Data Dictionaries

Alation Cloud Service Applies to Alation Cloud Service instances of Alation

Customer Managed Applies to customer-managed instances of Alation

A data dictionary is a consolidated summary file of all curation information for a data source and its child objects—titles, descriptions, and custom field values. The primary use of data dictionaries is bulk-editing:

  • Download—You can export curation information in CSV, XML, and JSON formats for analysis or external use.

  • Upload—You can upload a data dictionary to bulk-curate catalog pages of a data source and its child objects. Supported formats for upload include CSV and TSV.

  • Bulk curation workflow—You can use the data dictionary download and upload as a workflow to curate multiple catalog fields. Editing a downloaded data dictionary file is much simpler than creating a source file from scratch. Begin by downloading the data dictionary. After modifications, upload the updated file to apply changes in bulk.

Additionally, data dictionaries may be used to migrate curation information between data sources.

Data dictionaries have a fixed structure and must conform to the specific format required for each field type.


Data dictionaries are available for RDBMS data sources only—sources that establish a connection between the Alation catalog and databases or virtual RDBMS data sources. The data dictionary download and upload only support RDBMS object types, such as data sources (data), schemas (schema), tables (table), and columns (attribute).

NoSQL object types, such as document store folders (docstore_folder), collections (docstore_collection), and schemas (doc_schema), are not currently supported by data dictionaries. When support for complex data types (struct, array, JSON) is enabled on the Alation instance, complex data type columns are stored as a NoSQL object type (doc_schema). Such columns are not supported by data dictionaries and cannot be curated via the data dictionary upload.