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This chapter is a guided tour through a mini-application using LDAP. It is intended to give you a basic impression of what you can do with LDAP. Experience has shown that the best way to understand a new tool is simply to use and play around with it. That is what we will do in this chapter. As mentioned previously, we will use OpenLDAP for the examples. OpenLDAP is available for UNIX and Win32 platforms. Because LDAP is an open standard, users of Netscape or other non-standard products are not excluded from trying out the examples presented in this book. Note that the exact syntax might be different between the various implementations. The syntax of the command-line tools in Netscape is almost identical. In any case, take a look at the documentation delivered with whatever product you are using.
First, we learn about the data structures that we will be using throughout the rest of this chapter. This example is far from complete. Indeed, it is not really an example of directory design. Rather, the example is intended to give the reader a feeling of how to use a directory server. It shows you a basic configuration so that you can begin working with LDAP. Next, we install a few entries by hand using the command-line tools. Once these entries are installed, we will try to make the usual operations on data in a repository: We will search for the entries we stored in the directory; we will update the data; and then we will delete some entries. Then we will learn how to insert bulk data, and at the end we will use the import/export utilities. We will also learn about the LDIF (LDAP data interchange format) file format, which is the format that LDAP uses to import and export files. Finally, we will learn to use the URL form of an LDAP query to find entries in the directory. This form was briefly introduced in Chapter 1. In this chapter, you can see it at work and play around with it.
This chapter provides only a rough overview of what you can do with LDAP and does not get into the details. This will be done in later chapters, mostly in Chapter 6 (LDAP APIs) but also in Chapter 4, where we will see some of the details of LDAP, and in Chapter 7, where we will see how the World Wide Web and LDAP can be used together.
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