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Manage user profiles
Published: Jan 31, 2018   -   Updated: Jun 22, 2018




Manage user profiles

Universal Directory (UD) is a platform that delivers rich user profiles and fine-grained control over how attributes flow between applications. This enhancement makes it easier for organizations to create and maintain a single source of truth for its users, enabling new authentication and provisioning scenarios.

With UD and Profile Editor, you can:
  • Store rich profiles of user attributes in Okta.
  • Customize these profiles with custom attributes.
  • Bi-directionally map and move attributes from Okta and applications.
  • Transform attributes prior to storing or moving with a powerful expression language.

These capabilities enable you to do the following:

  • Keep rich profile information in-sync across HR systems (like Workday), on-premises directories, and applications.
  • Provision application user accounts with rich profile information such as roles, managers, or location (which is useful for making access and authorization decisions).
  • Construct Okta or app usernames from rich attributes and custom expressions.
  • Collect and store any type of user attribute, including employee-provided values.

Warning: Universal Directory and the accompanying Profile Editor features are very powerful options. The alteration of profiles and mappings can have unintended effects in downstream apps — please be cautious when making such changes. Note that when an attribute in a user's profile triggers an update, Okta updates the user's entire profile in the application.

Using Universal Directory

The following explains UD features, configuration of features, and use-cases. Topics include

  • Profiles (Okta User and App user)
  • Mappings
  • Transformations
  • Username Overrides
  • Richer SAML Assertions

Profiles (Okta End User and App User)

UD introduces profiles, representations of user accounts. In particular, UD supports two types of profiles: the Okta End User profile, and the App user profile. The two profile types are used to store rich attributes in Okta and move rich attributes from Okta to 3rd-party apps.

Use the Profile Editor to view or modify these profiles: Directory >Profile Editor.

The Okta User Profile

The Okta user profile represents a user in Okta (an Okta account) and is comprised of two parts: base attributes and custom attributes. Okta users can either be end users, people who use Okta to access the applications they use each day, or users, which is used to refer to Okta administrators who use Okta to administer their org's environment.

View the Okta end user profile

To view the Okta end user profile:

  1. Go to Directory > Profile Editor.
  2. Click the Okta filter.
  3. For the Okta User, click Profile in the Actions column.

Okta has defined 31 default base attributes for all users in an org. These base attributes are generally fixed and cannot be modified or removed. There are two exceptions: First Name and Last Name. These two attributes can be marked as required or optional for Okta-mastered users only. To import users with blank First Name or Last Name attributes, you must first mark the attributes as optional in Okta, otherwise the import will fail.

Make First Name, Last Name optional

To make First Name or Last Name attributes optional:

  1. Go to Directory > Profile Editor.
  2. Click the Okta filter.
  3. For the Okta User, click Profile in the Actions column.
  4. Click the information icon information icon .
  5. Select or deselect the Attribute required field to make the attribute mandatory or optional.
  6. Click Save Attribute.

If you wish to add additional attributes to the user profile, you can add them as custom attributes.

Add or remove custom attributes to a directory schema

  1. Go to Directory > Profile Editor.
  2. In the Filters column, click Directories.
  3. For the directory that you want to modify, click Profile in the Actions column.
  4. Under Attributes, click Add Attribute.
  5. Select attributes in the Pick Schema Attributes window, and then click Save.

  6. To remove a custom attribute, find it in the Pick Schema Attributes window and then click X to delete it.

About schema discovery

You can only add attributes to the directory profile if they are already in the directory, so Okta first does a schema discovery step to populate the attribute picker. For Okta to discover the attribute, it must be added to an object within the User object hierarchy in the directory: user object, a parent object, or an auxiliary object.

The agent takes a few seconds to execute the schema discovery. When it’s done you’ll get a list of the attributes that Okta has the permissions to discover in the directory.

Add Custom Attributes to a user profile

You can extend an Okta User profile by adding an attribute to the custom portion of the profile. Base attributes cannot be altered.

