Archivematica 1.4 is a legacy release, and these documents are no longer being maintained.

Preservation planning


As of Archivematica 1.7, the FPR server was turned off. For more information about this decision, see the Archivematica 1.7 release notes. Note that the Update button will still appear on the Preservation Planning tab in versions of Archivematica prior to 1.7, but it will not work.

Archivematica’s primary preservation strategy is to normalize files to preservation and access formats upon ingest. The preservation copies are added to the AIP and the access copies are used to generate a DIP for upload to the access system. Note that the original files are always kept, to allow for different preservation actions in the future, such as normalization to different archival formats or emulation.

Not all digital objects can be normalized on ingest. For example, for some digital objects like CAD drawings or Microsoft Visio files there are no available Linux-based open-source tools to handle the conversions and/or no agreed upon preservation formats. In addition, some formats such as Microsoft Word documents are not necessarily in the best preservation format but are still so ubiquitous and well-supported that they need not be normalized at the present time. In these cases, the Archivematica default is to keep them in their original formats; format risk assessment and information received from our users over time will allow Artefactual to expand the defaults over time to include more formats via the Format Policy Registry (FPR).

On this page:

Preservation planning tab

The Preservation Planning tab displays the local Format Policy Registry (FPR)

Administrative users can add or edit format policies using forms on this page. Detailed instructions are in the User manual - Format Policy Registry (FPR) with more comprehensive, administrative instructions in Format Policy Registry (FPR) Administrators manual

A format policy consists of the business rules and tool commands for format normalization. The FPR lists all of Archivematica’s default format policy rules.

In your Archivematica instance you can download updates from the FPR by selecting Update in the Preservation Planning tab.

To see the success rate of any given format policy, go to the Normalization rules table in the Preservation Planning tab.

Format Policy Registry (FPR)

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 (Note: there is currently no public interface for this server). 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.


As of version 1.4, 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.

First-time configuration

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.

Types of FPR entries


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.


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.

The following format groups come pre-populated in the FPR:

  • Audio
  • Binary (Data)
  • Binary (Executable)
  • CAD
  • Database
  • Desktop Publishing
  • Disk Image
  • Email
  • Font
  • GIS
  • Image (Raster)
  • Image (Vector)
  • Package
  • Portable Document Format
  • Presentation
  • Spreadsheet
  • Statistics
  • Text (Markup)
  • Text (Plain)
  • Text (Source Code)
  • Test (Structured)
  • Unknown
  • Video
  • Word Processing

The groups as determined by Artefactual should be perceived as arbritrary and are simply meant to make the Format Policy Registry easier to read and navigate. If an institution so desired, they could change the names and population of the groups in their local Preservation planning tab.

Format policy rules

Throughout the FPR, Format policy rules allow commands to be associated with specific file types. For example, in the case of Normalization rules, 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.

Instructions on writing commands can be found in the FPR Administrators manual.



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 three tools: a script based on the Open Planets Foundation’s FIDO tool, which identifies based on the IDs in PRONOM; a simple script which identifies files by their file extension; and Siegfried which like FIDO, is based on PRONOM ID and provides detailed information on the basis for format matches in its output. You can use the identification tools portion of FPR to customize the behaviour of the existing tools, or to write your own.


The FIDO command by default in the FPR is set to a buffer size of 1MB, which is higher than the FIDO default of 256KB. The reason for this configuration in the FPR is to facilitate the identification of certain file formats that have their header information later in the file (see Issue 5941. If you experience slowness using FIDO in Archivematica, you may consider either 1., increasing the available RAM or 2., editing the FIDO identification rule so that the buffer size is smaller.


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.

Instructions on writing an identification rule can be found in the FPR Administrators manual.


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.

Instructions on writing an identification command can be found in the FPR Administrators manual.

Format policy registry tools

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.


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.


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


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

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.

Event Detail

A command to provide information about the software running a 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.

For more information, see the FPR Administrators manual.


Archivematica supports extracting contents from files during the transfer phase.

Many transfers contain files which are packages of other files; examples of these include compressed archives, such as ZIP files, or disk images. Archivematica provides a transcription microservice which comes with several predefined rules to extract packages, and which is fully customizeable by Archivematica administrators. Administrators can write new commands, and assign existing formats to run for other file formats.


An extraction command is passed two arguments: the file to extract, and the path to which the package should be extracted. Similar to normalization commands, these arguments will be interpolated directly into “bashScript” and “command” scripts, and passed as positional arguments to “pythonScript” and “asIs” scripts.

Information on writing a new Extraction command can be found in the FPR Administrators manual.


Normalization rules determine how Archivematica will handle the creation of access and preservation copies during the Ingest of packages. Normalization commands take those rules and express them as actions that Archivematica will perform with one of its integrated tools.

Information on writing a new Normalization command can be found in the FPR Administrators manual.


Archivematica 1.2 introduces a new transcription microservice. This microservice provides tools to transcribe the contents of media objects. In Archivematica 1.2 it is used to perform OCR on images of textual material, but it can also be used to create commands which perform other kinds of transcription.


Writing a transcription command is very similar to writing an identification command or a normalization command.

Transcription commands are expected to write their data to disk inside the SIP. For commands which perform OCR, metadata can be placed inside the metadata/OCRfiles" directory inside the SIP; other kinds of transcription should produce files within``metadata``.

Information on writing a new Transcription command can be found in the FPR Administrators manual.


Archivematica runs commands to validate files on transfer using JHOVE. As of version 1.2, rules for valiadation are defined in the Format Policy Registry.


Verification is run after normalization commands. Archivematica will run two commands: one checks if a file exists, and the other checks if the file exists and is greater than 0 bytes in size.

Verification is run on the output of normalization, not on the original file.

Preservation planning policies

At Artefactual, we have a long-term vision that the Format Policy Registry will be a collaborative tool for the digital preservation community.

It is important though for institutions to establish local policies and practices that include monitoring the digitial preservation environment to help inform format normalization rules over time as standards and tools evolve.

We recommend documenting your policies and pratices, in accordance with the TRAC standard for auditing Trusted Digital Repositories (ISO 16363:2012).

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