You and your Box application have at least one thing in common: You both rely on metadata. Metadata defines and stores custom information associated with your files in Box. This custom information can serve many different use cases. You can set it either within the Box web application or programmatically via the API.
To optimize metadata searching, use the Metadata Query API or Search API to filter results based on metadata templates and attributes. Additionally, metadata also provides the opportunity for companies to migrate metadata from existing systems to Box. Therefore, if you had a homegrown document management tool with custom metadata, you could now map those values to Box so that you don’t lose any of your legacy data.
This article serves as a guide on how to use metadata within the Box web application. For technical details on how to integrate with Box, developers can visit our API documentation.
The primary way to use metadata is through metadata templates. Templates are a logical grouping of metadata attributes that help classify content. For example, a marketing team at a retail organization may have a Brand Asset template that defines a piece of content in more detail. This Brand Asset template may have attributes like "Line", "Category", "Height (px)", "Width (px)", or "Marketing Approved".
Metadata templates are important for several reasons:
- To enforce uniformity across your enterprise's metadata
- To reduce errors and accelerate data entry by your employees or team members
- To enable advanced searches
When using metadata, it's important to consider what functional groups will benefit from adding and maintaining metadata templates. Our suggestion is to consider using metadata in the following lines of business:
- Legal - Classifying legal contracts. From custom terms of service to acquisition contracts, metadata attributes like signature date or contract term can prove useful for discovery.
- Vendor Management - Onboard and manage vendor contracts and details for much easier reporting and cost management.
- Sales - Organize content by product line, use case, or sales geography. Make it easier for sales representatives to find important collateral.
- Marketing - Manage digital assets and sales enablement material. Centralize multiple digital asset repositories to help streamline brand efforts.
- Project Management - Add structure and status to documents. Add detail to project work plans to help accelerate and communicate project progress.
- HR - Standardize the employee lifecycle, from hiring to retiring. Leverage metadata to find common forms and analyze employee data.
Using Metadata Templates
Here are the basics for using metadata templates.
Applying Metadata Templates
To apply a metadata template:
- Click the file to which you want to add metadata.
- In the file's preview screen, click the metadata icon in the right-hand side-bar.
- Next to Metadata, click Add, then choose the metadata template you'd like to use.
Custom Metadata: If no relevant metadata template exists, you can create a custom template for a particular file. When choosing a template, select Add Custom Metadata. Click Add Attribute to create a custom attribute. You'll be prompted to enter a "Key", or title for the attribute, and set a value for the attribute. Once you're done, click Save. You can add as many custom attributes as you'd like. These additional attributes are not shared across any other files.
You can assign up to 100 metadata templates to a specific file or folder.
Editing Metadata Values
To edit metadata values:
- Click the metadata instance you want to edit. Box displays a pencil icon to the right of the template's name.
- Click the pencil icon. Box displays the attribute values in text entry boxes.
- Click the attribute value you want to edit.
- Edit the attribute's value.
- Click Save.
While editing a saved custom instance, you can still add attributes by clicking +.
To delete a metadata instance from a file:
- Click the metadata instance you want to delete. Box displays a pencil icon to the right of the instance's name.
- Click the pencil icon.
- In the bottom of the pane, click Remove.
Deleting metadata is a permanent action you cannot undo. No trash bin exists for recovering deleted metadata. Further, if a metadata template or attribute is associated with an active retention policy, you cannot delete the template, attribute, or options until you have retired the retention policy.
Using Advanced Search With Metadata Templates
Metadata values are indexed by the Box search engine. If you perform a search, the search engine treats metadata values similarly to how file titles or file text are currently treated. If a match on metadata is made, it will influence the search results returned to you using Box’s custom search relevance algorithm.
You can also use advanced search to filter results within specific metadata templates.
To search using specific metadata templates:
- Click the Advanced Search icon in the Search box at the top of the screen
- Click Metadata and select the template you'd like to use for your search
- Enter the values you'd like to search for, then hit enter to search.
Administrators can create and manage templates from the Admin Console.
For more information, see Customizing Metadata Templates as well as How to Create the Right Metadata Structure for your Enterprise.
Here are some frequently asked questions (and answers!) about metadata:
How do I add templates to my enterprise?
Admins can create metadata templates from their Admin Console, by navigating to Content > Metadata tab.
Can I use metadata without templates?
Yes, you can use metadata without templates. For accounts that have metadata activated, you can always add metadata in the Custom Metadata section of metadata.
What types of accounts can access metadata?
Metadata is a feature reserved for Business Plus, Enterprise, and Elite accounts. It is also available on developer accounts through https://developers.box.com. To upgrade your account, please contact your Box account team.
How does metadata work with external collaborators within a folder?
Metadata is available only for external collaborators who collaborate in a folder, where the folder owner has enabled metadata on their account.
Read and write access of existing instances adheres to standard folder collaborator settings. New instances can be applied only by users within an enterprise via the web application; external collaborators outside the enterprise are not able to add instances to a file via the web application.
The metadata template owner enterprise owns the metadata template and all values of the template. If the metadata template changes, this affects any values of metadata that are collaborated with external collaborators.
How does metadata work with folder permissions?
Metadata adheres to folder-level permissions. A collaborator with permission to view items, can view metadata, and a collaborator with upload permissions can edit metadata values. For example, if a collaborator is a viewer in a folder, that person is able only to view metadata and not edit it.
If a collaborator is a previewer uploader in a folder, then that person can both view and edit metadata. Refer to the permissions chart to see which permissions are granted to each collaborator role.
How does metadata work with shared links?
Is my metadata encrypted?
Are there any known limitations?
Metadata is not deleted unless a user deletes the metadata directly off the file or folder. If an account activates and deactivates the metadata feature, or if an item with metadata is deleted, metadata on files and folders is still retained.