Capture One Pro: Keywords and Keyword libraries

Capture One Pro provides a simple way to apply keywords to images to help both users and clients categorize, search and find photos. Adding keywords is particularly useful in large catalogs but this option is no less important for multiple small catalogs and sessions as well. Keywords may also be important if you’re supplying photo agencies with images, where identification of the subject may be a requirement of submission.

Capture One supports hierarchal keywording and lists that are necessary for efficient organization. Hierarchical keywording makes it easier to find keywords and store them when hierarchies are collapsed. It is also a genuine time saver. Assigning the lowest level child keyword to an image adds all the keywords in the hierarchy.

Keyword data is stored by Capture One in XMP sidecar files by default for RAW and embedded in JPEG and TIFF files when assigned. Keywords applied to RAW files are only embedded when processed files (i.e., variants) are exported. Keyword data will not be embedded when exporting unprocessed RAW files (i.e., originals).

Keywords are managed with two tools in the Metadata tool tab:

  • Keywords tool
  • Keyword Library tool

The Keywords tool interfaces with the selected image/s. Keywords can be added and removed from images using this tool.

The standard Capture One tool tips for local reset, local copy apply, pre-sets and help are available for this tool. See the section on Optimizing Your Workflow for more information.

The Keyword Library tool is used for managing the list (or lists) of keywords in the document. A document can be either a catalog or session. As the Keywords tool adds keywords to images, the document Keyword Library is populated. This forms a keyword list for any and all terms in the current document and is unique for the session or catalog.

Create and Apply Keywords to Images

  1. Go to Keywords tool found by default under the Metadata Tool Tab.
  2. Next select the image or images from the browser that you want to add the keyword tags to. Note, keywords cannot be generated in the Keyword tool unless images are selected first.
  3. Type the chosen keyword in the field labeled Enter Keywords…  in the Keywords tool. 
  4. Press enter/return key to add the keyword/s.
  5. To add another keyword tag or set of keywords, repeat from step 3.

Pro tip: Adding multiple keywords to an image or images using Keywords tool

  • Multiple keywords can be added by separating entries with a comma (,) and then pressing enter/return: e.g Denmark,Vikings,Beer…

Pro tip: Adding keywords to multiple images

To add keywords to multiple images either:

  • Select all the images required for the keywords (making sure Edit Selected Variants from the main toolbar is selected). Then type the keyword/s using the Keywords tool and press the enter/return key to add them.


  • Add keywords to one image then, while still highlighted, select the other images in batch and use the local copy and apply tool to paste the keywords to the others in the selection.

Pro tip: Working with keywords across multiple images

  • If a selection of images contains keywords and a particular keyword only applies to some of the selection, then a minus sign (-) will appear on the left side of the keyword. Clicking on a keyword with a minus sign (-) will add the keyword to all selected images.
  • Capture One has an auto-fill function for all Metadata fields including Keywords. As you start to type, Capture One will suggest keywords from those already added in your list. Click on one to select it, or scroll and click to select from a list, or use the up/down keys, then press enter. Note that the autofill function is not case sensitive.

Delete keywords from images

  1. Go the Metadata Tool Tab, and select the Keywords tool.
  2. Select the image/s to remove the keywords from.
  3. In the Keyword tool mouse over the keyword and press the (X) icon that appears on the right side.
  4. Repeat to remove additional keywords.

If the keyword in the Keywords tool is only applied to some of the images selected a minus sign (-) will appear on the left side of the keyword. Pressing (X) will remove the keyword from only those images with that keyword within the selection. 

Pro tip

To remove all keywords from a variant or batch of variants easily, select the images and use the local reset function on the Keyword tool toolbar.

Enter hierarchal keywords

  1. Go the Metadata Tool Tab.
  2. Select the images that you want to add the keywords to.
  3. Select the Keywords tool and enter hierarchical keywords in the Enter Keywords… field, dividing the keywords using pipe (|) or greater than (>) as separators. For example; Denmark|Viking|Thor… or Denmark>Viking>Thor…
  4. Hierarchies can also be added in ascending order using the less than (<) symbol as the separator; Denmark<Viking<Thor... Note neither the space key or hyphen act as a separator.
  5. Press enter (PC) / return (Mac) to assign the hierarchical keywords.

