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I'm no expert on metadata but I will try and help out.
The .DSX files in Runtime\Support\ are plain text.
That means they can be opened in a text editor to see exactly what data they store. This includes products & the exported UserData_1.dsx file/s from Content DB Maintenance. Make sure your text editor is refreshed if it's open when you make changes to the files.
From my tests most user metadata changes seem to be saving, exporting and importing properly.
Changes made from "Content Library: Products: Content DB Editor" saves User Data for:
Asset Value, Content Type, Categories, Compatibilities, Compatibility Base & User/Keywords. But I could NOT get it to save user data for Description, Audience or Tags (so I would use userwords/keywords instead of tags).
Changes made from "Content Library: DAZ / Poser Formats: Content DB Editor":
As far as User Data, this seems to work the same as doing it from products (see above). It just does not save the product files & does not access the top level product information. Although if you open the product later and save it, it will update the product files with the changes. This even works after closing & re-starting DS.
Other changes made from the Content Library:
Tags (keywords & notes) & Right clicking: Categorize all seem to be working. Categories might need to have at least 1 item assigned to them to work.
In the Content DB Editor make sure "Sync Product & Local Database" is checked. Otherwise some User Data values I listed above may not be saved on export and I ran into issues updating Compatibilities when it was off.
I can't access CMS but I assume it's the same data being stored when we export User Data. The main differences being that it's easier to backup, edit & restore since we can work with text files and don't have to start/stop the CMS.
Here is how to test out if your changes are being saved/exported & imported properly:
1. Make changes to a test asset's metadata.
2. Export your user data in Content DB Maintance.
3. Open the runtime/support/UserData_1.dsx file in a text editor & search (ctrl+F) for your changes to confirm.
4. Remove or edit the changes you made in step 1 but don't export, to see if the 1st changes can be restored.
5. Go to Content DB Maintance & select "Re-Import Metadata":
6. Uncheck "All Products", make sure user data files & override are checked, Accept.
7. Check your test asset to see if the changes from step 1 have been restored.
Hope some of this was helpful. I recommend updating the original post to make it more clear and concise as you discover answers to make it easier for people to learn from and add to. Also might help to cross link to this thread: http://www.daz3d.com/forums/discussion/6123/
Here are some links that might also be helpful:
To me it looks like support/user data stores any changes from the "original" product state (excluding: tags, description & audience). Saving the support/product files do not seem to remove any information from support/user data, unless you remove things that were added to the original state. I do not know if there is work around for this.
It is annoying that some changes must be exported through DB Maintenance. And also that when using DB editor from Poser/DAZ Formats it also has to be opened again from products to export. Do you know if the CMS database directory stores all of our metadata changes and we could just back that up? It is annoying to have to stop, restart it, etc though. I feel safest backing up everything.
I quick link to Product Library would be nice... but can 1 item be in more than 1 product? I've been able to paste references into multiple products but I'm not sure if your not supposed to. And they could even have a link to a list of products I guess.
It is a shame that metadata and many other features of DAZ have very poor, out of date or no documentation. So many people have to waste so much time just because they did not do what should have been a requirement from the start. I wonder how many hours have been lost. Honestly the time commitment is a bigger factor than $ when I consider buying most products at this point.
I thought the entire point of metadata was that it was supposed to save time? I feel like all the trouble of managing it may take up more time then it saves. I seem to do OK making my own directory structures with old content but the auto material matching and stuff is nice.
I would love a install/update system like steam.
I did try backing up CMS, removing it's database files & re-importing my support/product & user data files. Didn't check it all but it seemed like almost everything was restored how I customized it. I was missing a few custom products I made but I might not have set them up correctly. So I restored my backed up CMS.
Yeah, Metadata could be great if it was more consistent, reliable, well documented, easy/fast to manage. In it's current state it has been a nightmare. It doesn't help that I bought a ton of stuff in a short time with all the sales. So for now I'm really cutting back.