FITS (File Information Tool Set)

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FITS allows data curators to identify, validate, and extract technical metadata for the objects in their digital repository.
License:GNU Lesser General Public License
Platforms:Windows or Unix
Appears in COW:Workflow for ingesting digitized books into a digital archive


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 0.2.0 was released in October 2011. The tool was created to be used in Harvard’s Digital Repository Service, and so presumably development is active and ongoing.

Platform and interoperability

FITS is written in Java and is compatible with Java 1.6 or higher. It uses six external tools: JHOVE, Exiftool, National Library of New Zealand Metadata Extractor, DROID, FFIdent, and Windows File Utility.  Instructions for command line use are given for Windows and Unix.

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 project wiki, including information for users, installers, and developers.  The materials are written for an IT, rather than library/archive audience.  The project actively uses the fits-users google group has 30 members, and is active as of January 2012.  The FITS wiki also includes an issues tracker.


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 configuration require deep systems administration and application design knowledge, as well as familiarity with file format and metadata standards.

Standards compliance

FITS outputs in XML format. 

Influence and take-up

The FITS website shows over 1500 downloads of the software.  The tool was designed for and is in use at the Harvard Digital Repository Service.

User Experiences

Development Activity