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Glossary of terms used in Digital Asset Management

Here are some of the common terms and phrases that you will encounter in the area of Digital Asset Management:

Stands for "Application Programmer Interface". This is a documented and supported set of rules by which a customer or third party can extend the functions of a DAM system or support interoperability with other systems. See also "SDK"

Also called "Digital Asset" - this is a file or named data stream that has intrinsic value, either in terms of licence costs, or cost of re-creating if lost or misplaced. Examples include: Image files, Wordprocessor documents, PDF documents, Web pages etc.

Or if you prefer "Catalogue". This is often used to denote a single instance of a Digital Asset Management database. It is also used in the sense of a verb to mean the process of recording assets in the catalog. See also "Ingestion"

In Cumulus, and similar DAM systems, this refers to a predefined category that can be associated with asset for purposes of classification. a good DAM system should allow an asset to be associated with more than one category thus supporting several different or "orthogonal" taxonomies.

Category Tree
The hierarchical arrangement of categories and their sub-categories, or the graphical representation of same.

In the context of "Client-Server" architecture this is a program that runs on your computer (Mac or PC) that interacts with the Server over the LAN and expedites the use of the DAM system, typically by speeding up the data entry or "Ingestion" process.

Digital Asset
See "Asset"

Common shorthand for "Digital Asset Management"

Embedded Metadata
Many asset formats contain metadata, such as textual descriptions, date of creation, etc. that are embedded in the asset itself. A good DAM system will be able to read and use this metadata. It should also be able to allow you to edit and write it back into the asset.

Similar to IPTC, this is another recognised standard for embedded metadata. See:

Stands for "International Press Telecommunications Council". In DAM it refers to the IPTC embedded metadata standard as described here

Also called "cataloging". This is the process of introducing assets to the system. a true DAM system will process the asset at this stage to extract as much metadata as possible from it so as to minimise manual data entry.

Ingestion filter
Or just "filter". a component of the system that automatically extracts metadata from a given asset type during ingestion. a good DAM system will have many filters that allow it to "understand" many different asset types.

The ability for a Digital Asset Management system to integrate with other systems and databases.

Contraction of "Key word". This is a word or phrase that describes an asset, and is therefore part of the metadata. a good DAM system should allow you to set up a dictionary of keywords in preference to using totally free-form text, and should allow you to associate any number of keywords with each asset.

Stands for "Local Area Network". a fast way of connecting multiple computers normally limited to one geographic location such as a single office. Cf WAN

Data about the asset. a DAM system should handle standard embedded metadata formats like IPTC and EXIF - and should also allow you to create your own metadata fields.

As opposed to a catalog, this is a system for storing and managing the actual assets. a good DAM system will provide or support several different repository options. Key repository functions include security, access control and back up.

In the context of DAM this means to find an alternative use for an asset, for example you could use it in a new publication, or you could even sell it. One of the key benefits of a DAM system is that it unlocks the value in your assets by allowing them to be repurpose.

In the context of "Client-Server" architecture this the program that runs on a single computer but is accessed and therefore shared by multiple clients over the LAN.

Stands for "Software Developer Kit". One or more Application Programmer Interfaces (APIs) that together allow the Digital Asset Management system to be extended or customised.

A category that represents a sub-class of a higher category. Assets associated with the sub-category are automatically associated with the higher category. This allows for a multi-level taxonomy.

A classification system. a good DAM system should allow you to classify a given asset in many different ways. See "Category" and "Category Tree" and also

A person who uses the system. a good Digital Asset Management system will authenticate users with a log-in process and will allow you to assign usage rights to individual users.

Stands for "Wide Area Network". Generally not as fast as a LAN, this is way of connecting computers that are geographically distant. The Internet is the WAN that most people think of in this context.

Stands for "eXtensible Markup Language". This is a standard for storing and interchanging data in textual form. Good quality DAM systems will use XML to support import/export and provide interoperability with other systems. See