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Sun ONE Directory Server Resource Kit 5.2 Tools Reference 

Chapter 4
The ldapmodify Tool

The ldapmodify tool edits the contents of a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) directory, either by adding new entries or modifying existing ones. This chapter provides instructions on how to use the ldapmodify tool. It contains the following sections:


The ldapmodify tool takes entry updates, defined using the LDAP Data Interchange Format (LDIF), as input and issues a corresponding LDAP request to the designated directory server. The LDIF information can be configured in a file or directly at the command-line.


By placing all entry update statements in a file, ldapmodify can be used to process large numbers of modifications as well as transferring entries between directories.

ldapmodify is also provided with Sun™ ONE Directory Server in the DirectoryServer_base/shared/bin directory. However, the DSRK and its updates should include the latest version of the tool in the DSRK_base/bin/dsrk52 directory.


If you use the Solaris™ operating environment, there may be an older version of ldapmodify in /usr/bin. Be sure your path is set to use the latest version in DSRK_base/bin/dsrk52.

Command Usage

The ldapmodify tool processes entry update statements, or change records, defined by the LDIF . A change record contains the DN (distinguished name) of the target entry, the operation to perform, and any data needed to complete the operation. Code Example 4-1 is a change record configured to change Barbara Jensen’s surname [sn] attribute to Morris. In addition, it will change all values of the multi-valued cn attribute. (When using the replace syntax, all current values of the specified attribute will be removed and all given values will be added.)

Code Example 4-1  Entry Update Statement or Change Record

ldapmodify -h host -p port -D "cn=Directory Manager" -w password

dn: uid=bjensen,ou=People,dc=example,dc=com

changetype: modify

replace: sn

sn: Morris


replace: cn

cn: Barbara Morris

cn: Babs Morris

ldapmodify reads any number of these change records from the command-line or from a file, modifying the corresponding entries according to the LDIF instructions. For each DN in the LDIF file, the tool will perform the requested LDAP operation (defined by changetype) on the designated entry. ldapmodify supports the following operations:


The syntax of the ldapmodify tool on the command-line can take any of these forms:

ldapmodify [ options ]

ldapmodify [ options ] < LDIFfile

ldapmodify [ options ] -f LDIFfile


In its first form (without LDIFfile), ldapmodify takes one or more LDIF update statements configured at the command-line, and ends the input with an end-of-file (EOF) marker. Once you enter all update statements and the EOF marker, ldapmodify will process the input and perform all operations.


The EOF marker is platform dependent:

  • Type Control-D (^d) on most UNIX systems.
  • Type Control-Z (^z) and press Enter on Windows NT.

The next two syntaxes take an LDIF file as input. The second syntax uses < (the less than symbol) to take the input from the specified file instead of the keyboard. The final syntax does the same by using the -f option. Some samples of syntax and update statements are given in Command-Line Examples.


For general information on LDIF, see Appendix E, “LDAP Data Interchange Format,” in the Sun ONE Directory Server Reference Manual). Additional information on LDIF and update statements is in “Managing Entries From the Command Line” in Chapter 2 of the Sun ONE Directory Server Administration Guide.

Modification Prerequisites

When modifying the contents of a directory, you must satisfy several prerequisite conditions. First, the bind DN and password used for authentication must have the appropriate permissions for the operations being performed. (Many high level directory operations, such as creating a database suffix, may only be performed by the Directory Manager with a bind DN of "cn=directory manager".) Second, if schema checking is active in your directory, Directory Server will check the contents of new and modified entries against the object class definition in the LDAP schema. All attributes of an entry, even those not being modified, are checked against the schema and must meet the following conditions:

Finally, you must ensure the coherent placement of entries in the LDIF input. Updates are performed in the order they are given in the input, allowing you to manage dependencies between operations. For example, if you want to add entries to a subtree that doesn’t exist, your LDIF input must first give the update statement for adding the subtree entry, before the update statements for adding entries under the subtree.


When a modification fails, only the operation on the faulty entry is affected. ldapmodify will stop processing further input although all entries processed before the error was encountered will be successfully added or modified. Use the -c option to specify that the tool should continue processing.


The ldapmodify tool has three types of options:

The following sections detail these options. The ldapmodify -H command and option when run on the command-line will display text that briefly describes all of the command-line options.

Common Options

The common options listed in Table 4-1 control the binding and general behavior of the ldapmodify command.

Table 4-1  Common Options for ldapmodify 






Specify the hostname of the directory server. When this option is omitted, the default is localhost.



