Flat Files and Their Directory Services Counterparts

As mentioned earlier, Directory Services manages information for several flat files in earlier releases of Mac OS X, including /etc/printcap, /etc/mail/aliases, /etc/protocols, and /etc/services. For a complete list of known flat-file formats, see the nidump and niload manpages.

Although you can edit these flat files directly as you would on any other Unix system, you can also use Directory Services to manage this information. You can use niload with a supported flat-file format to add entries, or you can use dscl or NetInfo Manager to directly manipulate the entries. Table 11-2 lists each flat file, the corresponding portion of the directory, and important properties associated with each entry. See the netinfo(5) manpage for complete details. Properties marked with (list) can take multiple values. (For an example, see Section 11.6.3, earlier in this chapter.)

The “Flat files or local database?” column in Table 11-2 indicates whether Directory Services consults the flat file, the local database, or both. You can use Directory Access to modify the way information is looked up on your Macintosh.

Table 11-2. Flat files and their NetInfo counterparts

Flat file

NetInfo directory

Important properties

Flat files or local database?



name, clients (list), opts (list)

Flat files



name, dir, type, opts (list), passno, freq

Local database



name, passwd, gid, ...

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