Every industry has its own language – here’s a list of key terms to help you understand the world of DAM.

Acknowledgements to DAMGlossary.org for their comprehensive list of DAM definitions. 


API stands for “application programming interface” – which basically means that one system can talk to another. Relating to DAM – this means that creative assets stored in your DAM can easily be integrated in other systems – such as your content management system.   

Adaptive Metadata

Adaptive metadata is a way to assign metadata automatically for certain files. For instance, when you upload an audio file, metadata would capture the length of the file, which would not be present when uploading an image.  

Asset Manipulation

Asset manipulation refers to the alteration or editing of an original file to create a new file. The new file may be stored within the DAM or can be downloaded immediately.


Audio Video Interleave (AVI) is a video media format typically used for delivery of video content. AVI was invented by Microsoft in the early nineties. 

Boolean Search

When you think of Boolean Search – just thing about how you can search on Google.  Boolean Search enables you to identify a digital asset based on true or false queries.  For example, you can search for all files with the keyword girl, but exclude the keyword family and add a date range.  

Brand Asset Management

Brand Asset Management systems is a DAM on steroids.  In addition to storing digital assets, Brand Asset Management platforms help marketers not only explain their brand guidelines, but are also able to approve creative that is submitted, to verify it is on brand. 


Cataloging in another word for ‘ingestion’ – or more simply said – the process by which when you upload a digital asset, metadata from the file is automatically extracted, and you can add additional keywords and other metadata so it’s easily found in the future by searching.  


Compression is used in many digital file formats to reduce the amount of storage capacity needed. This is done so files can be quickly uploaded and downloaded.  

Content Delivery Network

Content Delivery Networks or CDNs are dedicated networks with high levels of capacity specifically designed for the distribution of bandwidth heavy content. A CDN provides multiple geographically dispersed Points of Presence (PoPs) and replicates content across the network so downloading content is quick.

Controlled Vocabulary

Controlled vocabularies help you structure your digital files by offering predefined keywords people can apply tot heir content for easier search.   


The DAM industry loves acronyms. DAM stands for “Digital Asset Management” – a software platform that enables you to put a process around managing your digital files and creative assets such as cataloging, searching, workflow approvals and the ability to manage talent usage rights.   

Data Storage

Digital Asset Management relies on digital storage facilities to hold assets. Usually when purchasing a DAM, data storage will include the primary storage, as well as backup storage of the assets.

Data Migration

This is the process of transferring data from one system to another. Usually when you start using a DAM, your vendor will offer to migrate your images and creative files from another provider – or most likely from your hard drive – into the new system. Here’s how it works. You provide the DAM vendor with your images in the folder structure via a secure FTP or a hard drive. They then give you a spreadsheet  so you can add additional keywords or fix naming conventions – and then your files are automatically imported into the new DAM system. Voila! You launch with everything in place.

Digital Rights Management

This is metadata associated with a file, that tells the user who the author or owner of the file is, licensing arrangements and talent usage rights.


This is basically when you convert a physical file – i.e. a printed photograph, into a digital file. Simple.

Dublin Core Metadata

This is the most popular standard to organise metadata fields. For an asset, the fields include: title, creator, subject, description, publisher, contributor, date, type, format, identifier, source, language, relation, coverage and rights.

Email Link

In the context of your DAM, it is the method of sharing a single or multiple files to other users of the DAM or to external users.  

Embed Media

Is the process of embedding a file from your DAM into social media or into a third party, public website.

Encoding Metadata

From your DAM – you are able to add and edit metadata, which then gets embedded into the file.  For instance, if you have a file that’s named – “Happy Woman” – from your DAM you can change the title to “Happy Woman Smiling”, add a description “Image of a young, Asian woman, smiling at the beach” and metadata keywords such as – Young, woman, smiling, beach, Asian, Female, Lady.  When you make these changed in your DAM – they are automatically embedded into your image.

EXIF – Exchangeable Image File Format

The simple way to think about EXIF is that it’s information from the camera as it relates to the digital image. EXIF data is embedded within the image file itself, usually jpeg or tiff, and is used by many camera manufacturers. Adobe created a better, more flexible metadata format for photography and image processing, called XMP (extensible metadata platform), but EXIF is still a very popular and supported metadata specification.

Extracting Metadata

When you upload a file into your Digital Asset Management system, automatically, the metadata associated with the file is indexed into the DAM’s search engine. This is important, as it allows users to enter metadata in other software applications that can later be used in the DAM system to help users organise and finds assets more efficiently.

Faceted Search

Faceted search is a way of filtering down when you search. For example, if you search for assets containing the keyword “green field” – once you see your results, you can narrow your search to assets created on a certain date, or are of a specific file type.   

File Format

File format is a catch-all term to describe the type of each digital file. Examples of file formats include: .jpeg, .mov, .MP3, .docx, .ppt, .png, .tiff. .eps – etc – the list goes on.


Flash is an application used to create ShockWave Flash (SWF) files and associated media such as Flash Video (FLV). Flash video files are often smaller in size and are used by Digital Asset Management systems so users can preview files.


GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) and is a bitmap image format that was introduced by CompuServe in 1987 and has since come into widespread usage on the World Wide Web due to its wide support and portability.


