User objects

Authenticating against an external source is swell, but Django’s auth module is tightly bound to a user model. When a user logs in, we have to create a model object to represent them in the database. Because the LDAP search is case-insensitive, the default implementation also searches for existing Django users with an iexact query and new users are created with lowercase usernames. See get_or_build_user() if you’d like to override this behavior. See get_user_model() if you’d like to substitute a proxy model.

By default, lookups on existing users are done using the user model’s USERNAME_FIELD. To lookup by a different field, use AUTH_LDAP_USER_QUERY_FIELD. When set, the username field is ignored.

When using the default for lookups, the only required field for a user is the username. The default User model can be picky about the characters allowed in usernames, so LDAPBackend includes a pair of hooks, ldap_to_django_username() and django_to_ldap_username(), to translate between LDAP usernames and Django usernames. You may need this, for example, if your LDAP names have periods in them. You can subclass LDAPBackend to implement these hooks; by default the username is not modified. User objects that are authenticated by LDAPBackend will have an ldap_username attribute with the original (LDAP) username. username (or get_username()) will, of course, be the Django username.


Users created by LDAPBackend will have an unusable password set. This will only happen when the user is created, so if you set a valid password in Django, the user will be able to log in through ModelBackend (if configured) even if they are rejected by LDAP. This is not generally recommended, but could be useful as a fail-safe for selected users in case the LDAP server is unavailable.

Populating Users

You can perform arbitrary population of your user models by adding listeners to the Django signal: django_auth_ldap.backend.populate_user. This signal is sent after the user object has been constructed (but not necessarily saved) and any configured attribute mapping has been applied (see below). You can use this to propagate information from the LDAP directory to the user object any way you like. If you need the user object to exist in the database at this point, you can save it in your signal handler or override get_or_build_user(). In either case, the user instance will be saved automatically after the signal handlers are run.

If you need an attribute that isn’t included by default in the LDAP search results, see AUTH_LDAP_USER_ATTRLIST.

Easy Attributes

If you just want to copy a few attribute values directly from the user’s LDAP directory entry to their Django user, the setting, AUTH_LDAP_USER_ATTR_MAP, makes it easy. This is a dictionary that maps user model keys, respectively, to (case-insensitive) LDAP attribute names:

AUTH_LDAP_USER_ATTR_MAP = {"first_name": "givenName", "last_name": "sn"}

Only string fields can be mapped to attributes. Boolean fields can be defined by group membership:

    "is_active": "cn=active,ou=groups,dc=example,dc=com",
    "is_staff": (
        | LDAPGroupQuery("cn=admin,ou=groups,dc=example,dc=com")
    "is_superuser": "cn=superuser,ou=groups,dc=example,dc=com",

Values in this dictionary may be simple DNs (as strings), lists or tuples of DNs, or LDAPGroupQuery instances. Lists are converted to queries joined by |.

Remember that if these settings don’t do quite what you want, you can always use the signals described in the previous section to implement your own logic.

Updating Users

By default, all mapped user fields will be updated each time the user logs in. To disable this, set AUTH_LDAP_ALWAYS_UPDATE_USER to False. If you need to populate a user outside of the authentication process—for example, to create associated model objects before the user logs in for the first time—you can call django_auth_ldap.backend.LDAPBackend.populate_user(). You’ll need an instance of LDAPBackend, which you should feel free to create yourself. populate_user() returns the User or None if the user could not be found in LDAP.

from django_auth_ldap.backend import LDAPBackend

user = LDAPBackend().populate_user("alice")
if user is None:
    raise Exception("No user named alice")

Direct Attribute Access

If you need to access multi-value attributes or there is some other reason that the above is inadequate, you can also access the user’s raw LDAP attributes. user.ldap_user is an object with four public properties. The group properties are, of course, only valid if groups are configured.

  • dn: The user’s distinguished name.

  • attrs: The user’s LDAP attributes as a dictionary of lists of string values. The dictionaries are modified to use case-insensitive keys.

  • group_dns: The set of groups that this user belongs to, as DNs.

  • group_names: The set of groups that this user belongs to, as simple names. These are the names that will be used if AUTH_LDAP_MIRROR_GROUPS is used.

Python-ldap returns all attribute values as utf8-encoded strings. For convenience, this module will try to decode all values into Unicode strings. Any string that can not be successfully decoded will be left as-is; this may apply to binary values such as Active Directory’s objectSid.