UM FPR 1.2

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Main Page > Documentation > User manual > User manual 1.2 > Format Policy Registry (FPR)

General description[edit]

The Format Policy Registry (FPR) allows Archivematica users to define format policies for handling file formats. A format policy indicates the actions, tools and settings to apply to a digital object of a particular format (e.g. conversion to preservation format, conversion to access format, extraction of package formats). Format policies will change over time as local and community standards, practices and tools evolve.

A public Format Policy Registry server containing Archivematica default format policies is maintained by Artefactual Systems, Inc. at This server stores structured information about normalization format policies for preservation and access. You can update your local FPR from the FPR server using the UPDATE button in the preservation planning tab of the dashboard. In addition, you can maintain local rules to add new formats or customize the behaviour of Archivematica. The Archivematica dashboard communicates with the FPR server via a REST API.

  • Note that as of 1.2, there is no public facing data at Please see the public roadmap to review development planning for the public interface and future functionality of the FPR.

Format Policy Registry (FPR)[edit]

First-time configuration[edit]

The first time a new Archivematica installation is set up, it will attempt to connect to the FPR server as part of the initial configuration process. As a part of the setup, it will register the Archivematica install with the server and pull down the current set of format policies. In order to register the server, Archivematica will send the following information to the FPR Server, over an encrypted connection:

  1. Agent Identifier (supplied by the user during registration while installing Archivematica)
  2. Agent Name (supplied by the user during registration while installing Archivematica)
  3. IP address of host
  4. UUID of Archivematica instance
  5. current time
  • The only information that will be passed back and forth between Archivematica and the FPR Server would be these format policies - what tool to run when normalizing for a given purpose (access, preservation) when a specific File Identification Tool identifies a specific File Format. No information about the content that has been run through Archivematica, or any details about the Archivematica installation or configuration would be sent to the FPR Server.
  • Because Archivematica is an open source project, it is possible for any organization to conduct a software audit/code review before running Archivematica in a production environment in order to independently verify the information being shared with the FPR Server. An organization could choose to run a private FPR Server, accessible only within their own network(s), to provide at least a limited version of the benefits of sharing format policies, while guaranteeing a completely self-contained preservation system. This is something that Artefactual is not intending to develop, but anyone is free to extend the software as they see fit, or to hire us or other developers to do so.

Updating format policies[edit]

FPR rules can be updated at any time from within the Preservation Planning tab in Archivematica. Selecting the "update" button will initiate an FPR pull which will bring in any new or altered rules since the last time an update was performed.

Types of FPR entries[edit]


In the FPR, a "format" is a record representing one or more related format versions, which are records representing a specific file format. For example, the format record for "Graphics Interchange Format" (GIF) is comprised of format versions for both GIF 1987a and 1989a.

When creating a new format version, the following fields are available:

  • Description (required) - Text describing the format. This will be saved in METS files.
  • Version (required) - The version number for this specific format version (not the FPR record). For example, for Adobe Illustrator 14 .ai files, you might choose "14".
  • PRONOM ID - The specific format version's unique identifier in PRONOM, the UK National Archives's format registry. This is optional, but highly recommended. Many tools, including FIDO which is available as an identification tool option in the format identification micro-service in transfer and ingest, use PRONOM ID's to recognize formats.
  • Access format and Preservation format - Indicates whether this format is suitable as an access format for end users, and for preservation.

Format Group[edit]

A format group is a convenient grouping of related file formats which share common properties. For instance, the FPR includes an "Image (raster)" group which contains format records for GIF, JPEG, and PNG. Each format can belong to one (and only one) format group.


Characterization is the process of producing technical metadata for an object. Archivematica's characterization aims both to document the object's significant properties and to extract technical metadata contained within the object.

Prior to Archivematica 1.2, the characterization micro-service always ran the FITS tool. As of Archivematica 1.2, characterization is fully customizable by the Archivematica administrator.

Characterization tools[edit]

Archivematica has four default characterization tools upon installation. Which tool will run on a given file depends on the type of file, as determined by the selected identification tool.


The default characterization tool is FITS; it will be used if no specific characterization rule exists for the file being scanned.

It is possible to create new default characterization commands, which can either replace FITS or run alongside it on every file.


Archivematica 1.2 introduced three new multimedia characterization tools. These tools were selected for their rich metadata extraction, as well as for their speed. Depending on the type of the file being scanned, one or more of these tools may be called instead of FITS.

