17.1. Metacat Configuration Properties System

New in version 3.0.0.

17.1.1. Properties Overview

For information about each property, and default or example settings, see the Appendix: Metacat Properties, or inspect the read-only metacat.properties file as described below.

Metacat’s configuration settings are located in two Java *.properties files: metacat-site.properties

metacat-site.properties is a small, editable file, containing only the site-specific values that need to be changed to override the defaults.

  • When settings are are changed from their defaults, using the Metacat Configuration utility (see Configuring Metacat), the new values are automatically saved to metacat-site.properties.

  • Whenever it is necessary to modify settings which are not editable via the Metacat Configuration utility, this should be done manually in the metacat-site.properties file, either by editing existing property entries, or by adding them there if they do not already exist.

  • The default location for the metacat-site.properties file is:


    …but note that this location is configurable and may have been changed using the Metacat Configuration utility.


    If you can’t locate the site properties file, you can always find its location from the property named application.sitePropertiesDir in the metacat.properties file – see below.

  • Since the metacat-site.properties file is stored in a location outside of the Metacat application deployment directory, these custom settings will not be lost when Metacat is upgraded or re-installed. metacat.properties

metacat.properties is a large, non-editable file which:

  • contains only the default values for every single property recognized by Metacat.

  • should never be edited directly by metacat admins. Only the development team adds new defaults, or changes old defaults because of code changes.

  • may be used as a handy reference to determine what settings are available to be overridden (including optional properties that are only relevant when optional Metacat features – such as the harvester or replication – are enabled. See Appendix: Metacat Properties).

The metacat.properties file can be found at:


where <CONTEXT_DIR> is the directory in which the Metacat application code is located (e.g. “/var/lib/tomcat/webapps/metacat”). This path comprises the web application directory (a.k.a. the “Deploy Location”; e.g. “/var/lib/tomcat/webapps/”) plus the Metacat context directory (e.g. “metacat”).

17.1.2. Secret Properties

Some properties hold sensitive information such as secret passwords. When these are entered via the Metacat Configuration Utility, they are saved as plain text in the metacat-site.properties file. If this causes security concerns, note that it is possible to leave those secret properties blank (or use dummy values), and instead pass secrets to Metacat via environment variables.

(This may be only marginally more secure than having the passwords in plain-text properties, since anyone with shell access can see the environment variables - however the primary reason for introducing this feature is for use in containerized deployments with Kubernetes/Helm Charts)

The application.envSecretKeys property (see Application Properties) contains colon-delimited mappings between:

  • camelCase / period-delimited properties keys (as found elsewhere in the metacat.properties and metacat-site.properties files) and

  • SCREAMING_SNAKE_CASE environment variable keys.

The properties entry should take the form:


For example, using real property names and the backslash (\) character to wrap lines:

     database.user=POSTGRES_USER                      \
    :database.password=POSTGRES_PASSWORD              \
    :guid.doi.password=METACAT_GUID_DOI_PASSWORD      \

Taking the database.password=POSTGRES_PASSWORD entry as an example:

  1. If the environment variable (POSTGRES_PASSWORD) contains a value, it will be used by Metacat to override any other values that are provided in the metacat-site.properties or metacat.properties files.

  2. If the POSTGRES_PASSWORD environment variable does NOT contain a value, Metacat will fall back to using any value for that property that has been set in the metacat-site.properties file.

  3. Finally, if no value is found in metacat-site.properties, Metacat will use the default value from the metacat.properties file.

When adding new environment variables, the following best practices are highly recommended (but not mandatory) to help debugging, scripting & grepping:

  1. Prepend all env vars with “METACAT_”, unless there are well-established names already in common use (for example POSTGRES_USER, POSTGRES_PASSWORD)

  2. when creating env vars, try to make the name correspond to the property key, as follows: a. convert all periods to underscores b. convert camelCase words to snake-case, and finally c. convert the entire string to uppercase and prepend with METACAT_

    For example, the key solr.adminUser would become the env var key METACAT_SOLR_ADMIN_USER

17.1.3. Install and Upgrade Scenarios New Server/VM Installation

(No previous versions present)

  • Metacat creates a new, empty site properties file at /var/metacat/config/metacat-site.properties and uses this to store new or edited properties.

  • The administrator configures database connection details etc via the Metacat Configuration Utility, and these values are written to the new site properties file.

  • If the administrator changes the location of the site properties file via the Configuration Utility, metacat will move the existing file to the new location, provided a file with the same name does not already exist there. Upgrade to an Existing Server/VM Installation

  • metacat.properties gets overwritten, since it resides within the installation directory. This is fine, because the properties that have previously been customized are all still in the metacat-site.properties file, which is stored outside of the installation directory.

  • However, if metacat-site.properties had previously been moved from its default location at /var/metacat/config/metacat-site.properties, metacat will be unable to locate it (since the revised location, stored in metacat.properties has been overwritten). In this case, Metacat creates a new, empty file at /var/metacat/config/metacat-site.properties, and uses this as the new site properties file.

  • To reinstate the correct properties, the admin has to change the site properties path via the Metacat Configuration Utility, to point back to the original file in its custom location. Once this is done, metacat will start using the original file, and will rename the empty file it created to /var/metacat/config/metacat-site.properties_OLD, to avoid confusion. Containerized Install on Kubernetes, via Helm

  • Site properties are mounted as a ConfigMap (i.e. read only) at /var/metacat/config/ inside the container.

  • See the metacat/helm/README file for full details