Metatab and Metapack

Metatab is a metadata format that allows structured metadata – the sort of information about a dataset like title, origin, or date of publication that you’d normally store in JSON, YAML or XML – to be stored and edited in tabular forms like CSV or Excel. Metatab files look exactly like you’d expect, so they are very easy for non-technical users to read and edit, using tools they already have. Metatab is an excellent format for creating, storing and transmitting metadata.

The tabular format is much easier for data creators to write and for data consumers to read, and it allows a complete data packages to be stored in a single Excel file.

Metapack is a data package format and packging system that uses Metatab formatted files for both metadata and for the instructions for building data packages. You can create a Metatab formatted file that describes the data you’d like to package and create an Excel or Zip file data package that holds that data. Metapack also includes programs to load data sets to AWS S3, Data.World and CKAN, and to use these packages in Jupyter notebooks.

Because Metatab is just a file format, and Metapack is the set of programs for building data packages, this guide primarily deals with Metapack. For more information about metatab, visit


Install the Metapack package from PiPy with:

$ pip install metapack

For development, you’ll probably want the development package, with sub-mdules for related repos:

$ git clone --recursive
$ cd metapack-dev
$ bin/

Quick Start

Generate a new Metapack package with examples:

$ mp new -o -d tutorial -L -E -T "Quickstart Example Package"

You now have a Metapack package in the directory, with two example data resources. Build the data packages with:

$ mp build -f -e -z

Now the directory has a Zip, Excel and Filesystem package, along with links to each package’s unversioned name.

Explore the schema for one of the built packages with:

$ cd
$ mp info -s

And dump a sample of the data for a resource in a table format:

$ mp run -T

Also, open the Excel package ( to see the pretty formatting of the metadata, and the generated HTML documentation in

That’s just a quick preview of how the system works. For more details see Getting Started.

Indices and tables