I was wondering if there was a way to add descriptions/ comments to files e.g. PDFs. I have a lot of PDFs and often I forget where the file came from, why it's a good reference, what reading list it's from, etc. It's pretty astounding that this has proved so difficult to do! My ridiculous workaround is to add all that sort of information to the title of the file, leading to titles like: "@@PDE and Martingale Methods in Option Pricing -- A. Pascucci (Bocconi & Springer 2011)(11)" (The first @ denotes that this is a good reference, the second @ denotes the fact that I own a copy. Other bits mean other things.).

I've read that comment and descriptions are not supported by PDF files, and nobody seems to be able to figure out how to do this. If you go to file>properties>description, you can add a description, but it does not show up in the description column in Explorer, and it seems the only way to read them is via opening the files individually, and then file>properties>description. I doubt that Windows has access to that information when it does searches.

My guess is that it cannot be done except with some special program, and I have installed many including "PDF shell tools", "Total Commander", and "FileMeta" and none of them have worked.

A solutions would be much appreciated!


PDFs can contain different types of metadata, including XMP tags that can include information such as the document's description (specifically, using the dc:description tag that is part of the XMP Dublin Core schema). See this page for links to resources if you want to know more about Adobe's XMP support.

Adobe Acrobat and Bridge can add/edit XMP metadata in PDFs, but I'm not sure whether the iFilter included with Acrobat and Reader (64-bit version available separately here) will allow Windows to index, search and display XMP tags. You can try it and see if it works.

  • Oh thanks. I've come across this metadata in the file, however it does not seem to be viewable externally. Is there any way to have this metadata easily viewable (i.e. without opening the file)? So best case scenario I could be viewing my files in explorer (or substitute) and there is a descriptions column. Thanks, Jul 11 '13 at 14:38
  • As I said, try the iFilter and see if the metadata shows up. If Adobe's own solution doesn't allow Explorer to show it, I'm not aware of any third party solution that will.
    – Karan
    Jul 11 '13 at 15:53

You can change approach and use a program like Calibre, Mendeley or Jabref(http://jabref.sourceforge.net/). You would be able to manage your pdf collection from the program (not from explorer) and see basic data and custom tags without the files singularly. Mendeley and Jabref are reference-systems, so probably they are the best choice if you are just talking about academic collection (and they allows you to manage citations very easily). Jabref allows also to write directly metadata to the pdf (tools - write XMP metadata to PDF files).


Create a spreadsheet listing the filenames of your PDFs and the description or comments for each file?

  • Yeah I suppose, but it would be nice to have the details show up as an extra column in explorer, then I could click the top of the column and find all my resources for MATH2001 or whatever, or be able to search for all files one certain topics (e.g. topology), etc. Also the files that I want to add descriptions for are scattered among 146 document folders! Jul 8 '13 at 12:19
  • If you wanted to find all of the resources for MATH2001 you could probably find or filter the data you have in Excel. I take the point this isn't necessarily what you were asking for though! 8-) Jul 8 '13 at 14:13

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