Metamorph User Guide

Fabian Steeg edited this page Jul 3, 2017 · 2 revisions

This document provides an introduction to the Metafacture Morph language (short: Metamorph). Metamorph is a declarative flow oriented language in which transformations of arbitrary metadata/semi-structured data can be defined using XML.

The following code snippet shows the high level organization of a Metamorph definition (See also

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<metamorph xmlns=""
	xsi:schemaLocation=" metamorph.xsd"
	entityMarker="." version="2">
   <meta><!-- Metadata --></meta>
   <macros><!-- Macro definitions --></macros>
   <rules><!-- Transformation rules --></rules>
   <maps><!-- Data maps --></maps>

The root element <metamorph> has two attributes: One indicates the Metamorph version the document is intended to work with; the second indicates the character used to separate entity names. Within the <metamorph> tag there are four sections: The first and optional one holds metadata for the definition file. The second section -- also optional -- holds definition of macros. The <rules> block defines the actual transformation rules. Finally the optional maps block allows to define maps/dictionaries for lookup functionality.

Addressing Pieces of Data

The <data> tag is used to receive literals. Use the source attribute to address the literal you want to catch. The following code would receive the value of any literal with name literalname, enclosed in an entity named entityname.

<data source="entityname.literalname" name="newName" />

The value is then sent to the downstream data flow element under the name newName. It is thus the most basic form of mapping data.

The source attribute also accepts wildcards. For instance the star-wildcard: <data source="person*" /> would match all literals with names starting with 'person': 'person_name', 'person_age', etc. Apart from the star-wildcard, the questionmark-wildcard ('?') is supported. It matches exactly one arbitrary character.

Finally, sources can be concatenated using the pipe-character ('|') to express a logical-or relationship: <data source="creator|contributor" /> would match both 'creator' and 'contributor'. Please note that the pipe connects complete source names. It does not apply to parts or characters.

Processing Pieces of Data

After picking up a literal, its content can be processed. Processing steps are added inside the <data> tag. The following code shows an example in which the date of death of an author in the PND is extracted from the Pica records and renamed to the corresponding RDF property (for the complete mapping description see the DNB linked data service documentation).

<data name="rdaGr2:dateOfDeath" source="032Aa.a">
  <replace pattern=" " with="" />
  <regexp match="-((\d*?))$" format="${1}" />

In the PND birth and death of an author are stored both in one subfield (literal in Metamorph speak) in the form 'birth - death' . So the need for processing arises. First we eliminate all whitespaces by using a <replace> operation. Next we apply regular expression matching <regexp> and extract the firs match group (${1}) corresponding to the year of death.

Please note that functions may return zero to n values. If no value is returned, the processing is stopped and nothing will be sent downstream. If for instance a <regexp> does not match, processing stops and there will be no 'rdaGr2:dateOfDeath' in the output stream.

Read more:


Pieces of data processed with Metamorph are by default sent to the StreamReceiver registered with Metamorph. However, there is the possibility to send a piece of data into a feedback loop. In this case the data reenters Metamorph just as it came from the upstream StreamSender. This recursion is accomplished by prepending an '@' to the name of the data:

<data source="002@.0" name="@format">
   <!--  processing -->

<!--  catch the data -->
<data source="@format" name="dcterms:format">

This pattern comes in handy when a piece of data is needed at several other places after preprocessing. It relieves you from copying and pasting the same preprocessing steps. It also improves efficiency as Metamorph will perform the preprocessing only once. Be careful though not to build infinite loops by forgetting to rename the data (removing the '@') in the final processing step.

<!--  infinite loop: the missing name causes the literal to be again emitted as @format-->
<data source="@format">

Collecting Pieces of Data

In the case that an output depends on the values from more then one literal, we need to collect literals. Collectors are defined under the <rules> tag, just as <data> tags. <data> tags are be put inside the respective collectors to indicate which literals are to be collected.

Read more:

Parameters to Metamorph Definitions

Metamorph definitions may contain parameters. They follow the pattern $[NAME]:

<data name="edm:rights" source="_id">
   <constant value="$[rights]" />

$[rights] in this case is a compile-time variable which is evaluated on creation of the respective Metamorph object. Thes variable in square brackets are not to be confused with the ones in curly brackets, which are evaluated at run-time.

Compile-time variable are passed to Metamorph as a constructor parameter.

final Map<String, String> vars = new HashMap<String, String>();
vars.put("rights", "CC-0");

final Metamorph metamorph = new Metamorph("morphdef.xml", vars);

The <vars> section in the Metamorph definition can be used to set defaults:

   <var name="rights" value="CC0" />

Defining Macros

Macros can be defined within the <macros> tag and use the same parameter mechanism as code within the <rules> tag. Macros are called with the <call-macro> tag. Attributes of the tag are used as parameters:

   <macro name="concat-up">
      <concat delimiter=", " name="$[literal_name]">
         <data source="$[literal_name]" >
            <case to="upper"/>
   <call-macro name="concat-up" literal_name="data1"/>
   <call-macro name="concat-up" literal_name="data2"/>

In this case literal_name serves as a parameter (the name is arbitrary). In the macro definition itsel, the parameter is addressed by $[literal_name].

Parameters are scoped, which means that the ones provided with the call-macro tag shadow global ones. Macros cannot be nested.

Splitting Metamorph Definitions for Reuse

In a complex project setting there may be several Metamorph definitions in use, and it is likely that they share common parts. Imagine for instance a transformations from Marc 21 record holding data on books to RDF, and Marc 21 records hodling data on authors to RDF. Both make use of a table assinging country names to ISO country codes. Such a table should only exist once. To accomodate for such reuse, Metamorph offes an include mechanism based on XInclude ( The following snippet shows an example in which a <map> is included.

<!-- main metamorph definition -->				
   <include href="src/test/resources/mymap.xml" parse="xml"
	 xmlns="" />
<!-- mymap.xml -->
<?xml version="1.1" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<map name="island_map" xmlns="">
	<entry name="Aloha" value="Hawaii" />

Use the <include> tag from the namespace to insert an external XML file into your definition. The included file must be valid xml itself, containing syntactically valid tags from the Metamorph namespace.

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