  • FFprobe, a characterization tool built on top of the same core as FFmpeg, the normalization software used by Archivematica
  • MediaInfo, a characterization tool oriented towards audio and video data
  • ExifTool, a characterization tool oriented towards still image data and extraction of embedded metadata
Writing a new characterization command[edit]

Information on writing new characterization commands can be found in the FPR administrator's manual.

Writing a characterization command is very similar to writing an identification command or a normalization command. Like an identification command, a characterization command is designed to run a tool and produce output to standard out. Output from characterization commands is expected to be valid XML, and will be included in the AIP's METS document within the file's <objectCharacteristicsExtension> element.

When creating a characterization command, the "output format" should be set to "XML 1.0".

Identification Tools[edit]

The identification tool properties in Archivematica control the ways in which Archivematica identifies files and associates them with the FPR's version records. The current version of the FPR server contains two tools: a script based on the Open Planets Foundation's FIDO tool, which identifies based on the IDs in PRONOM, and a simple script which identifies files by their file extension. You can use the identification tools portion of FPR to customize the behaviour of the existing tools, or to write your own.

Identification Commands[edit]

Identification commands contain the actual code that a tool will run when identifying a file. This command will be run on every file in a transfer.

When adding a new command, the following fields are available:

  • Identifier (mandatory) - Human-readable identifier for the command. This will be displayed to the user when choosing an identification tool, so choose carefully.
  • Script type (mandatory) - Options are "Bash Script", "Python Script", "Command Line", and "No shebang". The first two options will have the appropriate shebang added as the first line before being executed directly. "No shebang" allows you to write a script in any language as long as the shebang is included as the first line.

When coding a command, you should expect your script to take the path to the file to be identifed as the first commandline argument. When returning an identification, the tool should print a single line containing only the identifier, and should exit 0. Any informative, diagnostic, and error message can be printed to stderr, where it will be visible to Archivematica users monitoring tool results. On failure, the tool should exit non-zero.

Identification Rules[edit]

These identification rules allow you to define the relationship between the output created by an identification tool, and one of the formats which exists in the FPR. This must be done for the format to be tracked internally by Archivematica, and for it to be used by normalization later on. For instance, if you created a FIDO configuration which returns MIME types, you could create a rule which associates the output "image/jpeg" with the "Generic JPEG" format in the FPR.

Identification rules are necessary only when a tool is configured to return file extensions or MIME types. Because PUIDs are universal, Archivematica will always look these up for you without requiring any rules to be created, regardless of what tool is being used.

When creating an identification rule, the following mandatory fields must be filled out:

  • Format - Allows you to select one of the formats which already exists in the FPR.
  • Command - Indicates the command that produces this specific identification.
  • Output - The text which is written to standard output by the specified command, such as "image/jpeg"
Create a new idenfication rule for a new format[edit]

1 Create format

  • In the preservation planning tab of the dashboard, find the format group that makes sense, or create a new format group.
  • From the format group page, select 'create new format' and enter the group and the description.
  • From the format page, add at least one format version. This is where you put the PRONOM ID if there is one, and the description you enter here is what will go in the METS.xml of the AIP.

2 Create identification rule

  • Once you have entered the format and format version, create a File Identification Rule. File Identification rules are required for file identification tools that do not understand PRONOM ID's (i.e. for choosing File By Extension rather than FIDO for the format identification micro-service during transfer or ingest). FIDO (and other file identification tools as Archivematica expands the micro-service to include them) understand PRONOM ID's, so if your format version has a PRONOM ID, you do not need a file identification rule for it, assuming you use FIDO for identification. You need a File Identification Rule for all format versions you want to be able to identify with File By Extension.
  • Select 'rules' in the Identification section
  • Select 'create new rule'
  • Scroll through the long list of available formats to find the one you just added. The list is sorted by format group, then format, then format version.
  • Select which file identification command to associate to this rule. In this case, select File by Extension.
  • Complete the command output section. Enter the file extension (with the '.' at the front - If the extension is foo, use ".foo") in lower case. Archivematica will match against upper or lower case.

Format Policy Tools[edit]

Format policy tools control how Archivematica processes files during ingest. The most common kind of these tools are normalization tools, which produce preservation and access copies from ingested files. Archivematica comes configured with a number of commands and scripts to normalize several file formats, and you can use this section of the FPR to customize them or to create your own. These are organized similarly to the #Identification Tools documented above.