GUI stands for graphical user interface (GUI) which enables end users to navigate a DAM through the use of icons, not just text. 


Adobe InDesign was first released in 2002 and is a page layout and graphic design tool. 


Ingesting means the same as cataloging – which is the process of adding or uploading assets to your digital asset management system, and adding, embedding and extracting metadata to/from your digital assets. 

IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council)

IPTC is a set of metadata attributes that can be applied to images and is embedded with the file, and is called “IPTC header”. This information travels with the digital file and is read by many software applications. Adobe’s XMP format is quickly becoming the most commonly used standard for images for transferring metadata.


JPEG means Joint Photographic Experts Group, however, it more commonly refers to a compression standard that is used to reduce the disk space consumed by digital images. JPEG images are usually smaller then RAW or TIFF images.


Keywords are information that describes your digital assets, so they are easier to search for and find later. Keywords become part of your digital assets’ metadata. 

Keyword Search

Keyword search is how searches are conducted within a Digital Asset Management system. The user enters a term or phrase, metadata fields are checked for matches, and results are returned.


In a DAM, the term 'Lightbox' is a feature where users can keep collections of files to share with others or to download later. Files in a lightbox are not uploaded separately, but rather, are linked to from the original file.  

Linked and Related

Linked and Related files refers to the method of linking a file to a new folder (Linked) or linking a file to another file (related). The original file does not move, but rather, a digital relationship is formed. This is useful when managing talent usage rights in a DAM – for example to link a talent release form to multiple files.


Marketing Resource Management (MRM) a platform for the entire marketing life-cycle, including a method to manage digital assets, as well as schedules and forecasts.


Media Asset Management (MAM) is generally considered as simply an alternative term for Digital Asset Management, although some believe that a MAM system only supports video rather than any type of digital file. 


Metadata is descriptive information about your files (data about your data). Digital asset management systems rely heavily on metadata, as it’s critical for searching, retrieving and managing your rich media assets.


MOV is the file format extension for QuickTime movies.


MPEG stands for Moving Picture Experts Group and refers to a type of video format. 


MXF stands for Material eXchange Format and is a format for time based media such as video and audio. 

Premise-Based Solution

Premise based solution is the alternative to SaaS, Cloud based systems. If you host your DAM on premise, your IT department will generally manage the software as well as the hardware. The advantages and disadvantages of on-premise DAM software are largely an inverse of SaaS. A potential benefit is improved security and cost of data storage – which is generally less than SaaS hosted. This is counterbalanced by reduced ease of access for any external users, and lack of upgrades – whereby SaaS systems are easy to grant others access, and are continually upgraded.  


PDF stands for Portable Document Format. PDF files are used to electronically transmit a file without the ability to edit the file.


PNG stand for Portable Network Graphics (PNG) is a graphics file format that offers superior performance vs. 


PIM stands for Product Information Management (PIM) which integrates product data sheets and related resources, to all artwork and creative related to the product. DAM’s with robust, customisable databases can serve as a PIM for your business.  


QuickTime is an Apple standard for delivery of multimedia content. 


RAW is a file format usually used by professional photographers that contains ‘unprocessed’ metadata. These are usually very large files and this format is often referred to as a digital negative  because photographers can then use software such as Photoshop to manipulate them before compressing into a JPEG, TIFF or PNG.


RSS stands for ‘Real Simple Syndication’ and is an XML based Metadata standard that makes it easy to get feeds from one website to another.  


RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue and is the standard colour model used for screen based media.


SaaS stands for Software as a Service – and in the context of a DAM, enables you to manage your digital assets in the cloud, versus and on premise implementation. SaaS products are provided as web applications that users access via a browser. SaaS DAM is also interchangeable with Cloud DAM solutions.


Search is the heart of a Digital Asset Management platform, as it enables users to find exactly the image(s) they are looking for, using Boolean search methods and metadata.


ShockWave Flash or SWF is the type of file created by the Flash application. 


Tagging is the process of adding metadata to digital assets to categorise content.


Taxonomy is the hierarchical structure used to classify and assign metadata to files. 


Uploading in digital asset management usually refers to the act of ingesting or cataloging assets into the DAM system. Most DAM systems allow you to upload a single file at a time, and to bulk upload files by dragging and dropping from your desktop.

Usage Approval

Usage Approval is a type of Workflow in a digital asset management platform, that enables people to request approval before using a file. Usually, the requestor needs to specify how, when and where a digital asset will be used.  


VAM stands for Video Asset Management – which is similar to Media Asset Management – a platform that specialises in the management of video. These systems typically are on-premise solutions and can handle large file sizes.


Watermarking means adding a logo, or a user’s time and date stamp information on top of the file when displaying in the DAM to prohibit people from using either small images in final creative and to prevent unauthorised usage of the file.  


Workflow is the digital sign off process for when people want to upload a file into your DAM, download a file from your DAM or to simply electronically circulate a file to get feedback.  Workflow is usually tied to versions of a file and the history of a workflow is always attached to the file. 

XMP (Extensible Metadata Platform)

XMP stands for Extensible Metadata Platform, and is a way to process and store metadata for digital assets. This format enables users to add their own metadata from within the Dam, and encode it to the file.  


ZIP is a compression format used to reduce the storage space used by digital files.