Specify the port number for accessing the directory server host. The default is 389 normally and 636 when the SSL options are used.



Specify a bind DN for accessing your directory, usually in double quotes ("") for the shell. If the bind DN and its password are omitted, the tool will use anonymous binding. The bind DN determines what entries and attributes may be modified, according to the DN’s access permissions.



Specify the password for the bind DN. CAUTION: Specifying the password on the command-line is a possible security risk.



Type the password for the bind DN when prompted. This is the most secure way of specifying the password.



Specify a file containing the password for the bind DN. Use this option in scripts and place the password in a secure file to protect it. This option is mutually exclusive with the -w option.



Give the name of a file containing LDIF update statements or new entries. (See Syntax.) The tool will perform each of the update operations (add, modify, or delete) in the order given in the file. When this option is omitted, ldapmodify will read LDIF update statements from the standard input (command-line).



Specify the base DN when performing additions, usually in double quotes ("") for the shell. All entries will be placed under this suffix, thus providing bulk import functionality.



Specify the LDAP protocol version number to be used for the modify operation, either 2 or 3. LDAP v3 is the default; only specify LDAP v2 when connecting to servers that do not support v3.



Specify the proxy DN to use for the modify operation, usually in double quotes ("") for the shell. For more information about proxy authorization, see Chapter 6, “Managing Access Control,” in the Sun ONE Directory Server Administration Guide.



Manage smart referrals: when they are the target of the update, modify the actual entry containing the referral instead of the entry obtained by following the referral. For more information, see “Creating Smart Referrals” in Chapter 2 of the Sun ONE Directory Server Administration Guide.



(Capital letter O) Specify the maximum number of referral hops to follow while finding an entry to modify. By default, there is no limit.



Specify that referrals should not be followed. By default, referrals are followed automatically.



Quiet output mode: the tool will not display any output about the operations it performs.



Verbose output mode: the tool will display additional information about the operations it performs.



No-op mode: use with the -v option to show what the tool would do with the given input but do not perform any operations.



Allow runtime library version mismatches. When this option is omitted, the default behavior is to assert that the revision number of the LDAP API is greater than or equal to that used to compile the tool. Also, if the API library and the tool have the same vendor name, the tool will also assert that the vendor version number of the API is greater than or equal to that used to compile the tool. This information is based on the contents of the LDAPAPIInfo structure. (See the Sun ONE LDAP SDK for C Programming Guide.)



Display the usage help text that briefly describes all options.

Input And Output Options

The input and output options listed in Table 4-2 control how ldapmodify processes input files and handles errors.

Table 4-2  Input and Output Options for ldapmodify 






The add entry mode provides an easy way to add entries in LDIF. All input entries that do not contain an LDIF changetype statement and keyword are processed as adds; entries with a defined changetype statement are processed accordingly. In particular, this option allows you to directly add entries from the output files of the ldapsearch tool.



Force the application of all updates, regardless of the replica status.



Specify the character set to use for the -f LDIFfile or standard input. The default is the character set specified in the LANG environment variable. You might want to use this option to perform the conversion from the specified character set to UTF8, thus overriding the LANG setting.



Specify the path to a directory containing conversion routines. These routines are used to specify a locale that is not supported by default by your directory server. For more information, see Appendix C, “Directory Internationalization” in the Sun ONE Directory Server Reference Manual.



Handle binary files: the ldapmodify tool will scan every attribute value in the input to determine whether it is a valid file reference, and if so, it will use the contents of the file as the attribute’s value. This option is used to input binary data for an attribute, such as a JPEG image. For example, the corresponding LDIF input would be:

  • jpegPhoto: /tmp/photo.jpg (on a UNIX platform)
  • jpegPhoto: c:\tmp\photo.jpg (on Windows)

The ldapmodify tool also supports the LDIF : < URL notation for directly including file contents. For example:

  • jpegPhoto: < file:///tmp/photo.jpg (on all platforms)

If all of your input entries use this notation, you do not need to specify the -b option. This option also allows you to process entries from the output files of the ldapsearch tool when it uses the -t option.



Non-ASCII mode: display non-ASCII values, in conjunction with the -v option.



Continuous mode: errors are reported but the ldapmodify tool will continue processing input and performing operations. When this option is omitted, the default is to quit after reporting an error.



Invalid update statements in the input will be copied to the errorFile for debugging. Use with the -c option to correct errors when processing large LDIF input.

