LDAP Data Interchange Format (LDIF)                         Gordon Good
INTERNET-DRAFT                                  Netscape Communications
                                                       22 February 1999

   The LDAP Data Interchange Format (LDIF) - Technical Specification
                 Filename: draft-good-ldap-ldif-03.txt

Status of this Memo

   This document is an Internet-Draft and is in full conformance
   with all provisions of Section 10 of RFC2026.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
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   Drafts as reference material or to cite them other than as
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   To view the list Internet-Draft Shadow Directories, see

   This Internet Draft expires August 22nd, 1999.


   This document describes a file format suitable for describing
   directory information or modifications made to directory information.
   The file format, known as LDIF, for LDAP Data Interchange Format, is
   typically used to import and export directory information between
   LDAP-based directory servers, or to describe a set of changes which
   are to be applied to a directory.

Background and Intended Usage

   There are a number of situations where a common interchange format is
   desirable.  For example, one might wish to export a copy of the
   contents of a directory server to a file, move that file to a
   different machine, and import the contents into a second directory

   Additionally, by using a well-defined interchange format, development

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   of data import tools from legacy systems is facilitated.  A fairly
   simple set of tools written in awk or perl can, for example, convert
   a database of personnel information into an LDIF file. Thie file can
   then be imported into a directory server, regardless of the internal
   database representation the target directory server uses.

   The LDIF format was originally developed and used in the University
   of Michigan LDAP implementation.  The first use of LDIF was in
   describing directory entries.  Later, the format was expanded to
   allow representation of changes to directory entries.

   Relationship to the application/directory MIME content-type:

   The application/directory MIME content-type [1] is a general
   framework and format for conveying directory information, and is
   independent of any particular directory service.  The LDIF format is
   a simpler format which is perhaps easier to create, and also may also
   be used, as noted, to describe a set of changes to be applied to a

   The key words "MUST", "MAY", and "SHOULD" used in this document are
   to be interpreted as described in [7].

Definition of the LDAP Data Interchange Format

   The LDIF format is used to convey directory information, or a
   description of a set of changes made to directory entries.  An LDIF
   file consists of a series of records separated by line separators.  A
   record consists of a sequence of lines describing a directory entry,
   or a sequence of lines describing a set of changes to a directory
   entry.  An LDIF file specifies a set of directory entries, or a set
   of changes to be applied to directory entries, but not both.

   There is a one-to-one correlation between LDAP operations which
   modify the directory (add, delete, modify, and modrdn), and the types
   of changerecords described below ("add", "delete", "modify", and
   "modrdn" or "moddn").  This correspondence is intentional, and
   permits a straightforward translation from LDIF changerecords to
   protocol operations.

Formal Syntax Definition of LDIF

   The following definition uses the augmented Backus-Naur Form
   specified in RFC 822 [2].

   ldif-file            = ldif-content / ldif-changes

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   ldif-content         = version-spec 1*SEP
                          ldif-attrval-record *(1*SEP ldif-attrval-record)
   ldif-changes         = version-spec 1*SEP
                          ldif-change-record *(1*SEP ldif-change-record)
   ldif-attrval-record  = dn-spec SEP 1*(attrval-spec SEP)
   ldif-change-record   = dn-spec SEP 1*(changerecord SEP)

   version-spec         = "version:" *SPACE version-number
   version-number       = 1*DIGIT  ; version-number MUST be "1" for the
                                   ; LDIF format described in this document.

   dn-spec              = ("dn:" *SPACE dn) / ("dn::" *SPACE base64-dn)
   dn                   = <a distinguished name, as defined in RFC 2253 [3]>
   base64-dn            = <a dn which has been base-64 encoded, as
                          defined in RFC 1521 [5]>
   rdn                  = <a relative distinguished name, as defined in RFC
                          2253 [3]>
   base64-rdn           = <an rdn which has been base-64 encoded, as
                          defined in RFC 1521 [5]>

