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Girish ParwaniGirish Parwani 

extract all metadata which was created or changed

i need to provide a package.xml file that explicitly lists all contents / metadata that got created or changed in dev sandbox. are there any tools that can simplify this task. does anything need to be done to exclude artifacts related to installed packages.
There are a couple of ways to do this.  You could use a tool like Solenopsis [1] that uses the ANT library to pull down all the data and then does a filesystem level diff on the files.  Then creates a package.xml and file for the ones that have changed.  You could do the same thing yourself if you want to scour through the source code [2].  Optionally, you could use the MetadataAPI and get the If-Modified-Since header [3] for all of the metadata you care about.