All items in ArcGIS now have a simple, standardized core description—the Item Description—comprising a title, summary, description, tags, credits, restrictions, and a preview thumbnail. You can view and edit the Item Description for any item in ArcCatalog, the new Catalog window, and the new Search window. You can also access the Item Description for a layer's underlying data from the Table of Contents. The information in the Item Description is automatically used when you search for data or share it using ArcGIS online.
You can also choose to create formal metadata. The Item Description is a small subset of the complete formal metadata you can create to describe an item.
Metadata styles let you set all your preferences for working with metadata at once. They control how you view, edit, export, and validate an item's description. The default metadata style supports creating and maintaining the Item Description. Additional metadata styles provided with ArcGIS let you create formal metadata that complies with a metadata standard.
Choose the style of metadata you want to use in the Options dialog box on the Metadata tab from any of the ArcGIS Desktop applications. If you choose a metadata style that supports formal metadata, the item's complete metadata appears below the Item Description, and when you edit the description the built-in editor lets you create a complete metadata record.
Beginning with ArcGIS 10.0 SP1, a new metadata style is available that lets you create metadata in the Description tab that complies with the Federal Geographic Data Committee's (FGDC) Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM). With this style, the ArcGIS metadata you create can be exported to an XML file that can be validated against an FGDC CSDGM XML schema. When needed, these exported files can be used outside of ArcGIS, for example, to publish information to a metadata catalog that only accepts metadata in the FGDC XML format. This is the recommended way to create and maintain FGDC CSDGM metadata in ArcGIS 10.
Tasks for managing metadata are accomplished using geoprocessing tools. Several new geoprocessing tools are available in the Conversion toolbox, including: Export Metadata, Import Metadata, Synchronize Metadata, Validate Metadata, and Upgrade Metadata.