Sun Java System Directory Server Enterprise Edition 6.1 Reference

LDIF File Format

LDIF files consist of one or more directory entries separated by a blank line. Each LDIF entry consists of the following parts:

The LDIF format is defined in RFC 2849.

The following example shows a basic directory entry in LDIF.

Example 13–1 A Directory Entry in LDIF

dn: distinguished_name
objectClass: object_class
objectClass: object_class
attribute_type[;subtype]: attribute_value
attribute_type[;subtype]: attribute_value

An LDIF file must contain the following parts:

All other attributes and object classes are optional. Object classes and attributes can be specified in any order. The space after the colon is optional.

The following table describes the fields in a LDIF file.

Table 13–1 LDIF Fields




Optional. A positive decimal number representing the entry ID. The database creation tools generate this ID for you. Never add or edit this value yourself. 

dn: distinguished_name

The distinguished name for the entry. 

objectClass: object_class

An object class to use with this entry. The object class identifies the types of attributes or schema that are allowed and required for the entry.  


A descriptive attribute to use with the entry. The attribute should be defined in the schema. 


Optional. A subtype of one of the following types: 

  • Language (attribute;lang-subtype) identifies the language in which the corresponding attribute value is expressed

  • Binary (attribute;binary) identifies whether the attribute value is binary

  • Pronunciation (attribute;phonetic) identifies whether the attribute value is a pronunciation of an attribute value


The attribute value to be used with the attribute type. 

The LDIF syntax for representing a change to an entry in the directory is different from the syntax described above.

Continuing Lines in LDIF

When you specify LDIF, you can break and continue a line or fold a line by indenting the continued portion of the line by one space. For example, the following two statements are identical:

dn: cn=Babs Jensen,dc=example,dc=com

dn: cn=Babs J

You are not required to break and continue LDIF lines. However, doing so can improve the readability of an LDIF file.

Binary Data in LDIF

You can represent binary data in LDIF by using one of the following methods:

Representing Binary Data by Using Standard LDIF Notation

The following example gives the standard LDIF notation of binary data:

jpegphoto:< file:/path/to/photo

In the example, the path is relative to the client, not to the server. To use standard notation, you do not need to specify the ldapmodify -b parameter. However, you must add the following line to the beginning of your LDIF file or to your LDIF update statements:


For example, you could use the ldapmodify command, as follows:

$ ldapmodify -D userDN -w passwd
version: 1
dn: cn=Barbara Jensen,ou=People,dc=example,dc=com
changetype: modify
add: userCertificate
userCertificate;binary:< file: BabsCert

Representing Binary Data by Using the ldapmodify -b Command

For backward compatibility with earlier versions of Directory Server, binary data can be represented by using the ldapmodify -b command. However, when possible, use the standard LDIF notation to represent binary data.

Directory Server accepts the ldapmodify command with the -b parameter and the following LDIF notation:

jpegphoto: /path/to/photo

This notation indicates that the ldapmodify command should read the referenced file for binary values if the attribute value begins with a slash.

Representing Binary Data by Using Base 64 Encoding

Base 64 encoded data is represented by the :: symbol, as shown in this example:

jpegPhoto:: encoded_data

In addition to binary data, the following values must be base 64 encoded:

Use the ldif command with the -b parameter to convert binary data to LDIF format, as follows.

$ ldif -b attributeName

For more information about how to use the ldif command, see the ldif(1) man page.

In the above example, attributeName is the name of the attribute to which you are supplying the binary data. The binary data is read from standard input and the results are written to standard output. Use redirection operators to select input and output files.

The command takes any input and formats it with the correct line continuation and appropriate attribute information. The command also assesses whether the input requires base–64 encoding. The following example takes a binary file containing a JPEG image and converts it into LDIF format for the attribute named jpegPhoto. The output is saved to out.ldif:

$ ldif -b jpegPhoto < aphoto.jpg > out.ldif

The -b option specifies that the utility should interpret the entire input as a single binary value. If the -b option is not present, each line is considered as a separate input value.

You can edit the output file to add the LDIF statements required to create or modify the directory entry that will contain the binary value. For example, you can open the file out.ldif in a text editor and add the following lines at the top of the file.

dn: cn=Barbara Jensen,ou=People,dc=example,dc=com
changetype: modify
add: jpegPhoto
jpegPhoto:: encoded_data

In this example, encoded_data represents the contents of the out.ldif file produced by the command.