To amend an existing hierarchical set of keywords, click on the keyword displayed in the Keywords tool and drag it to the new relevant position in the hierarchy.

Note: Keyword tags entered into the Keyword tool may be saved as a User Preset. This is a quick and easy way to add extensive keyword lists to a series of images, even when importing images into a document (session or catalog). Presets can be selected from the Styles drop-down menu in the Adjustments tool on the import images dialog box. There are no limits to the number of presets that can be saved, and the presets can be stacked allowing multiple lists to be applied.

Pro tip

It is worth spending some time planning and organizing hierarchies. If you have an extensive list of keywords, it may be quicker and more efficient creating hierarchies in the Library tool and then dragging the existing keywords into them.

Removing Hierarchical Keywords

Hierarchical keywords can be removed from an image by pressing the (X) icon in the keyword in the same way as single keywords. If a parent keyword is removed in a hierarchical keyword, then the child is also removed as it is deemed linked to the parent.

More about hierarchical keywords

Hierarchical keywords are displayed in the Keywords tool UI as a flat list but retain their hierarchical relationship in the Keyword Library. To see the relationship, mouse over the keyword in the Keywords tool to get tool tip showing the full path.

If the same keyword exists in more than one Keyword Library then the keyword label is appended with its child relationship to help distinguish in the UI which list it belongs to. See managing lists for more information on making additional Keyword Library.

Re-ordering Keywords

Re-ordering Keywords

Capture One 9 has a unique feature that allows the user to reorder the keywords in the Keywords tool. Note this feature is only available to single image selections. If a batch is selected (along with the Edit Selected Variants option), then the keywords are presented alphabetically and cannot be manually sorted. As a reminder of this, an icon is displayed to the right of the Enter Keywords field.

To reorder the keywords, click and drag the keywords to their new desired position.  This will form the order of keywords when exported or synced to XMP.

Advanced technical note with regard to reordering Hierarchical keywords

Hierarchical keywords can be re-ordered in the Keywords tool. Note for the purposes of syncing to XMP or exporting, the Keywords tool will extract and populate the keyword IPTC field as a “flat list” in the order chosen.

If Hierarchical keywords are used this workflow, their order will be preserved and represented in an additional XMP “bag”: the lightroom:hierarchicalSubject bag. There will, therefore, be some discrepancies in the order of keywords in this workflow between the two fields if viewing the variant in Lightroom, Bridge or an application that supports this XMP bag.

Keyword Library

The Keyword Library

Every document (session or catalog) in Capture One has a document Keyword Library. You can make additional shared Keyword Libraries which will load along side every document Keyword Library. See the “Creating a Keyword Library” section.

The default Keyword Library

Every document in Capture One has a Document Keyword Library. This is called either Session Keywords or Catalog Keywords depending on your chosen document type.

As you add keywords to images in a catalog or session, the default keyword list for the document will populate.

The Keyword Library displays two types of keyword. Active (as solid grey) which indicates the word is applied to the image and passive (with a grey outline) indicating the word is in the list but not applied to the selected image.

Passive keywords will remain in the library even if removed from all images. To remove a keyword entirely from the list, right click on the keyword and choose Delete Selected Keywords…

Creating a Keyword Library

It is sometimes necessary to have a number of lists – either for specific purpose, or for controlling vocabulary. Lists made in addition to the document list are referred to as “Shared”, as once created, any subsequent document opened or created will load these lists alongside the default list.

Shared lists are stored in the application support folder with the extension .cokeywordsDB (see managing Keyword Library)

To make a new Keyword Library, click on the contextual menu (…) icon in the Keyword Library tool bar. You can either:

  • Make new (empty)
  • Make from Keywords text file (a previously exported Keyword Library)
  • Make from a Media Pro Vocabulary File
  • Make from Capture One Catalog/Session (extracts the Document Keyword Library from the chosen Catalog/Session)

Adding keywords to shared Keyword Library

If you wish to add a term to any available Keyword Library without adding it to an image, click on the (+) icon next to the desired list to add a keyword. The keyword will appear in the list as passive (grey outline).

