Sun Java System Directory Server Enterprise Edition 6.1 Reference

Searching the Directory With ldapsearch

You can use the ldapsearch command-line utility to locate and retrieve directory entries. Note that the ldapsearch utility described in this section is not the utility provided with the Solaris platform, but is part of the Directory Server Resource Kit.

This utility opens a connection to the server with a specified a user identity (usually a distinguished name) and password, and locates entries based on a search filter. Search scopes can include a single entry, an entry’s immediate subentries, or an entire tree or subtree.

Search results are returned in LDIF format.

ldapsearch Command-Line Format

When you use ldapsearch, you must enter the command using the following format:

ldapsearch [optional_options] [search_filter] [optional_list_of_attributes]


Note –

If you want operational attributes returned as a result of a search operation, you must explicitly specify them in the search command. To retrieve regular attributes in addition to explicitly specified operational attributes, use an asterisk (*) in the list of attributes in the ldapsearch command.

Using Special Characters

When using the ldapsearch command-line utility, you may need to specify values that contain characters that have special meaning to the command-line interpreter (such as space [ ], asterisk [*], backslash [\\], and so forth). When you specify special characters, enclose the value in quotation marks (“”). For example:

-D "cn=Charlene Daniels,ou=People,dc=example,dc=com"

Depending on your command-line interpreter, use either single or double quotation marks for this purpose. Refer to your shell documentation for more information.

Commonly Used ldapsearch options

The following lists the most commonly used ldapsearch command-line options. If you specify a value that contains a space [ ], the value should be surrounded by double quotation marks, for example, -b "ou=groups, dc=example,dc=com".


Specifies the starting point for the search. The value specified here must be a distinguished name that currently exists in the database. This option is optional if the LDAP_BASEDN environment variable has been set to a base DN.

The value specified in this option should be provided in double quotation marks. For example:

-b "cn=Charlene Daniels, ou=People, dc=example,dc=com"

Specifies the distinguished name with which to authenticate to the server. This option is optional if anonymous access is supported by your server. If specified, this value must be a DN recognized by Directory Server, and it must also have the authority to search for the entries. For example:

-D "uid=cdaniels, dc=example,dc=com"


Specifies the hostname or IP address of the machine on which Directory Server is installed. If you do not specify a host, ldapsearch uses the localhost. For example, -h myServer.


Specifies the maximum number of seconds to wait for a search request to complete. Regardless of the value specified here, ldapsearch will never wait longer than is allowed by the server’s nsslapd-timelimit attribute (except in the case of a persistent search.)Sun Java System Directory Server Enterprise Edition 6.1 Reference.

For example, -l 300. The default value for the nsslapd-timelimit attribute is 3,600 seconds (1 hour.)


Specifies the TCP port number that Directory Server uses. For example, -p 5201. The default is 389, and 636 when the SSL options are used.


Specifies the scope of the search. The scope can be one of:

  • base—Search only the entry specified in the -b option or defined by the LDAP_BASEDN environment variable.

  • one—Search only the immediate children of the entry specified in the -b option. Only the children are searched; the actual entry specified in the -b option is not searched.

  • sub—Search the entry specified in the -b option and all of its descendants. That is, perform a subtree search starting at the point identified in the -b option. This is the default.


Specifies the password associated with the distinguished name that is specified in the -D option. If you do not specify this option, anonymous access is used. For example, -w diner892.


Specifies that the search results are sorted on the server rather than on the client. This is useful if you want to sort according to a matching rule, as with an international search. In general, it is faster to sort on the server rather than on the client, although server-side sorting uses server resources.


Specifies the maximum number of entries to return in response to a search request. For example, -z 1000.

Normally, regardless of the value specified here, ldapsearch never returns more entries than the number allowed by the server’s nsslapd-sizelimit attribute. However, you can override this limitation by binding as the root DN when using this command-line argument. When you bind as the root DN, this option defaults to zero (0). The default value for the nsslapd-sizelimit attribute is 2,000 entries.

For detailed information on all ldapsearch utility options, refer to ldapmodify(1).