   attrval-spec         = attribute-description ((":") / (":" *SPACE value) /
                                                 ("::" *SPACE base64-value) /
                                                 (":<" *SPACE url))
   url                  = <a Uniform Resource Locator, as defined in [6]>
                                  ; (See Note 6, below)
   attribute-description = <an attribute description, as defined in [4].
                            An attribute description MAY NOT contain a
                            colon ":">
   value                = 1*safe-initval *safe
                                  ; (See Note 9, below)
   safe                 = <any value except CR or LF>
   safe-initval         = <any value except CR, LF, colon (":", ASCII 58
                          decimal), SPACE, and less-than ("<" , ASCII 60
   base64-value         = <base-64-encoded value, as defined in RFC 1521 [5]>

   changerecord         = change-add / change-delete / change-modify /
   change-add           = "changetype:" *SPACE "add" 1*(SEP attrval-spec)
   change-delete        = "changetype:" *SPACE "delete"
   change-moddn         = "changetype:" *SPACE ("modrdn" / "moddn") SEP
                          ("newrdn:" *SPACE rdn /
                           "newrdn::" *SPACE base-64-rdn) SEP
                          "deleteoldrdn:" *SPACE ("0" / "1")
                          0,1*(SEP (("newsuperior:" *SPACE dn) /
                                    ("newsuperior::" *SPACE base-64-dn)))
   change-modify        = "changetype:" *SPACE "modify" 1*(SEP mod-spec)
   mod-spec             = mod-add-spec / mod-delete-spec / mod-replace-spec

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   mod-add-spec         = "add:" *SPACE attribute-description
                          1*(SEP attrval-spec) SEP "-"
   mod-delete-spec      = "delete:" *SPACE attribute-description
                          *(SEP attrval-spec) SEP "-"
   mod-replace-spec     = "replace:" *SPACE attribute-description
                          *(SEP attrval-spec) SEP "-"
   SPACE                = <ASCII SP, space>
   SEP                  = (CR LF / LF)
   CR                   = <ASCII CR, carriage return>
   LF                   = <ASCII LF, line feed>
   DIGIT                = <any ASCII decimal digit (60 - 71 decimal) >

   Notes on LDIF Syntax

   1) For the LDIF format described in this document, the version number
   MUST be "1". If the version number is absent, implementations MAY
   choose to interpret the contents as an older LDIF file format,
   supported by the University of Michigan ldap-3.3 implementation [8].

   2) Any line, including comment lines, in an LDIF file MAY be wrapped
   by inserting a line separator (SEP) and a SPACE.  Any line which
   begins with a single space MUST be treated as a continuation of the
   previous line. When joining folded lines, exactly one space character
   at the beginning of each continued line must be discarded.

   3) Any line which begins with a pound-sign ("#", ASCII 35) is a
   comment line, and MUST be ignored when parsing an LDIF file.

   4) Any dn or value which contains characters other than those defined
   as "safe", or begins with a character other than those defined as
   "safe-initval", above, MUST be base-64 encoded.  Other values MAY be
   base-64 encoded.

   5) To represent a zero-length attribute value, use an attrval-spec of
   "attribute-description:".  For example, "seeAlso:" represents a
   zero-length "seeAlso" attribute value.

   6) When a URL is specified in an attrval-spec, the following
   conventions apply:
      a) Implementations SHOULD support the file:// URL format.  The
         contents of the referenced file are to be included verbatim
         in the interpreted output of the LDIF file.
      b) Implementations MAY support other URL formats.  The semantics
         associated with each supported URL will be documented in
         an associated Applicability Statement.

   7) While it is permissible for character values larger than 126 to be

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   contained in an attribute value, implementations SHOULD base-64
   encode any value which contains such characters when generating LDIF.
   However, implementations MAY leave the values unencoded.  This
   relaxation is designed to allow editing of LDIF files containing
   UTF-8 data.

   8) Attribute values contained in LDIF files represent directory data,
   and therefore MUST be valid UTF-8 strings. Implementations which read
   LDIF MAY interpret files in which the values are stored in some other
   character set encoding, but implementations MUST NOT generate LDIF
   content which does not contain valid UTF-8 data.

   9) Values that end with SPACE SHOULD be base-64 encoded.

