so much and have for so long, to me it’s worth paying for something worth having. Photo Mechanic is my personal choice but I know it’s not the only one.

      I love XnView for lots of reasons. I use it as my default photo viewer. I usually have it open many times a day for some reason or another. When I first download images from Find A Grave I toss in the Memorial ID before I go onto something else. Same thing with images from FamilySearch; the source citation goes into Caption before I forget it. It’s not so convenient for batch-mode which I use a lot.

      Another good one (excellent really), and also free, is GeoSetter. It’s a bit unusual and has a bit of a learning curve. Oftentimes people don’t want to have to exert a single brain cell and that’s fine but there’s a price to be paid for that too.


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