noaa image
Recommendation for an XML authoring tool to create EAD finding aids


My recommendation is XMetaL Author accompanied by training both on EAD tags and on using XMetal. It's high price tag is justified by its efficiency for both simple and complex finding aids.


The best source for information about the EAD format is the library of congress:

On this page are links to the description of all the tags.

My starting point for looking for tools for EAD generation was:

I also found additional information via google searches.

I downloaded and installed the trial versions of Oxygen, Notebook Pro, XMetaL Author. I found and followed online instructions for using them with EAD from:

I also downloaded and reviewed Berkely's Web Template scripts.


Notre Dame's online web tool for creating finding aids

It is very easy to get started with this tool, so this is a promising approach, but it does not go far enough to be useful for a non-expert since after creating the initial entries you have to cut and paste the resulting xml and work with it directly.

Berkely's Web Template CGI script

This is a more sophisticated web-based EAD generation tool. It is customizable and could be tailored to a particular institutions needs. Since it ships with source code, this would be a logical starting point for someone seeking to implement a web-based system. Unfortunately, it would take a considerable amount of time to customize it and it was not clear to me that the code was good enough to be worth investing the additional time.

Notetab Pro:

Notetab Pro when set up as described here makes it very easy to get started, but after entering initial fields using nice forms, you are stuck using a text based editor which is difficult and error-prone for non-experts.


I found the interface confusing and difficult. I would not want to train someone on this tool.


University of Minnesota has the nicest implementation of XMetaL-generated finding aids that I could find.

Here is an example of the finding aids for one of their collections:

Another good example of XMetaL-generated finding aids.

While XMetaL appears initially to be difficult to grasp, once you get over the initial learning curve it is powerful and less error-prone than others I looked at when set up as recommended above. It is not surprising that it appears to be the tool of choice for the majority of serious EAD authors. It's hefty price tag, in my opinion, would be justified by its ease of use.

It is tempting to consider XMetaL customization to make it easier to create finding aids, and the company that makes XMetaL does offer "developer" tools to do this. However, I suspect that work along these lines would move you deeper into dependency on XMetaL as your authoring platform. Since I expect cheaper and better tools to be available in the future, I think heavy XMetaL customization would be a mistake. I believe one is better served by substituting training on the EAD tags for XMetaL-specific customization.

advertiser links