Format Policy Registry 1.1.0 is a legacy release, and these documents are no longer being maintained.

Format Policy Registry (FPR)


See also

This documentation is intended for Systems Administrators and advanced users who expect to be writing/altering commands, implementing new tools, etc. For more general user information, e.g. how to navigate and interpret the FPR, please see Preservation planning in the Archivematica user manual.

Introduction to the Format Policy Registry

The Format Policy Registry (FPR) is a database which allows Archivematica users to define format policies for handling file formats. A format policy indicates the actions, tools and settings to apply to a file of a particular file format (e.g. conversion to preservation format, conversion to access format). Format policies will change as community standards, practices and tools evolve. Format policies are maintained by Artefactual, who provides a freely-available FPR server hosted at (Note: At the present time, there is no public user interface for the FPR 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.


If you wish the view the FPR rules in a user interface without installing Archivematica, at this time another access point is through the Preservation Planning tab of the demonstration installation hosted at . Login is, password demodemo.

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.

Updating format policies

FPR rules can be updated at any time from within the Preservation Planning tab in Archivematica. Clicking 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


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.
  • Access format and Preservation format - Indicates whether this format is suitable as an access format for end users, and for preservation.

Format Group

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

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

Writing a characterization command is very similar to writing an identification command or a normalization command (below). 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.


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.

Writing a new extraction command

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

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.

Name (bashScript and command) Commandline position (pythonScript and asIs) Description Sample value
%outputDirectory% First The full path to the directory in which the package’s contents should be extracted /path/to/filename-uuid/
%inputFile% Second The full path to the package file /path/to/filename

Here’s a simple example of how to call an existing tool (7-zip) without any extra logic:

7z x -bd -o"%outputDirectory%" "%inputFile%"

This Python script example is more complex, and attempts to determine whether any files were extracted in order to determine whether to exit 0 or 1 (and report success or failure):

from __future__ import print_function
import re
import subprocess
import sys

def extract(package, outdir):
    # -a extracts only allocated files; we're not capturing unallocated files
        process = subprocess.Popen(['tsk_recover', package, '-a', outdir],
            stdout=subprocess.PIPE, stderr=subprocess.PIPE, stdin=subprocess.PIPE)
        stdout, stderr = process.communicate()

        match = re.match(r'Files Recovered: (\d+)', stdout.splitlines()[0])
        if match:
            if match.groups()[0] == '0':
                raise Exception('tsk_recover failed to extract any files with the message: {}'.format(stdout))
    except Exception as e:
        return e

    return 0

def main(package, outdir):
    return extract(package, outdir)

if __name__ == '__main__':
    package = sys.argv[1]
    outdir = sys.argv[2]
    sys.exit(main(package, outdir))


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 transcription commands

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”.

For example, the following bash script is used by Archivematica to transcribe images using the Tesseract software:

test -d "$ocrfiles" || mkdir -p "$ocrfiles"

tesseract %fileFullName% "$ocrfiles/%fileName%"


Identification Tools

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, Richard Lehane’s Siegfried 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

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

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 only for formats being identified by extension, for the format to be tracked internally by Archivematica, and for it to be used by normalization later on.

Both Fido and Siegfried identify files using their PUID. 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”


Validation tools

In Archivematica 1.6 and earlier, validation has been performed on some file formats by JHOVE. In Archivematica 1.7, MediaConch was introduced as a more media-specific validation tool, opening up the possibilities for more specialized tools in future releases.

Validation commands

The default FPR commands for validation include validation by JHOVE, validation by MediaConch, and validation by MediaConch against a policy. MediaConch introduces the possibility of validing files both against the format’s published specification (in the case of MediaConch, Matroska format) as well as an internal policy used by the organization. The latter can be created by MediaConch for any file format which can be characterized by MediaInfo and then used as a command within Archivematica. The FPR has a placeholder policy command for users to reference. Policy checks can include a wide range of media characteristics, such as aspect ratio, channel information, duration, etc. If desired, policies can be created without installing MediaConch by using MediaConch online.

Validation rules

Most of the default FPR rules for validation enact the Validate using JHOVE command. Validation of mkv (Matroska) files by default uses MediaConch as of Archivematica 1.7.

If creating MediaConch policies (see Validation commands, above) then users should create rules to envoke the policy checking command for the format to which the command applies.

When validation rules exist, they are enacted in several micro-services:

  • in Transfer, in Validation micro-service (including Validate format job and

Policy check for originals job) - in Ingest, in Normalize micro-service, Validate access derivatives and Validate preservation derivatives (as of Archivematica 1.7) - in Ingest, in Policy checks for derivatives micro-service (as of Archivematica 1.7).

Format Policy 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
  • Validation - 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

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

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

Identification command

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

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

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
%SIPUUID% –sipuuid= The UUID of the SIP or transfer being processed. 4941c1e7-722b-41dc-900a-a17f7cfd32a9
%sipName% –sip-name= The name of the SIP or transfer being processed, parsed from its path. this-is-a-sip
%SIPDirectory% –sip-directory= The full path of the SIP or transfer. /dir/this-is-a-sip-4941c1e7-722b-41dc-900a-a17f7cfd32a9
%SIPDirectoryBasename% –sip-directory-basename= The basename of the SIP or transfer. this-is-a-sip-4941c1e7-722b-41dc-900a-a17f7cfd32a9
%SIPLogsDirectory% –sip-logs-directory= The full path of the SIP or transfer’s logs directory. /dir/sip-4941c1e7-722b-41dc-900a-a17f7cfd32a9/logs
%SIPObjectsDirectory% –sip-objects-directory= The full path of the SIP or transfer’s objects directory. /dir/sip-4941c1e7-722b-41dc-900a-a17f7cfd32a9/objects
%fileUUID% –file-uuid= The UUID of the file being processed. baa67175-f04d-4df6-8615-d05d0651eae2
%originalLocation% –original-location= The original path of the file, as first recorded by Archivematica. Note that the filename component of this path is unsanitized, so it is possible for this string to contain data in arbitrary text encodings, including mixed encodings. /dir/sip-4941c1e7-722b-41dc-900a-a17f7cfd32a9/objects/ …/file name unsanitized.jpeg
%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
%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
%fileGrpUse% –file-grp-use= The file grouping for this file. Possible values are: * original * submissionDocumentation * preservation * access * service * license * text/ocr * metadata original

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