FITS allows data curators to identify, validate, and extract technical metadata for the objects in their digital repository. It does this by encorporating a range of mostly third-party open source tools, normalising and consolidating their output.


Harvard University Library Office for Information Systems

Licensing and cost

GNU Lesser GPL – free.

Development activity

FITS 0.8.3 was released in September 2014.

The tool was created to be used in Harvard’s Digital Repository Service, so is likely to be well maintained. Development activity can be tracked through the tool's GitHub source code repository.

Platform and interoperability

FITS is written in Java and is compatible with Java 1.6 or higher. It uses seven external tools – DROID, Exiftool, FFIdent, the File utility, JHOVE, the National Library of New Zealand Metadata Extractor, and Apache Tika – plus four tools developed by Harvard Library.

Instructions for installation and command line use are given for Windows, Mac OS X and '*nix' (i.e. Linux, BSD, Solaris, etc.).

As a command-line tool, it is relatively simple to incorporate FITS into automated workflows and larger applications. It also has a documented Java API so it can be incorporated into other applications directly.

Functional notes

FITS acts as a wrapper, invoking and managing the output from several other open source tools. Output from these tools are converted into a common format, compared to one another and consolidated into a single XML output file. Technical metadata is only output (and a part of the consolidation process) for tools that were able to identify the file. All other output is discarded.

Documentation and user support

Documentation exists in the form of a Quick Start guide, a User Manual and a Developer Manual. The Quick Start guide walks the user through using the tool, assuming no familiarity with the command line/terminal, while the manuals are progressively more technical.

The project actively uses the fits-users Google Group, which is active as of November 2014.  Issues may be reported to the tool's issue tracker on GitHub.


FITS uses a command line interface; it is designed to be integrated into other software workflows, and so is aimed at those with application design experience.

Expertise required

Installation and use are relatively straightforward, though some may find the command-line interface intimidating. Interpreting the output requires familiarity with file format and metadata standards, and possibly additional tools.

Standards compliance

FITS can output in various XML formats, including AES Audio Object, DocumentMD, MIX, and TextMD. 

Influence and take-up

The old FITS website (now deprecated) shows there were over 3800 downloads of version 0.6.2.  The tool was designed for and is in use at the Harvard Digital Repository Service; it is also used in the Archivematica digital preservation system.

Last reviewed: 
27 November, 2014