Sustainability of Digital Formats: Planning for Library of Congress Collections

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HDF4map, HDF4 File Content Map

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Format Description Properties Explanation of format description terms

Identification and description Explanation of format description terms

Full name HDF4 File Content Map

The HDF4 File Content Map (HDF4map) is designed to serve an archival purpose. The primary target audience for the HDF4 File Content Maps is a person twenty or more years in the future who is interested in the content originally stored in the companion binary HDF4 files. The HDF4 File Content Map Schema, published in mid-2011, describes an XML Document that provides access to content originally stored in a companion binary HDF4 file without reliance on the HDF4 software library. In this context, "content" is defined as the data and metadata provided by the creator of the binary HDF4 file. The Schema was designed so that the HDF4 File Content Maps described using it would provide complete access to the content in the binary HDF4 files generated and held by NASA’s Earth Observing System.

Production phase Designed for archival purposes. HDF4 File Content Maps and the companion binary HDF4 files will be part of NASA’s data preservation system.
Relationship to other formats
    Affinity to HDF4, Hierarchical Data Format, Version 4 and earlier. The HDF4map format is an XML-based map to the contents of an HDF4 binary file.
    Affinity to HDF-EOS, Hierarchical Data Format - Earth Observing System (based on HDF4). The HDF4map format is an XML-based map to the contents of an HDF4 binary file. The schema was designed particularly to encompass all data types, data models, and compression schemes included in NASA's HDF-EOS files.
    Defined via XML_Schema_1_0, W3C XML Schema, 1.0

Local use Explanation of format description terms

LC experience or existing holdings  
LC preference  

Sustainability factors Explanation of format description terms


Openly documented XML Schema, developed and maintained by The HDF Group, a not-for-profit group established as a 501(c)(3) charity to ensure the sustainable development of HDF technologies and the ongoing accessibility of HDF-stored data.

    Documentation The XML Schema and supporting documentation are at
Adoption As of January 2012, this format is still relatively new. The schema and tools were developed specifically to facilitate the long-term preservation of NASA's Earth Observation System (EOS) data in NASA's Earth Science Data Centers.
    Licensing and patents None.
Transparency The HDF4map format is designed to be a transparent map of the opaque binary data within a native HDF4 file, in order that the data and metadata content be accessible without use of the HDF4 software libraries.
Self-documentation The HDF4map format is documentation for a self-describing binary dataset and incorporates the description and annotations from the binary file.
External dependencies None
Technical protection considerations None

Quality and functionality factors Explanation of format description terms

Normal functionality The HDF4map format is not designed for direct use for analysis and manipulation. See HDF4 for information on the data types and structures supported.

File type signifiers and format identifiers Explanation of format description terms

Tag Value Note
Filename extension map.xml
This is the extension used in example map files at
XML schema declaration
Version number may change in the future.

Notes Explanation of format description terms


The HDF4 File Content Map Writer developed as part of the Mapping Project will detect content that cannot be mapped and report an error. Because of the flexibility of the HDF4 format and library APIs, it is possible that unanticipated content may be present in HDF4 binary files. If significant unmapped aspects are discovered when generating maps for EOSDIS datasets, the HDF4map schema may be updated.

History Version 1.0.0 of the HDF4map Schema was published in June 2011. Version 1.0.1 was published in October 2011.

Format specifications Explanation of format description terms

Useful references


Books, articles, etc.

Last Updated: 02/27/2017