Metadata in ODF Files

Tutorials – ODF Metadata

Article from Issue 215/2018

It is no secret that the native file format of LibreOffice and OpenOffice, the OpenDocument Format (ODF), is a truly open standard for word processing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. What most people do not know is that ODF files contain lots of metadata that is very easy to read or modify.

Metadata means "data about data." The text messages you exchange using your phone, for example, are a form of data. The people with whom you exchange those messages, when, how often, from where, and so on are metadata about your messaging habits and connections.

Metadata is really important. I once heard French philosopher Bernard Stiegler observe that "the production of metadata has been the principal activity of those in power from the time of the proto-historical empires right up to today."

On a less philosophical and more practical level, lots of metadata is stored in your office documents, and you'll find many valid reasons for messing with the metadata in office files. This tutorial describes the most common of those reasons and offers a general approach to reading and writing metadata in ODF files – an approach that is quite easy and really extendable, because an ODF file is really just a standard ZIP archive of different kinds of plain text or image files.


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