ldif - LDAP Data Interchange Format


The LDAP Data Interchange Format (LDIF) is used to represent LDAP entries and change records in text form. LDAP tools, such as ldapadd(1) and ldapsearch(1), read and write LDIF entry records. ldapmodify(1) reads LDIF change records.

This manual page provides a basic description of LDIF. A formal specification of LDIF is published in RFC 2849.


LDIF entry records are used to represent directory entries. The basic form of an entry record is:

        dn: <distinguished name>
        <attrdesc>: <attrvalue>
        <attrdesc>: <attrvalue>
        <attrdesc>:: <base64-encoded-value>
        <attrdesc>:< <URL>

The value may be specified as UTF-8 text or as base64 encoded data, or a URI may be provided to the location of the attribute value.

A line may be continued by starting the next line with a single space or tab, e.g.,

        dn: cn=Barbara J Jensen,dc=exam

Lines beginning with a sharp sign (’#’) are ignored.

Multiple attribute values are specified on separate lines, e.g.,

        cn: Barbara J Jensen
        cn: Babs Jensen

If an value contains a non-printing character, or begins with a space or a colon ’:’, the <attrtype> is followed by a double colon and the value is encoded in base 64 notation. e.g., the value " begins with a space" would be encoded like this:

        cn:: IGJlZ2lucyB3aXRoIGEgc3BhY2U=

If the attribute value is located in a file, the <attrtype> is followed by a ’:<’ and a file: URI. e.g., the value contained in the file /tmp/value would be listed like this:

        cn:< file:///tmp/value
Other URI schemes (ftp,http) may be supported as well.

Multiple entries within the same LDIF file are separated by blank lines.


Here is an example of an LDIF file containing three entries.

        dn: cn=Barbara J Jensen,dc=example,dc=com
        cn: Barbara J Jensen
        cn: Babs Jensen
        objectclass: person
        description:< file:///tmp/babs
        sn: Jensen

        dn: cn=Bjorn J Jensen,dc=example,dc=com         cn: Bjorn J Jensen         cn: Bjorn Jensen         objectclass: person         sn: Jensen

        dn: cn=Jennifer J Jensen,dc=example,dc=com         cn: Jennifer J Jensen         cn: Jennifer Jensen         objectclass: person         sn: Jensen         jpegPhoto:: /9j/4AAQSkZJRgABAAAAAQABAAD/2wBDABALD          A4MChAODQ4SERATGCgaGBYWGDEjJR0oOjM9PDkzODdASFxOQ          ERXRTc4UG1RV19iZ2hnPk1xeXBkeFxlZ2P/2wBDARESEhgVG         ...

Note that the description in Barbara Jensen’s entry is read from file:///tmp/babs and the jpegPhoto in Jennifer Jensen’s entry is encoded using base 64.


LDIF change records are used to represent directory change requests. Each change record starts with line indicating the distinguished name of the entry being changed:

        dn: <distinguishedname>

        changetype: <[modify|add|delete|modrdn]>

Finally, the change information itself is given, the format of which depends on what kind of change was specified above. For a changetype of modify, the format is one or more of the following:

        add: <attributetype>         <attrdesc>: <value1>         <attrdesc>: <value2>         ...         -

Or, for a replace modification:

        replace: <attributetype>         <attrdesc>: <value1>         <attrdesc>: <value2>         ...         -

If no attributetype lines are given to replace, the entire attribute is to be deleted (if present).

Or, for a delete modification:

        delete: <attributetype>         <attrdesc>: <value1>         <attrdesc>: <value2>         ...         -

If no attributetype lines are given to delete, the entire attribute is to be deleted.

For a changetype of add, the format is:

        <attrdesc1>: <value1>         <attrdesc1>: <value2>         ...         <attrdescN>: <value1>         <attrdescN>: <value2>

For a changetype of modrdn or moddn, the format is:

        newrdn: <newrdn>         deleteoldrdn: 0 | 1         newsuperior: <DN>

where a value of 1 for deleteoldrdn means to delete the values forming the old rdn from the entry, and a value of 0 means to leave the values as non-distinguished attributes in the entry. The newsuperior line is optional and, if present, specifies the new superior to move the entry to.

For a changetype of delete, no additional information is needed in the record.

Note that attribute values may be presented using base64 or in files as described for entry records. Lines in change records may be continued in the manner described for entry records as well.


The following sample LDIF file contains a change record of each type of change.

        dn: cn=Babs Jensen,dc=example,dc=com         changetype: add         objectclass: person         objectclass: extensibleObject         cn: babs         cn: babs jensen         sn: jensen

        dn: cn=Babs Jensen,dc=example,dc=com         changetype: modify         add: givenName         givenName: Barbara         givenName: babs         -         replace: description         description: the fabulous babs         -         delete: sn         sn: jensen         -

        dn: cn=Babs Jensen,dc=example,dc=com         changetype: modrdn         newrdn: cn=Barbara J Jensen         deleteoldrdn: 0         newsuperior: ou=People,dc=example,dc=com

        dn: cn=Barbara J Jensen,ou=People,dc=example,dc=com         changetype: delete


The LDIF parser has been extended to support an include statement for referencing other LDIF files. The include statement must be separated from other records by a blank line. The referenced file is specified using a file: URI and all of its contents are incorporated as if they were part of the original LDIF file. As above, other URI schemes may be supported. For example:

        dn: dc=example,dc=com         objectclass: domain         dc: example

        include: file:///tmp/

        dn: dc=example,dc=org         objectclass: domain         dc: example This feature is not part of the LDIF specification in RFC 2849 but is expected to appear in a future revision of this spec. It is supported by the ldapadd(1), ldapmodify(1), and slapadd(8) commands.


ldap(3), ldapsearch(1), ldapadd(1), ldapmodify(1), slapadd(8), slapcat(8), slapd-ldif(5), slapd.replog(5).

"LDAP Data Interchange Format," Good, G., RFC 2849.


OpenLDAP Software is developed and maintained by The OpenLDAP Project <>. OpenLDAP Software is derived from University of Michigan LDAP 3.3 Release.

openSUSE Logo