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So I'm new to Active Directory and I am being asked about extending it to include basic details about people's employment status and other custom fields. What are some good tools to help-buildout AD, particularly for non-technical HR folks?

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AD has a number of (16 to be exact) custom attributes pre-defined that can be managed via the ADUC console. If you don't want to mess around with extending the schema I'd recommend utilizing them. You won't be able to re-name them, so you would need to keep track of what "custom attribute 1" translates to (say "Full Time").

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First, look over the scheme, there are a LOT of attributes on the user object. Then use the custom attributes to handle the remainder. Also, keep in mind you can use bitmapped fields to encode multiple values in one attribute. As for tools, I highly recommend learing Powershell from the beginning, especially if you have Win2k8. – uSlackr Jun 2 '11 at 0:28

You can add custom objects and attributes to the Active Directory schema, but you won't be able to access them using any standard Windows tool, like the Active Directory Users and Computers console, because they will not know about them and don't have any logic to access or modify them.

In order to actually populate and read those custom extensions, you will need custom applications that access them using LDAP queries.

This is a good introduction:

And this is the complete developer's guide:

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You can in fact access all attributes directly from Active Directory Users and computers from the attribute editor tab. Extending the schema isn't something I would want someone non technical to do but once the attributes are added it's not hard to edit them. You will probably want to create a script or HTA application to display the values you want as the attribute editor view isn't very pretty. This is pretty easy to do (hta helpomatic is one resource) Scripting AD queries is available in the scriptcenter

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The attribute Editor tab would only be available if a Server 2008 DC has been added and you are using ADUC from Win Vista/7, or Serverk 2008 +. – HostBits May 20 '11 at 16:34
Yes but I can only hope they they have a supported OS. I wouldn't extend the schema without first upgrading at least 1 DC – Jim B May 20 '11 at 22:05

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