Archivematica uses the following kinds of format policy rules:

  • Characterization
  • Extraction
  • Normalization - Access, preservation and thumbnails
  • Event detail - Extracts information about a given tool in order to be inserted into a generated METS file.
  • Transcription
  • Verification - Validates a file produced by another command. For instance, a tool could use Exiftool or JHOVE to determine whether a thumbnail produced by a normalization command was valid and well-formed.

Format Policy Commands[edit]

Like the Identification Commands above, format policy commands are scripts or command line statements which control how a normalization tool runs. This command will be run once on every file being normalized using this tool in a transfer.

When creating a normalization command, the following mandatory fields must be filled out:

  • Tool - One or more tools to be associated with this command.
  • Description - Human-readable identifier for the command. This will be displayed to the user when choosing an identification tool, so choose carefully.
  • Command - The script's source, or the commandline statement to execute.
  • Script type - Options are "Bash Script", "Python Script", "Command Line", and "No shebang". The first two options will have the appropriate shebang added as the first line before being executed directly. "No shebang" allows you to write a script in any language as long as the shebang is included as the first line.
  • Output format (optional) - The format the command outputs. For example, a command to normalize audio to MP3 using ffmpeg would select the appropriate MP3 format from the dropdown.
  • Output location (optional) - The path the normalized file will be written to. See the Writing a command section of the documentation for more information.
  • Command usage - The purpose of the command; this will be used by Archivematica to decide whether a command is appropriate to run in different circumstances. Values are "Normalization", "Event detail", and "Verification". See the Writing a command section of the documentation for more information.
  • Event detail command - A command to provide information about the software running this command. This will be written to the METS file as the "event detail" property. For example, the normalization commands which use ffmpeg use an event detail command to extract ffmpeg's version number.

Format Policy Rules[edit]

Format policy rules allow commands to be associated with specific file types. For instance, this allows you to configure the command that uses ImageMagick to create thumbnails to be run on .gif and .jpeg files, while selecting a different command to be run on .png files.

When creating a format policy rule, the following mandatory fields must be filled out:

  • Purpose - Allows Archivematica to distinguish rules that should be used to normalize for preservation, normalize for access, to extract information, etc.
  • Format - The file format the associated command should be selected for.
  • Command - The specific command to call when this rule is used.

Writing a command[edit]

Identification command[edit]

Identification commands are very simple to write, though they require some familiarity with Unix scripting.

An identification command run once for every file in a transfer. It will be passed a single argument (the path to the file to identify), and no switches.

On success, a command should:

  • Print the identifier to stdout
  • Exit 0

On failure, a command should:

  • Print nothing to stdout
  • Exit non-zero (Archivematica does not assign special significance to non-zero exit codes)

A command can print anything to stderr on success or error, but this is purely informational - Archivematica won't do anything special with it. Anything printed to stderr by the command will be shown to the user in the Archivematica dashboard's detailed tool output page. You should print any useful error output to stderr if identification fails, but you can also print any useful extra information to stderr if identification succeeds.

Here's a very simple Python script that identifies files by their file extension:

import os.path, sys
(_, extension) = os.path.splitext(sys.argv[1])
if len(extension) == 0:
	print extension.lower()

Here's a more complex Python example, which uses Exiftool's XML output to return the MIME type of a file:

#!/usr/bin/env python

from lxml import etree
import subprocess
import sys

    xml = subprocess.check_output(['exiftool', '-X', sys.argv[1]])
    doc = etree.fromstring(xml)
    print doc.find('.//{}MIMEType').text
except Exception as e:
    print >> sys.stderr, e

Once you've written an identification command, you can register it in the FPR using the following steps:

  1. Navigate to the "Preservation Planning" tab in the Archivematica dashboard.
  2. Navigate to the "Identification Tools" page, and click "Create New Tool".
  3. Fill out the name of the tool and the version number of the tool in use. In our example, this would be "exiftool" and "9.37".
  4. Click "Create".

Next, create a record for the command itself:

  1. Click "Create New Command".
  2. Select your tool from the "Tool" dropdown box.
  3. Fill out the Identifier with text to describe to a user what this tool does. For instance, we might choose "Identify MIME-type using Exiftool".
  4. Select the appropriate script type - in this case, "Python Script".
  5. Enter the source code for your script in the "Command" box.
  6. Click "Create Command".

Finally, you must create rules which associate the possible outputs of your tool with the FPR's format records. This needs to be done once for every supported format; we'll show it with MP3, as an example.

