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I have some metadata that is being managed by the standard ArcGIS Metadata tooling accessed via the description tab in ArcCatalog.

Unfortunately (at least) one of the fields is not being applied correctly and when I look at the underlying xml I find that the element has its sync attribute set to false:

<formatName Sync="FALSE"/>

I remember that when we were managing our metadata via custom tooling we would have to be mindful of the esriMetadataSyncAction passed to the IMetadata.Synchronize() method or we would find the updates were only partially applied.

This leads me to ask, under what circumstances does ArcGIS set the sync attribute? And is there any way to override this using the standard tooling?

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It sets sync to FALSE when you edit the contents in ArcCatalog, such as changing the title from the file name to a user-friendly version. I just tested the metadata item in your example and it did let me change it, then sync was set to FALSE. I guess someone might want to change the Distribution format type to something other than ESRI terminology such as "shapefile". So I would guess some editor added a space or something at some point to that metadata item, which triggered the change. You can edit the XML back to TRUE and it should stay TRUE.

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