XMP Sidecar Files
ExifTool XML Files
EXIF Files
MIE Files
EXV Files

Metadata Sidecar Files

Metadata for images and other file types may be stored in a separate metadata file. These are the only files that exiftool can create from scratch. A common example of this is the XMP "sidecar" file (which is discussed in the next section in some detail). Other supported metadata file types are EXIF, MIE, EXV, ICC and VRD. As well, ExifTool supports XML-format output, which can also be used to generate metadata sidecar files.

XMP Sidecar Files

There are a number of different ways to generate an XMP sidecar file with exiftool, and the method you choose depends on your circumstances and preferences. Below are a number of example commands which write an output XMP file from information in a source file of any type.

1. Copy same-named tags from all information types to preferred locations in XMP:

(SRC.EXT is the source file name and extension, and DST is the destination file name)

exiftool -tagsfromfile SRC.EXT DST.xmp

2. Rewrite source file to destination XMP file:

(same effect as above, but the command will exit with an error if the output XMP file already exists)

exiftool SRC.EXT -o DST.xmp

3. Copy XMP, preserving original locations:

(ie. copies XMP tags only to the same namespaces in the destination file)

exiftool -tagsfromfile SRC.EXT -all:all DST.xmp

Advanced: Notice that -all:all is used above instead of -xmp:all even though only XMP tags will be copied (since the destination is an XMP file). This is because -all:all preserves the family 1 group (ie. XMP namespace) while -xmp:all would copy tags to the preferred XMP namespace, which may be different for XMP tags that exist in multiple namespaces. To get the best of both worlds, "-all:all<xmp:all" may be used to avoid the inefficiencies of assigning tags which aren't copied, while still preserving the family 1 group.

4. Rewrite source to XMP file, preserving locations:

(same effect as above, but the command will fail if the XMP file already exists)

exiftool SRC.EXT -o DST.xmp -all:all

5. Generate XMP from EXIF and IPTC using standard tag name mappings:

(the .args files are available in the full ExifTool distribution)

exiftool -tagsfromfile SRC.EXT -@ exif2xmp.args -@ iptc2xmp.args DST.xmp

6. Copy XMP as a block to an XMP file:

(writing as a block is the only way to transfer unknown or non-writable XMP tags)

exiftool -tagsfromfile SRC.EXT -xmp DST.xmp

Note that this will not deal with extended XMP segments in JPEG images if they exist.

7. Extract XMP as a block and write to output XMP file: (same effect as above)

exiftool -xmp -b SRC.EXT > DST.xmp

As with the previous command, this command will not copy extended XMP segments in JPEG images, but in this case the -a option may be added to also extract extended XMP blocks. However, the result would be a non-standard XMP file that ExifTool could read but other utilities may not.

8. Extract XMP as a block to an output text file with .xmp extension:

(same effect as above, but the destination file name will be the same as the source file, and this command will fail if the XMP file exists while the previous command will overwrite an existing file)

exiftool -xmp -b -w xmp SRC.EXT

The advantage of this command is that it may be applied to multiple source files or entire directories.

9. Restore all XMP tags from an XMP sidecar file to XMP in a JPG image:

exiftool -tagsfromfile SRC.xmp -all:all DST.jpg

10. Restore XMP as a block from an XMP sidecar file to a JPG image:

(same effect as above except that any non-writable XMP tags would be copied by this command, and the 2 kB of padding recommended by the XMP specification is not added when copying as a block)

exiftool -tagsfromfile SRC.xmp -xmp DST.jpg

or equivalently

exiftool "-xmp<=SRC.xmp" DST.jpg

Batch Processing

Multiple files may be processed in a single command by specifying multiple file and/or directory names on the command line. The examples below demonstrate how to process all files with a specific extension in an entire directory tree.

11. Create XMP sidecar files for all files with extension EXT in a directory tree:

(when batch-generating sidecar files from many images, the -o form of the command is easier to use, but can not be used to modify existing XMP files)

exiftool -ext EXT -o %d%f.xmp -r DIR

where DIR is the name of the directory containing the images. The -r option causes sub-directories to be recursively processed. Multiple -ext options may be used to process different file types in a single command. With this command, same-named tags from any type of metadata will be written to the preferred XMP namespace in the output XMP file. To copy only XMP tags, -xmp:all may be added to the command. (See example 14 for more about this.)

12. Copy tags to sidecar files that already exist:

(same as above, but copies only to existing XMP files)

exiftool -ext xmp -tagsfromfile %d%f.EXT -r DIR

This command will add tags from the source files to information that already exists in the XMP files, but note that this command searches for the XMP files instead of the image files, so it will not generate new XMP sidecar files if some images don't have them. For this, the advanced (ie. tricky and confusing to use) -srcfile option comes in handy:

13. Copy tags to sidecar files, generating new files if necessary:

(same as above, but also creates new XMP files if they don't exist)

exiftool -ext EXT -tagsfromfile @ -srcfile %d%f.xmp -r DIR

Note that as with the previous two commands, this command will commute metadata from other groups to the preferred location in XMP.

14. Copy only XMP tags to the same namespace in sidecar files:

(same as above, but copies only XMP and preserves specific tag locations)

exiftool -ext EXT -tagsfromfile @ "-all:all<xmp:all" -srcfile %d%f.xmp -r DIR

In this command, if "-xmp:all" was used instead of "-all:all<xmp:all", then all XMP tags would have been copied to their preferred namespaces in the sidecar file. But by writing to the destination group of "all", the specific location (ie. XMP namespace) of each tag is preserved.