SSL (Secure Socket Layer) Options

The options in Table 4-3 allow you to use LDAPS (LDAP over SSL) to establish a secure connection for the update operation. These options are valid only when LDAPS has been enabled and configured in your SSL-enabled directory server. For information on certificate-based authentication and creating a certificate database for use with LDAP clients, see Chapter 11, “Implementing Security,” in the Sun ONE Directory Server Administration Guide. See Using Authentication for examples using the SSL options.


Only the -P option is required for server authentication. For the more secure client authentication, the -P, -N, -K and -W options are required.

Table 4-3  SSL Options for ldapmodify 






Specify the path and filename of the client’s certificate database. This file may be the same as the certificate database for an SSL-enabled version of Netscape™ Communicator, if available; for example: -P /home/uid/.netscape/cert7.db. When using the command on the same host as the directory server, you may use the server’s own certificate database, for example:
-P installDir/slapd-serverID/alias/cert7.db.

Use the -P option alone to specify server authentication only.



Specify that SSL be used to provide certificate-based client authentication. This option requires the -N and -W options and any other of the SSL options needed to identify the certificate and the key database.



Specify the certificate name to use for certificate-based client authentication, for example: -N "Directory-Cert".



Specify the path to the security module database. For example, /usr/iplanet/servers/slapd-serverID/secmodule.db. You need to specify this option only if the security module database is in a different directory from the certificate database itself.



Specify the file and path name of the client’s private key database. This option may be omitted if the key database is in the location already given by the -P option.



Specify the password for the client’s key database given in the -K or -P options. This option is required for certificate-based client authentication.

Return Values

The ldapmodify tool is based on the Sun ONE LDAP SDK for C and its return values are those of the functions it uses, such as ldap_simple_bind_s(), ldap_add_ext_s(), ldap_modify_ext_s(), and ldap_delete_ext_s(). These functions return both client-side and server-side errors and codes. Table 4-4 shows the possible return values when the directory is hosted on a Sun ONE Directory Server. Other LDAP servers may send these values under different circumstances or may send different values. They may also send other result codes entirely; for example, custom result codes from a custom plug-in. For further information about result codes, see the Sun ONE LDAP SDK for C Programming Guide.

Table 4-4  Return Values of ldapmodify 

Return Value

Result Code
and Explanation

  0 (0x00)

LDAP_SUCCESS: the operation was successful.

  1 (0x01)

LDAP_OPERATIONS_ERROR: sent by Directory Server for general errors encountered by the server when processing the request.

  2 (0x02)

LDAP_PROTOCOL_ERROR: the modify request did not comply with the LDAP protocol. Directory Server may set this error code in the results for a variety of reasons, such as encountering an error when decoding the BER-encoded request.

10 (0x0a)

LDAP_REFERRAL: sent by Directory Server if the specified DN is an entry not handled by the current server and if the referral URL identifies a different server to handle the entry.

16 (0x10)

LDAP_NO_SUCH_ATTRIBUTE: sent by Directory Server if the attribute that you want to modify (add, replace, or delete) does not exist.

19 (0x13)

LDAP_CONSTRAINT_VIOLATION: sent by Directory Server when improperly modifying the userpassword attribute, for example if the new value is shorter than the allowed minimum length.

20 (0x14)

LDAP_TYPE_OR_VALUE_EXISTS: sent by Directory Server when attempting to add an attribute to an entry in which the attribute already exists with the given value.

21 (0x15)

LDAP_INVALID_SYNTAX: sent by Directory Server if your client is modifying the schema entry and no object class or attribute type is specified.

32 (0x20)

LDAP_NO_SUCH_OBJECT: sent by Directory Server if the entry that you want to modify or delete does not exist.

50 (0x32)

LDAP_INSUFFICIENT_ACCESS: sent by Directory Server if the DN used for authentication does not have permission to write to the entry.

53 (0x35)

LDAP_UNWILLING_TO_PERFORM: sent by Directory Server when:

  • The directory is read-only.
  • Attempting to add attributes to the special directory configuration entry.
  • Attempting to modify attributes in the special schema entry.

65 (0x41)

LDAP_OBJECT_CLASS_VIOLATION: sent by Directory Server if the modified entry does not comply with the directory schema (for example, if one or more required attributes are not specified).

67 (0x43)

LDAP_NOT_ALLOWED_ON_RDN: sent by Directory Server if the modified entry no longer contains attributes for each DN component.