Examples of LDAP Data Interchange Format

   Example 1: An simple LDAP file with two entries

   version: 1
   dn: cn=Barbara Jensen, ou=Product Development, dc=airius, dc=com
   objectclass: top
   objectclass: person
   objectclass: organizationalPerson
   cn: Barbara Jensen
   cn: Barbara J Jensen
   cn: Babs Jensen
   sn: Jensen
   uid: bjensen
   telephonenumber: +1 408 555 1212
   description: A big sailing fan.

   dn: cn=Bjorn Jensen, ou=Accounting, dc=airius, dc=com
   objectclass: top
   objectclass: person
   objectclass: organizationalPerson
   cn: Bjorn Jensen
   sn: Jensen
   telephonenumber: +1 408 555 1212

   Example 2: A file containing an entry with a folded attribute value

   version: 1
   dn:cn=Barbara Jensen, ou=Product Development, dc=airius, dc=com
   cn:Barbara Jensen

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   cn:Barbara J Jensen
   cn:Babs Jensen
   telephonenumber:+1 408 555 1212
   description:Babs is a big sailing fan, and travels extensively in search of
    perfect sailing conditions.
   title:Product Manager, Rod and Reel Division

   Example 3: A file containing a base-64-encoded value

   version: 1
   dn: cn=Gern Jensen, ou=Product Testing, dc=airius, dc=com
   objectclass: top
   objectclass: person
   objectclass: organizationalPerson
   cn: Gern Jensen
   cn: Gern O Jensen
   sn: Jensen
   uid: gernj
   telephonenumber: +1 408 555 1212
   description:: V2hhdCBhIGNhcmVmdWwgcmVhZGVyIHlvdSBhcmUhICBUaGlzIHZhbHVlIGlzIGJ

   Example 4: A file containing an entries with UTF-8-encoded attribute
   values, including language tags.  Comments indicate the contents
   of UTF-8-encoded attributes and distinguished names.

   version: 1
   dn:: b3U95Za25qWt6YOoLG89QWlyaXVz
   # dn:: ou=<JapaneseOU>,o=Airius
   objectclass: top
   objectclass: organizationalUnit
   ou:: 5Za25qWt6YOo
   # ou:: <JapaneseOU>
   ou;lang-ja:: 5Za25qWt6YOo
   # ou;lang-ja:: <JapaneseOU>
   ou;lang-ja;phonetic:: 44GI44GE44GO44KH44GG44G2
   # ou;lang-ja:: <JapaneseOU_in_phonetic_representation>
   ou;lang-en: Sales
   description: Japanese office

   dn:: dWlkPXJvZ2FzYXdhcmEsb3U95Za25qWt6YOoLG89QWlyaXVz
   # dn:: uid=<uid>,ou=<JapaneseOU>,o=Airius
   userpassword: {SHA}O3HSv1MusyL4kTjP+HKI5uxuNoM=
   objectclass: top
   objectclass: person

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   objectclass: organizationalPerson
   objectclass: inetOrgPerson
   uid: rogasawara
   mail: rogasawara@airius.co.jp
   givenname;lang-ja:: 44Ot44OJ44OL44O8
   # givenname;lang-ja:: <JapaneseGivenname>
   sn;lang-ja:: 5bCP56yg5Y6f
   # sn;lang-ja:: <JapaneseSn>
   cn;lang-ja:: 5bCP56yg5Y6fIOODreODieODi+ODvA==
   # cn;lang-ja:: <JapaneseCn>
   title;lang-ja:: 5Za25qWt6YOoIOmDqOmVtw==
   # title;lang-ja:: <JapaneseTitle>
   preferredlanguage: ja
   givenname:: 44Ot44OJ44OL44O8
   # givenname:: <JapaneseGivenname>
   sn:: 5bCP56yg5Y6f
   # sn:: <JapaneseSn>
   cn:: 5bCP56yg5Y6fIOODreODieODi+ODvA==
   # cn:: <JapaneseCn>
   title:: 5Za25qWt6YOoIOmDqOmVtw==
   # title:: <JapaneseTitle>
   givenname;lang-ja;phonetic:: 44KN44Gp44Gr44O8
   # givenname;lang-ja;phonetic::
   sn;lang-ja;phonetic:: 44GK44GM44GV44KP44KJ
   # sn;lang-ja;phonetic:: <JapaneseSn_in_phonetic_representation_kana>
   cn;lang-ja;phonetic:: 44GK44GM44GV44KP44KJIOOCjeOBqeOBq+ODvA==
   # cn;lang-ja;phonetic:: <JapaneseCn_in_phonetic_representation_kana>
   title;lang-ja;phonetic:: 44GI44GE44GO44KH44GG44G2IOOBtuOBoeOCh+OBhg==
   # title;lang-ja;phonetic:: <JapaneseTitle_in_phonetic_representation_kana>
   givenname;lang-en: Rodney
   sn;lang-en: Ogasawara
   cn;lang-en: Rodney Ogasawara
   title;lang-en: Sales, Director