15. Copy XMP from sidecar files back to the same locations in the source files:

(the inverse of the previous command)

exiftool -ext EXT -tagsfromfile %d%f.xmp -all:all -r DIR

Here, -all:all copies all metadata (in this case only XMP, since the sidecar XMP file contains no other types) to the same specific locations in the target files (extension EXT).

16. Write a tag to XMP sidecar if it exists, or the original file otherwise:

exiftool -ext EXT -artist="Phil" -srcfile %d%f.xmp -srcfile @ DIR

When multiple -srcfile options are used, the first existing file is processed. If none of the specified source files exists, then the first one in the list is created (however, this won't happen with this example since one of the specified source files is "@", which represents the original file name).

17. Create XMP sidecar file in another directory:

exiftool -ext EXT -o DSTDIR/%f.xmp -r SRCDIR

By specifying a directory name instead of %d, this command writes XMP files to DSTDIR instead of the original source directory. The same technique may be used in any of the above commands to write XMP to a sidecar file in a different directory.

Via the API

By specifying different tags in the SetNewValuesFromFile call, the above examples numbered 1-6 are programmed like this:

$exifTool->SetNewValuesFromFile('SRC.EXT', @tags_to_copy);
$exifTool->WriteInfo(undef, 'DST.xmp');

and examples 7 and 8 use this general technique:

my $info = ImageInfo('SRC.EXT', 'xmp');
die "No XMP" unless $$info{XMP};
open FILE, '>DST.xmp';
print FILE ${$$info{XMP}};
close FILE;

ExifTool XML Files

Closely related to the XMP sidecar file is the XML file written using the exiftool -X option. This file is RDF/XML format like XMP, but uses exiftool-specific namespaces to give an exact mapping for all exiftool tag names. This type of file is better suited to general information storage/recovery since it facilitates copying of more original metadata than an XMP file, but it doesn't have the portability of an XMP file or the ability to store native-format data like a MIE or EXV file, and ExifTool can not be used to edit XML files as it can with other metadata files. Below are example commands demonstrating the use of exiftool XML files.

Create an exiftool XML sidecar file:

exiftool -X a.jpg > a.xml

Restore original meta information from exiftool XML file:

exiftool -tagsfromfile a.xml -all:all a.jpg

The -X option also supports extracting binary data when -b is added. For example, the above command may be modified to also store the binary MakerNotes block like this:

exiftool -X -b -makernotes -all a.jpg > a.xml

Note that we needed to add -makernotes because it isn't extracted as a block unless requested, and since we specified a tag to extract we also needed to add -all to continue extracting other tags as well. Restoring the original metadata from this file is the same as in the previous example.

Via the API

There is no way to automatically produce a sidecar exiftool XML file via the API since this function is accomplished with an output formatting option of the exiftool application. However, the API may be used to read and copy tags from an exiftool XML file just like any other file format. When reading ExifTool XML files, all tags except those in the ExifTool, File and Composite groups are extracted with their original family 1 groups to facilitate copying of these tags back into their original locations in an image.

EXIF Files

EXIF files store EXIF information in the same TIFF-based format as the EXIF APP1 segment of a JPEG image, but without the "Exif\0\0" header. The three commands below illustrate techniques for copying the entire EXIF block from a source image (SRCFILE) to an output EXIF file (out.exif):

exiftool -exif -b SRCFILE > out.exif

exiftool -tagsfromfile SRCFILE -exif out.exif

exiftool -o out.exif -exif SRCFILE

The Extra EXIF tag used in each of the above commands (the "-exif" argument) represents the EXIF metadata in the form of a binary data block. JPEG, PNG, JP2, MIE and MIFF files all support storage of EXIF data blocks in this format, although exiftool does not currently write MIFF images.

Tags may also be copied individually to and from an EXIF file, but remember that this will not copy "unsafe" tags unless they are specified explicitly. The following command creates an EXIF file from the metadata in a source file:

exiftool -o out.exif -all -unsafe SRCFILE

This technique works for any type of source file, provided the file contains at least one tag with the same name as an EXIF tag. Below is an example of how to apply this to all files in a directory:

exiftool -o %d%f.exif -all -unsafe DIR

MIE Files

The MIE file format allows storage of native binary meta information, and is the best option for saving metadata from a file in its original format. Here are two examples that copy all individual tags plus the ICC Profile to a MIE sidecar file:

exiftool -tagsfromfile a.jpg -all:all -icc_profile a.mie
exiftool -o a.mie -all:all -icc_profile a.jpg

And the following command performs the inverse operation, restoring metadata in a JPG image from a MIE file:

exiftool -tagsfromfile a.mie -all:all -icc_profile a.jpg

Information can also be copied in block form to a MIE file. This allows preservation of the original data structure as well as unknown and non-writable tags. The command below copies the full EXIF segment as a block from a JPEG image,

exiftool -tagsfromfile a.jpg -exif a.mie

which is functionally different from copying all writable EXIF tags individually with a command more like this

exiftool -tagsfromfile a.jpg -exif:all a.mie

Block-writable tags are listed in the Extra Tags documentation.

MIE files also have the ability to store information in compressed format with the -z option (provided Compress::Zlib is installed on your system), which may be useful if disk space is at a premium.

EXV Files

EXV files are used by Exiv2, and are basically a JPEG file without the image data, so they may be used as a metadata file to contain any information supported by the JPEG format (EXIF, XMP, IPTC, etc.). ExifTool has full read, write and create support for this format.

Created Nov 12, 2008
Last revised July 31, 2019

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