68 (0x44)

LDAP_ALREADY_EXISTS: sent by Directory Server if the DN of the entry that you want to add is already present in the directory.

81 (0x51)

LDAP_SERVER_DOWN: the LDAP server did not receive the request or the connection to the server was lost.

82 (0x52)

LDAP_LOCAL_ERROR: an error occurred when receiving the results from the server.

83 (0x53)

LDAP_ENCODING_ERROR: BER-encoding the request is not possible.

84 (0x54)

LDAP_DECODING_ERROR: an error occurred when decoding the BER-encoded results from the server.

89 (0x59)

LDAP_PARAM_ERROR: one of the options or parameters is invalid.

90 (0x5a)

LDAP_NO_MEMORY: memory cannot be allocated as needed.

91 (0x5b)

LDAP_CONNECT_ERROR: the specified hostname or port is invalid.

92 (0x5c)

LDAP_NOT_SUPPORTED: the -V 2 option is needed to access a server that only supports LDAP v2.

Command-Line Examples

The examples in this section demonstrate common uses of the ldapmodify tool to update the contents of a directory. All examples assume the following:

Adding an Entry

This example uses the -a option for bulk addition, so the changetype: add statement and keyword are not needed in the input. Instead, it contains standard LDIF entries to be added. Code Example 4-2 is the input file called newEntry.ldif which defines only one entry to add.

Code Example 4-2  newEntry.ldif Input File 

dn: cn=Pete Minsky,ou=People,dc=example,dc=com

objectclass: top

objectclass: person

objectclass: organizationalPerson

objectclass: inetOrgPerson

cn: Pete Minsky

givenName: Pete

sn: Minsky

ou: People

ou: Marketing

uid: peterm

To perform this addition, launch the ldapmodify tool with the -a option and specify the input file with the -f option:

$ ldapmodify -h hostname -a -f newEntry.ldif \
              -D "uid=bjensen,dc=example,dc=com" -w bindPassword

Modifying an Entry

The update statement for a modification includes change records that specify the attributes to change and their new values. (See “Managing Entries From the Command Line” in Chapter 2 of the Sun ONE Directory Server Administration Guide for a description of this syntax.) Code Example 4-3 is the modifyEntry.ldif file which includes statements for adding a new attribute and modifying an existing one. The line with a single dash (-) is a separator for multiple modifications in the same entry.

Code Example 4-3  modifyEntry.ldif Input File

dn: cn=Pete Minsky,ou=People,dc=example,dc=com

changetype: modify

add: telephonenumber

telephonenumber: (408) 555-2468


replace: uid

uid: pminsky

To perform the operation, launch the ldapmodify tool and specify the filename on the command-line.

$ ldapmodify -h hostname -f modifyEntry.ldif \
              -D "uid=bjensen,dc=example,dc=com" -w bindPassword

Deleting an Entry

The update statement for a deletion requires only the DN and the changetype. This example shows how to enter this information as standard input on the command-line:

$ ldapmodify -h hostname \
             -D "uid=bjensen,dc=example,dc=com" \
             -w bindPassword \
             dn: cn=Pete Minsky,ou=People,dc=example,dc=com \
              changetype: delete ^D

Using Authentication

There are two levels of authentication that the directory server may enforce on clients such as the ldapmodify tool: server authentication and client authentication. In server authentication, the server accepts connections only from clients that have a trusted certificate. In the stronger client authentication the client must sign the certificate with a password-protected private key.


In both cases, use the -p option to specify the directory server’s SSL port. All other non-SSL options retain their original meaning and may be used as necessary.

Using Server Authentication

To run the ldapmodify tool with server authentication, use only the -P SSL option [as discussed in SSL (Secure Socket Layer) Options] on the command-line, in addition to other common options.

$ ldapmodify -h hostname -p 636 -f LDIFfile \
             -D "uid=bjensen,dc=example,dc=com" -w bindPassword \
             -P /home/bjensen/certs/cert.db

Using Client Authentication

To perform an update with client authentication, you must give all SSL options [as discussed in SSL (Secure Socket Layer) Options] on the command-line, in addition to other common options.

$ ldapmodify -h hostname -p 636 -f LDIFfile \
             -Z -P /home/bjensen/security/cert.db -N "bjscert" \
              -K /home/bjensen/security/key.db -W KeyPassword


Do not use the -D and -w common options with client authentication, as the bind operation will use the authentication credentials specified with -D and -w instead of the certificate credentials desired.

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