To remove a keyword from the Keyword Library altogether, right-click on the keyword and choose Delete Selected Keywords…

To delete multiple keywords from Keyword lists hold shift key when making a list selection or CMD (Mac) / CTRL (PC) for arbitrary selection, then right click and choose Delete Selected Keywords…

Editing keywords in the Keyword Library

To edit a keyword in the Keyword Library, right-click on the keyword and choose Rename…

To add a child keyword (hierarchical) to an existing term, right-click on the keyword and choose Create Keyword Child.

To delete a keyword, right-click on the keyword and choose Delete Selected Keywords…

To delete multiple keywords press shift+ and select a range, or ctrl+ and select arbitrarily, the keywords required so the border is orange, then right-click and choose Delete Selected Keywords….

Notes about editing Document and Keyword Libraries

  • Editing a keyword in the document Keyword Library will update the images in the document with those keywords.
  • Editing keywords in Shared Keyword Libraries will NOT update their respective images.
  • Session users: Editing or deleting keywords in the Session Keyword Library will only update those keywords applied to images in directories which are part of the session. These are Favorites or the Session folders (Capture, Output, Selects, Trash).

Using the Keyword Library to add keywords to images

To remove a keyword from an image/s using the Keyword Library, highlight the images then click on the (X) icon in the active keywords to make them passive. The Keywords tool will respect the changes made and update to show the remaining keywords.

When applying a keyword child to images, any parents already associated with that child will also be applied.

Using the Keyword Library to remove keywords from images

To remove a keyword from an image, or multiple images, using the Keyword Library, highlight the image/s, then click on the (X) icon in the relevant keywords in the list.

The relevant keywords will be removed from the Keywords tool (as it is this palette that shows applied keywords) while the Keywords Library tool will be updated and display the changes made. Keywords removed from images will still be displayed in the library’s list but the keyword will have changed from active (solid grey) to passive (black with a grey outline).

Any active keywords (i.e., those still applied to the selected images) will be shown in both the Keywords palette and the Keywords Library tool.

Managing Keyword Libraries

Managing the Keyword Library – or indeed multiple Keyword Libraries – is the key to mastering quick keywording.

If a list is required for use in another workstation, or if you wish to export a document Keyword Library as a foundation for a custom Keyword Library you can export the list from the contextual menu option (…) in the specific Keyword Library to a text file (.txt).

This txt format can then be imported on another workstation, shared, or reimported for customization. Upon import of txt file this is converted to a .cokeywordsdb file and stored in the applications support folder.

To import a Keyword Library from another source, click on the (…) icon on the keyword library tool bar and then Create Keyword Library… and then an option from the fly-out menu. Capture One 9 supports import from a variety of sources.


Supported sources:

  • Keyword TXT file (file generated by exporting an existing Keyword Library)
  • Media Pro vocabulary file
  • Catalog/session (document Keyword Library from selected Catalog/Session)


When importing text files with keywords (keyword lists (e.g., from Lightroom) and Media Pro vocabulary files) the following characters are not allowed in the text file:

| ; , < >

By default Shared Keyword Libraries are stored in the application support folder:

Mac: ~/library/application support/capture one/keywords

Win: user\appdata\local\capture one\keywordlibraries

Any Keyword Library saved in these directories will automatically load into created or opened documents.

Additive metadata lists

To complement the keyword implementation, the logic of combining keyword presets has changed in Capture One 9 to allow blending of presets in a more predictable sequence.

Tools affected are keywords and IPTC fields, where word lists are supported:

Subject Code
Supplemental Categories
Getty Personality

In versions prior to Capture One 9, for example, combining the presets:









Would result in B and C being removed in the keyword list.

Capture One 9 now combines the list in a more logical way so that the resulting list would be: