What Is an LDIF File?

How to open, edit, and convert LDIF files

LDIF Files

 Tim Fisher / Lifewire

A file with the LDIF file extension is an LDAP Data Interchange Format file used by Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) directories. An example use for a directory may be to store information for the purpose of authenticating users, such as the accounts associated with banks, email servers, ISPs, etc.

LDIF files are just plain text files that represent LDAP data and commands. They provide a simple way to communicate with a directory so as to read, write, rename, and delete entries, similar to how REG files can be used to manipulate the Windows Registry.

Inside an LDIF file are separate records, or lines of text that correspond to an LDAP directory and the items inside it. They're created by either exporting data from an LDAP server or building the file from scratch, and typically include a name, ID, object class, and various attributes (see the example below).

Some LDIF files are just used to store address book information for email clients or recordkeeping applications.

How to Open an LDIF File

LDIF files can be opened for free with Microsoft's Active Directory Explorer and JXplorer. Although it's not free, another program that should support LDIF files is Softerra's LDAP Administrator.

Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003 have built-in support for importing and exporting LDIF files into Active Directory through a command-line tool called ldifde.

Since LDIF files are just plain text files, you can also open and edit one with the built-in Notepad application in Windows. If you're using a Mac or would like a different option for Windows, use a free text editor as an alternative.

Below is an example of what an LDIF file looks like when opened in a text editor. The purpose for this particular LDIF file is to add a phone number to the entry that corresponds with this user.

dn: cn=John Doe, ou=Artists, l=San Francisco, c=US
changetype: modify
add: telephonenumber
telephonenumber: +1 415 555 0002

ZyTrax is a good resource that explains what these and other LDAP abbreviations mean.

The LDIF file extension is also used to store address book data. If that's what your LDIF file contains, then you can open it with those types of applications, like Mozilla Thunderbird or Apple's Address Book.

While we doubt this would happen in this case, it's possible that more than one program you have installed supports LDIF files but the one that's set as the default program isn't the one you'd like to use. If you find this to be the case, see How to Change File Associations in Windows for steps on how to change it.

How to Convert an LDIF File

NexForm Lite should be able to convert LDIF to CSV, XML, TXT, and other text-based formats, as well as convert other formats into the LDIF format.

Another tool, ldiftocsv, can also convert LDIF files to CSV.

If you're using a program like Mozilla Thunderbird, you can export your address book to the CSV format without having to convert the LDIF file, by just using the CSV option in the Tools > Export menu (instead of LDIF).

Still Can't Open Your File?

If you still can't open your file even after trying the LDIF openers above and attempting to convert the file, the problem might be simple: you might be misreading the file extension and confusing it with a file that uses a similar suffix but isn't at all related to the LDAP format.

One example is the LDB file extension that's used for Microsoft Access Lock files and Max Payne Level files. Again, neither of these formats function in the same way as LDIF files, so the programs from above cannot open either file.

The same idea is true behind DIFF, LIF, and LDM files. The latter might look awfully similar in spelling to the LDIF file extension but that suffix is used for VolumeViz Multi-Resolution Volume files.

If your file doesn't open with the suggestions from above, check that you're reading the suffix correctly, and then research whatever file extension is attached to the end of the file. That's the easiest way to learn what format it's in and which program can open or convert it.