   Example 5: A file containing a reference to an external file

   version: 1
   dn: cn=Horatio Jensen, ou=Product Testing, dc=airius, dc=com
   objectclass: top
   objectclass: person
   objectclass: organizationalPerson
   cn: Horatio Jensen
   cn: Horatio N Jensen
   sn: Jensen
   uid: hjensen
   telephonenumber: +1 408 555 1212
   jpegphoto:< file:///usr/local/directory/photos/hjensen.jpg

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   Example 6: A file containing a series of change records and comments

   version: 1
   # Add a new entry
   dn: cn=Fiona Jensen, ou=Marketing, dc=airius, dc=com
   changetype: add
   objectclass: top
   objectclass: person
   objectclass: organizationalPerson
   cn: Fiona Jensen
   sn: Jensen
   uid: fiona
   telephonenumber: +1 408 555 1212
   jpegphoto:< file:///usr/local/directory/photos/fiona.jpg

   # Delete an existing entry
   dn: cn=Robert Jensen, ou=Marketing, dc=airius, dc=com
   changetype: delete

   # Modify an entry's relative distinguished name
   dn: cn=Paul Jensen, ou=Product Development, dc=airius, dc=com
   changetype: modrdn
   newrdn: cn=Paula Jensen
   deleteoldrdn: 1

   # Rename an entry and move all of its children to a new location in
   # the directory tree (only implemented by LDAPv3 servers).
   dn: ou=PD Accountants, ou=Product Development, dc=airius, dc=com
   changetype: modrdn
   newrdn: ou=Product Development Accountants
   deleteoldrdn: 0
   newsuperior: ou=Accounting, dc=airius, dc=com

   # Modify an entry: add an additional value to the postaladdress attribute,
   # completely delete the description attribute, replace the telephonenumber
   # attribute with two values, and delete a specific value from the
   # facsimiletelephonenumber attribute
   dn: cn=Paula Jensen, ou=Product Development, dc=airius, dc=com
   changetype: modify
   add: postaladdress
   postaladdress: 123 Anystreet $ Sunnyvale, CA $ 94086
   delete: description
   replace: telephonenumber
   telephonenumber: +1 408 555 1234
   telephonenumber: +1 408 555 5678

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   delete: facsimiletelephonenumber
   facsimiletelephonenumber: +1 408 555 9876

Security Considerations

   Given typical directory applications, an LDIF file is likely to
   contain sensitive personal data.  Appropriate measures should be
   taken to protect the privacy of those persons whose data is contained
   in an LDIF file.

   Since ":<" directives can cause external content to be included when
   processing an LDIF file, one should be cautious of accepting LDIF
   files from external sources.  A "trojan" LDIF file could name a file
   with sensitive contents and cause it to be included in a directory
   entry, which a hostile entity could read via LDAP.

   LDIF does not provide any method for carrying authentication
   information with an LDIF file.  Users of LDIF files must take care to
   verify the integrity of an LDIF file received from an external

Appendix A: Differences from previous versions of this document

   This section summarizes the differences between previous revisions of
   this draft, as an aid to document reviewers. This section will be
   deleted prior to publication as an RFC.

