The LDAP Data Interchange Format (LDIF) - Technical Specification
RFC 2849

Document Type RFC - Proposed Standard (June 2000; Errata)
Was draft-good-ldap-ldif (individual)
Author Gordon Good 
Last updated 2020-01-21
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Network Working Group                                             G. Good
Request for Comments: 2849                   iPlanet e-commerce Solutions
Category: Standards Track                                       June 2000

   The LDAP Data Interchange Format (LDIF) - Technical Specification

Status of this Memo

   This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
   Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
   improvements.  Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
   Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
   and status of this protocol.  Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2000).  All Rights Reserved.


   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
   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. This 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.

Good                        Standards Track                     [Page 1]
RFC 2849              LDAP Data Interchange Format             June 2000

   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 may also be
   used, as noted, to describe a set of changes to be applied to a

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "MAY", "SHOULD", and "SHOULD NOT"
   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 that 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 2234 [2].

ldif-file                = ldif-content / ldif-changes

ldif-content             = version-spec 1*(1*SEP ldif-attrval-record)

ldif-changes             = version-spec 1*(1*SEP ldif-change-record)

ldif-attrval-record      = dn-spec SEP 1*attrval-spec

ldif-change-record       = dn-spec SEP *control changerecord

version-spec             = "version:" FILL version-number

Good                        Standards Track                     [Page 2]
RFC 2849              LDAP Data Interchange Format             June 2000

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

dn-spec                  = "dn:" (FILL distinguishedName /
                                  ":" FILL base64-distinguishedName)

distinguishedName        = SAFE-STRING
                           ; a distinguished name, as defined in [3]

base64-distinguishedName = BASE64-UTF8-STRING
                           ; a distinguishedName which has been base64
                           ; encoded (see note 10, below)
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