  1. Navigate to the "Identification Rules" page, and click "Create New Rule".
  2. Choose the appropriate foramt from the Format dropdown - in our case, "Audio: MPEG Audio: MPEG 1/2 Audio Layer 3".
  3. Choose your command from the Command dropdown.
  4. Enter the text your command will output when it identifies this format. For example, when our Exiftool command identifies an MP3 file, it will output "audio/mpeg".
  5. Click "Create".

Once this is complete, any new transfers you create will be able to use your new tool in the identification step.

Normalization Command[edit]

Normalization commands are a bit more complex to write because they take a few extra parameters.

The goal of a normalization command is to take an input file and transform it into a new format. For instance, Archivematica provides commands to transform video content into FFV1 for preservation, and into H.264 for access.

Archivematica provides several parameters specifying input and output filenames and other useful information. Several of the most common are shown in the examples below; a more complete list is in a later section of the documentation: Normalization command variables and arguments

When writing a bash script or a command line, you can reference the variables directly in your code, like this:

inkscape -z "%fileFullName%" --export-pdf="%outputDirectory%%prefix%%fileName%%postfix%.pdf"

When writing a script in Python or other languages, the values will be passed to your script as commandline options, which you will need to parse. The following script provides an example using the argparse module that comes with Python:

import argparse
import subprocess

parser = argparse.ArgumentParser()

parser.add_argument('--file-full-name', dest='filename')
parser.add_argument('--output-file-name', dest='output')
parsed, _ = parser.parse_known_args()
args = [
    'ffmpeg', '-vsync', 'passthrough',
    '-i', parsed.filename,
    '-map', '0:v', '-map', '0:a',
    '-vcodec', 'ffv1', '-g', '1',
    '-acodec', 'pcm_s16le',

Once you've created a command, the process of registering it is similar to creating a new identification tool. The folling examples will use the Python normalization script above.

First, create a new tool record:

  1. Navigate to the "Preservation Planning" tab in the Archivematica dashboard.
  2. Navigate to the "Identification Tools" page, and click "Create New Tool".
  3. Fill out the name of the tool and the version number of the tool in use. In our example, this would be "exiftool" and "9.37".
  4. Click "Create".

Next, create a record for your new command:

  1. Click "Create New Tool Command".
  2. Fill out the Description with text to describe to a user what this tool does. For instance, we might choose "Normalize to mkv using ffmpeg".
  3. Enter the source for your command in the Command textbox.
  4. Select the appropriate script type - in this case, "Python Script".
  5. Select the appropriate output format from the dropdown. This indicates to Archivematica what kind of file this command will produce. In this case, choose "Video: Matroska: Generic MKV".
  6. Enter the location the video will be saved to, using the script variables. You can usually use the "%outputFileName%" variable, and add the file extension - in this case "%outputFileName%.mkv"
  7. Select a verification command. Archivematica will try to use this tool to ensure that the file your command created works. Archivematica ships with two simple tools, which test whether the file exists and whether it's larger than 0 bytes, but you can create new commands that perform more complicated verifications.
  8. Finally, choose a command to produce the "Event detail" text that will be written in the section of the METS file covering the normalization event. Archivematica already includes a suitable command for ffmpeg, but you can also create a custom command.
  9. Click "Create command".

Finally, you must create rules which will associate your command with the formats it should run on.

Normalization command variables and arguments[edit]

The following variables and arguments control the behaviour of format policy command scripts.

Name (bashScript and command) Commandline option (pythonScript and asIs) Description Sample value
%fileName% --input-file= The filename of the file to process. This variable holds the file's basename, not the whole path.
%fileDirectory% --file-directory= The directory containing the input file. /path/to
%inputFile% --file-name= The fully-qualified path to the file to process. /path/to/
%fileExtension% --file-extension= The file extension of the input file. mov
%fileExtensionWithDot% --file-extension-with-dot= As above, without stripping the period. .mov
%outputDirectory% --output-directory= The directory to which the output file should be saved. /path/to/access/copies
%outputFileUUID% --output-file-uuid= The unique identifier assigned by Archivematica to the output file. 1abedf3e-3a4b-46d7-97da-bd9ae13859f5
%outputDirectory% --output-directory= The fully-qualified path to the directory where the new file should be written. /var/archivematica/sharedDirectory/www/AIPsStore/uuid
%outputFileName% --output-file-name= The fully-qualified path to the output file, minus the file extension. /path/to/access/copies/video-uuid