   Differences between draft-ietf-asid-ldif-00.txt and draft-ietf-asid-

   1) The BNF has been modified to explicitly disallow ldif content and
   change records in the same file.  In other words, a given LDIF file
   is either a series of directory entries, or a series of
   modifications.  An LDIF file MUST NOT contain both types of records.

   2) External references are now URLs, instead of simple filenames.

   3) The BNF has been modified to allow base-64-encoded distinguished

   4) Multiple separators are now permitted between records.

   Differences between draft-ietf-asid-ldif-01.txt and draft-ietf-asid-

   1) The BNF has been modified such that a simple attribute name

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   ("attrname") has been replaced with an "attribute-description" as
   defined in the LDAPv3 protocol document [4].  This permits language
   codes and other attribute options to be carried in an LDIF file.

   2) A new option, "charset", may be used in attribute descriptions.
   This facilitates multi-lingual character set conversion.

   3) The definition of the "safe" and "safe-initval" productions has
   been relaxed to allow non-ASCII characters with values greater than
   126.  This permits more natural expression of character sets such as
   Latin-1 in LDIF files.

   Differences between draft-ietf-asid-ldif-02.txt and draft-good-ldap-

   1) The "charset-option" and "charset-name" productions were removed
   from the BNF, due to objections within the working group.  UTF-8 is
   the only character set which may be used in LDIF.

   2) Examples were reworked to reflect the above change, and to include
   an example of a non-western language represented in UTF-8.

   Differences between draft-ietf-good-ldif-00.txt and draft-good-ldap-

   1) Added version identifiers to the examples - they were missing.

   2) Clarified that LDIF file must use UTF-8.

   Differences between draft-ietf-good-ldif-01.txt and draft-good-ldap-

   1) Added a recommendation that values ending in SPACE should be
   base-64 encoded.

   2) Clarified the procedure for joining folded lines.

   3) Updated header to reflect new IETF I-D guidelines.

   Differences between draft-ietf-good-ldif-02.txt and draft-good-ldap-

   1) Fixed reference from RFC 1779 to RFC 2253.

   2) Version string is now required.

   3) Comment lines may be folded (this is now explicitly mentioned in
   note 2).

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   4) Moved this section (differences between draft versions) to an

   5) Updated examples to use "dc=airius, dc=com" instead of "o=Ace
   Industry, c=US"

   6) Cleaned up references section.


   The LDAP Interchange Format was developed as part of the University
   of Michigan LDAP reference implementation, and was developed by Tim
   Howes, Mark Smith, and Gordon Good.  It is based in part upon work
   supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No.  NCR-


   [1]  Howes, T., Smith, M., "A MIME Content-Type for Directory Infor-
        mation", RFC 2425, September 1998,

   [2]  Crocker,  D.H., "Standard for the Format of ARPA Internet Text
        Messages", RFC 822, August 1982,

   [3]  Wahl, M., Kille, S., Howes, T., "A String Representation of Dis-
        tinguished Names", RFC 2253,

   [4]  Wahl, M., Howes, T., Kille, S., "Lightweight Directory Access
        Protocol (v3)", RFC 2251, July, 1997,

   [5]  Borenstein, N., Freed, N., "MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail
        Extensions) Part One: Mechanisms for Specifying and Describing
        the Format of Internet Message Bodies", section 5.2, "Base64
        Content-Transfer-Encoding", RFC 1521, December 1993,

   [6]  T. Berners-Lee,  L.  Masinter, M. McCahill, "Uniform Resource
        Locators (URL)", RFC 1738, December 1994,

   [7]  S. Bradner, "Key Words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement

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        Levels", Harvard University, RFC 2119, March 1997,

   [8]  The SLAPD and SLURPD Administrators Guide.  University of Michi-
        gan, April 1996.  <URL:

Author's Address

        Gordon Good
        Netscape Communications Corp.
        501 E. Middlefield Rd.
        Mailstop MV068
        Mountain View, CA 94043, USA
        Phone:  +1 650 937-3825
        EMail:  ggood@netscape.com

                 This Internet Draft expires August 22nd, 1999.

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