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First Steps into Command Line Tools for Preservation

3h workshop for 10 in-person

Published onMay 22, 2024
First Steps into Command Line Tools for Preservation
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Do you use the command line for digital preservation tasks? It’s a lightweight, yet powerful instrument that is available on every computer. It allows you to manage your computer or automate repetitive tasks, but can also be used to carry out digital preservation tasks and quality control, with tools like e.g. Jhove, FFmpeg, bagIT, rclone, ExifTool, Xmlstarlet or Siegfried.

Useful for every archivist, for whom the nature of work has shifted from paper to digital!

Why use the command line?

The command line is one of the most useful and efficient tools we have as computer users, but it can feel overwhelming when you first start using the tool. Small cultural heritage organisations do not always have the means to hire a full-time IT professional, requiring employees to familiarise themselves with new digital skills and tools. In our hands-on workshop, we will guide you in taking your first steps using the command line to carry out various digital preservation tasks.

Intended audience

The workshop is intended for practitioners in the digital preservation field. Although the workshop is aimed at beginners, a basic understanding of the command line is advised, more specifically how to navigate and work with files and folders. We encourage participants to read through parts 1 to 3 of the Sofware Carpentry’s Unix Shell guide.

What will you learn?

In this hands-on workshop, you will learn to work with different tools by doing exercises, based on practical examples. We will dive deeper into 4 to 5 command line tools for working with files in bulk:

  • validating files with Jhove or a Tiff validator;

  • transcoding videos with FFmpeg;

  • transferring files from an online storage service to an offline storage using rclone;

  • reading and writing embedded metadata in image, audio and video with ExifTool;

  • extracting information from XML files with Xmlstarlet;

  • identifying files with Siegfried;

  • packaging files in a bagIT;

  • or others depending on the needs or questions of the participants.

Come prepared

The Windows command prompt and Powershell are not compatible with the command line interface of macOS and Ubuntu. That is why Windows users need to install Microsoft’s WSL2 and set up Ubuntu before joining the workshop. Windows users can follow https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/wsl/install to install WSL for Windows 11 and https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/wsl/install-manual for older versions.


We will discuss the participants’ needs and questions in a Zoom call which will be organised around 2 weeks before the workshop. We recommend the participants to join this session as it serves as a way to answer technical questions or troubleshoot some installation issues before the workshop.

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