Assigning Values to Metadata Attributes
Spotlight defines standard metadata attributes that provide a wide range of options for storing your application’s file metadata. For users to be able to find data easily, it is important that you use standard metadata attributes whenever possible.
Spotlight’s Metadata Attributes
Spotlight provides standard metadata attributes for the following:
File system attributes. For example, file size, owner, and modification date. These are extracted from the file system automatically by Spotlight.
Image-related attributes. For example, bits per sample, color space, pixel height, and width.
Video-related attributes. For example, codec, video bit rate, and audio bit rate.
Audio-related attributes. For example, sample rate, track number, composer, and time signature.
Attributes common to many applications. For example, authors, city, organization, email addresses, and headline.
The standard metadata attributes are documented in File Metadata Attributes Reference.
In addition to the context-specific attributes, Spotlight provides a general text attribute (
kMDItemTextContent) that importers can populate with a text representation of a file’s content. Applications can create queries that reference this attribute, but are not able to read the value of this attribute directly.
You should avoid creating your own metadata attributes if an existing attribute key would be appropriate. For example, if your file’s metadata includes the photographer of an image, use the
kMDItemAuthors attribute rather than defining a custom photographer attribute. Or, if your file includes a company name, use the
See “Assigning Values to Metadata Attributes” for an example of how to assign values to metadata attributes.
Localizing Metadata Attribute Values
A Spotlight importer can provide localized values for an attribute by returning a dictionary object instead of a string value. The dictionary must contain keys that correspond to the localized languages. For example “en” for English, “fr” for French, and so forth. The value for each key should be the corresponding localized attribute value.
Defining Custom Attributes
If none of the standard Spotlight attributes are appropriate or adaptable to your metadata, you can define a custom metadata attribute. An importer specifies the name of the custom attribute, as well as the type of data it contains, in its
Attribute Naming Conventions
Custom metadata attributes must have unique names. To ensure a name is unique use the reverse DNS naming convention as a prefix for keys that are specific to your file types, replacing “.” with “_” characters. For example, the Mail program would prefix its custom attributes with
Defining the Value Object Type
You must specify the type of object that is returned in your custom attribute. The supported types are
Returning Multiple Values in an Attribute
If your custom attributes can contain multiple objects, declare them as multi-value in your importer's schema file and always return an array, even if it contains only a single instance.
Attribute Display Names and Descriptions
Spotlight importers that declare custom metadata attributes should also provide a display name and description for each attribute. These strings are contained in the file
schema.strings in the Spotlight importer bundle.
The file must be UTF-16 text, encoded formatted as a standard strings file. The display name keys correspond to the custom metadata attribute’s name. The description string is specified by appending “
.Description” to the key name. Listing 1 shows a sample schema.strings file.
Listing 1 Sample importer’s schema.strings file
"com_apple_myCocoaDocumentApp_myCustomDocument_notes" = "Notes";
"com_apple_myCocoaDocumentApp_myCustomDocument_notes.Description" = "What it is you're supposed to remember.";
You can localize
schema.strings files using the standard conventions.