Configure LDAP authentication

This page describes the configuration of LDAP authentication for an eLabFTW instance.


How does eLabFTW query LDAP servers?

The overall schematic for each query with the options set in the sysadmin menu looks like this:

  1. Connect to the LDAP server (-> TLS?, host, port)

  2. Bind (login) with username and password, or anonymously (-> username, password)

  3. Search for users within a certain region of the LDAP world directory (-> base DN) and extract certain properties/fields (-> filter attribute, team name, email, firstname, lastname)

  4. Unbind (log out)

For this to work, eLabFTW needs information from you, which is what the LDAP configuration options documented in the next section are for.

Sysadmin LDAP settings

The LDAP settings are found on the LDAP tab of the Sysconfig Panel.

Toggle LDAP login

This is your general ON/OFF switch to toggle LDAP authentication from the login page. Note that if local login is left available, a radio button will allow users to select local/ldap login, and ldap will be selected by default. Generally, you’ll want to disable local login once LDAP login is working (see setting for local login in first tab of sysconfig panel).


Enter the domain name or IP address of the LDAP server. This should not include the protocol or the port, i.e. not ldaps://my.ldap.server:636, but only my.ldap.server. For selecting the protocol and port, use the dedicated “LDAP Port” and “Use TLS” options.


The port the LDAP server listens on, 389 by default. Use port 636 for LDAPS or any custom port you might have configured.


This is the “Distinguished Name” for the search, i.e. which part of the (global) LDAP tree you want to find the users in. It is probably something like dc=example,dc=org, but might also include “Organizational Units”, so something like ou=myinstitute,dc=example,dc=org. Importantly, this is something completely different from the LDAP username, even though the notation might be similar.

LDAP Username

This is the DN or username that connects (binds) to the LDAP server. Examples include myuser or cn=AnAdminOf,ou=MyUnit,dc=example,dc=org. The user must have permission to query other users.

LDAP Password

This password is needed for the authentication on the LDAP server with the username specified above.


Select this if using LDAPS (= LDAP with TLS).

By which LDAP attribute the user will be found

This is the “filter attribute” from above. Common choices include cn, uid and the default mail. This is the LDAP field that holds the information you want users to enter into the “login” field on the start page.

What attribute to look for the team name

The LDAP server will reply with the information associated with the user trying to authenticate. Which field will be the one used to determine the team in which to create the user?

Create team sent by server if it doesn’t exist already

If the team found doesn’t exist already, do you want to create one?

If no team attribute is found, to which team user is assigned?

Use this to add users to this team by default. Useful if the LDAP server doesn’t answer with a team attribute that can be used for eLabFTW.

What attribute to look for …

The last three fields are to specify the fields to look for for the user email, firstname and lastname.


If you encounter difficulties, make sure to get a useful log message before opening an issue, see debug documentation.

Using a custom cert file

When authenticating with a LDAPS server, a custom certfile might be needed. It can easily be added by modifying the web/volumes part of elabftw.yml like so:

      - /path/to/eLabFTW/certpath:/custom_certs
      - /path/to/eLabFTW/openldap:/etc/openldap

Then, add your custom cert file to /path/to/eLabFTW/certpath and at /path/to/eLabFTW/openldap/ add a new file ldap.conf with the content

TLS_CACERT /custom_certs/<certname>.pem

where you substitute <certname> for the name of the cert file for authenticating against the LDAP server. This informs openldap of the cert file and instructs it to always require a valid certificate from servers.

After (re)starting using elabctl restart, the LDAP server should now be reachable from inside the container. You can check this via searching for a known user (like yourself?) via

docker exec elabftw bash -c "apk add openldap openldap-back-mdb openldap-clients && \
   ldapsearch -v -LLL \
     -H 'ldaps://<LDAP Host>' \
     -b '<LDAP Base DN>' \
     -D '<LDAP Username>' \
     -w '<LDAP Password>' \

where you might need to use sudo docker if you are not root. Be sure to substitute the <...> fields with your values. The command above installs the needed openldap packages in the elabftw container using Alpine Linux’s package manager apk and then launches a ldap search query. <filter> can for example be cn=MyOwnName, or uid=5. If trying to connect to a LDAP server that listens on a port other than 636, specify it like -H 'ldaps://<host>:<port>'.

For more information on the ldapsearch command, consider

docker exec elabftw ldapsearch --help

after installing the openldap packages.