The Strange Way in Which Active Directory Implements the Full Name Attribute
Here’s a trivia for you.
Did you know that the first name, last name, display name, full name, logon name, and SAM account name can all be different for a single user account in Active Directory?
There are some things in software products that are implemented in such a bizarre way that I can’t resist blogging about them. One such example is the Full Name attribute in Active Directory accounts. The way Microsoft implements Full Name is rather interesting. Do not confuse Full Name with Display Name. They are two completely different attributes. By default, the Display Name is a combination of a user’s first and last name. Unlike Display Name, the Full Name attribute is not visible in the GUI and cannot be set within the properties of the user account.
Try this. Look at all the properties of a user account closely. You won’t find Full Name anywhere. You will find Display Name, which is not the name that is displayed in Active Directory Users and Computers. So what is the actual Display Name that is displayed in Active Directory Users and Computers? Well, the actual name that is displayed is the Full Name. I am not kidding. The next obvious question you are going to ask is how do I change the Full Name if it’s not shown in the GUI? Answer: By right-clicking the account and selecting Rename you will notice a pop-up Window that will show you the Full Name.
So let’s summarize what we’ve learned so far. The Full Name is by default a combination of a user’s first and last name but it can be a combination of anything you want, totally unrelated to the actual first or last name. The first name, last name, display name and the full name can be completely independent of each other. You can literally have a first name John, last name Smith, display name David Jones, and a full name Joe Shmoe, as shown in the screenshot below. Play around with these attributes and you will see what I mean.
By the way, the logon name of the user and the SAM account name (Pre-Windows 2000 name) can also be completely independent. So Joe Shmoe, a.k.a John Smith, a.k.a. David Jones can have a logon name of Tony and a SAM account name of Williams. The logon and Pre-Windows 2000 names are configured on the Account tab of the user account properties. Obviously, I am not recommending you configure the account in such a manner, I am just pointing out the fact that first name, last name, display name, full name, logon name, and SAM account name can all be different for a single user account in Active Directory. Which is all fine and dandy, but the way the Full Name and the Display Name is implemented in Active Directory appears rather strange to me. What do you think?
I should point out that the fact that changing the first and last name doesn’t change the Full Name is known to cause developers some headaches (e.g. issues with sharing of a BCM database). The inconsistency in the way this “feature” is implemented has also some known issues with Exchange 2007, as pointed out in this MSDN article.
Copyright ©2011 Zubair Alexander. All rights reserved.