When creating a new entry in an ApacheDS LDAP directory with Apache Directory Studio, it gives the option of creating a New Entry or a New Context Entry.

A screenshot showing the choice between New Entry and New Context Entry in Apache Directory Studio

What is the difference between a Context Entry and a regular Entry?

Apologies if the answer is obvious, but I have searched Google for multiple hours with multiple permutations of search terms, and scoured the Apache Directory Studio documentation, but could not come to a clear or satisfactory answer. What I did find were tutorials warning to create one over the other, but not specifying as to why, leading me to believe that the difference is important.

I've tried:

  • Reading the documentation.
    • The documentation describes the process of how to use the wizard to create each type of entry, but it does not describe the types nor the difference between them.
  • Reading items found on Google about LDAP in general to see if there is an entry type of Context Entry.
    • "Context Entry" does not seem to be a typical LDAP term.
  • Making both types of entry and comparing them.
    • After creating both types of entry, they appear to be identical, but they presumably must not be, otherwise why call them different things?

The only thing I've learned is that the difference between the creation of the two types is that a regular Entry helps you build a dn via two pieces, and the other accepts a single dn string in its entirety. Surely that cannot be the only difference?


Based on reading the ApacheDS Basic User Guide section "Adding a partition" and its many uses of "context entry", it is:

  1. The first entry in a partition.
  2. A namingContext in the Root DSE.
  3. In a partition, the context entry is the root / "parent" under which all subsequent entries are added.
  4. The value in a JDBM partition assigned to partition's "ads-contextEntry" property.
  5. May be objectClass domain or organization. Possibly others.

Example of a reference to ApacheDS Basic User Guide's use of the term "context entry": "Before using the partition (e.g. adding entries), you have to add a context entry."

So, then, the difference between an entry and a context entry is not a what but a when; use the Context Entry when creating the first/root entry of a partition, and a simple Entry to add new entries under a context entry or its sub-entries.

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