  1. Select User under the Okta profile type.
  2. Click Add Attribute.
  3. Enter information in the following fields:
    • Display name: A human readable label that will appear in the UI
    • Variable name: Name of attribute that can be referenced in mappings
    • Description: Description of the attribute
    • Data type: There are 7 admissible data types:
      • string: a chain of zero or more unicode characters (letters, digits, and/or punctuation marks)
      • number: floating-point decimal in Java's 64-bit Double format. For details see the Platform Specification.
      • boolean: stores true, false, or null data values
      • integer: whole numbers in 64-bit Java's Long format
      • array of string: sequential collection of strings
      • array of number: sequential collection of numbers
      • array of integer: sequential collection of integers
  4. Optional: Configure the following:
    • Enum: Define an enumerated list of values. Supports all data types except boolean.
      • Attribute members: Enter the Display names and Values. For example, small, medium, and large.
      • Attribute length: Enter the minimum and maximum length of the Value field.
    • Attribute required: Select this if the attribute must be populated.
    • User permission: Choose options to hide the attribute or make it read-only or read-write.
      Note: To maintain security, we recommend making any attributes used in application usernames read-only or hidden.
  5. When completed, click Add Attribute or, to add more than one, click Save and Add Another.

Remove Custom Attributes from a user profile

You can remove an attribute to the custom portion of the profile. Base attributes cannot be altered.

  1. Select User under the Okta profile type.
  2. Locate the attribute in the list.
  3. Click X at the end of the row, then select Delete Attribute.

App User Profile

An app user profile represents a user in a 3rd-party application, directory, or identity provider (IdP). The app user profile lists the 3rd-party's attributes that Okta can read and write to (read-only for IdP). This profile is used to control the attributes that Okta pushes to an app or the attributes imported from an app into Okta.

Similar to Okta user profiles, app profiles have both base attributes and custom attributes. Custom attributes for app user profiles differ from those for Okta user profiles. Whereas Okta user profiles can be extended with any custom attribute, app user profiles can only be extended with attributes from a predefined list that Okta dynamically generates. Okta generates the list of attributes by querying the 3rd-party application or directory for supported attributes.

Note: Active Directory users, look here for details on Using Custom Attributes with Active Directory.


Profile mappings allow administrators to precisely control the attributes exchanged during provisioning processes. The two chief use-cases that UD facilitates are

  • App to Okta
  • Okta to App

In the first use-case (App to Okta), organizations typically use a source-of-truth app such as a directory or human resources system. Some organizations might have several sources of truth. Mappings define how attributes from these various sources are imported into the Okta user profile.

The diagram below illustrates the first use case. In the example, Active Directory (AD) and Workday supply the Okta user profile with attributes (AD provides FirstName and LastName; Workday provides Boss). The diagram illustrates the mapping of givenName and sn to FirstName and LastName (from AD to Okta), and it shows the mapping from managerUserName to Boss (from Workday to Okta).


In the second use-case (Okta to App), organizations wish to propagate the data in Okta to other applications to provision accounts and update accounts with rich data. This is possible if the Okta user profile has rich attributes and the app in Okta is UD-upgraded.

The following diagram illustrates the second use-case. In the example, Okta sends four attributes to Google. The diagram shows the mappings of four Okta user profile attributes to four Google App user profile attributes.


Using the Profile Mapping Tab

To create a mapping between the Okta user profile and the app user profile:

  1. Identify the app, directory, or IDP to map.
  2. Select either the Profile or the Mappings button for the App user profile, the select Map Attributes.


  3. Select the desired tab.


    a. App to Okta (highlighted in red) maps the flow of attributes from the app to Okta.

    • An app user profile contains the source attributes; Okta is the target.

    b. Okta to App (highlighted in blue) maps the flow of attributes from Okta to the app.

    • Okta contains the source attributes; an app user profile is the target.
  4. Map attributes (highlighted in orange) in the right tab.

    a. Scroll through the attribute mappings.

    b. Ensure that required attributes in the target are mapped.

    • The Okta or app user profile indicates which are required

    c. Define mappings using the drop-down menu or expressions:

    • Use the drop-down menu to directly populate target attributes with source attributes.
    • Use expressions to populate target attributes with concatenated or transformed values.
    • See Using Expressions (Transformations) below for details.
  5. Configure the profile push frequency (Optional). Mapping can be
    • applied on user create and update. If this option is not available, push updates may not be enabled in the app settings.
    • applied on user create only.
    • disabled.

    For details on this feature, see Using Selective Profile Push.

  6. Once you have completed your changes, a best practice is to check your mappings using the Preview button. For details on how to use this feature, see Universal Directory - Preview Mapping.
  7. Click Save Mappings to save your choices.

To remove a mapping, simply delete the entry from the field and then click Save mapping.

Using Expressions (Transformations)
The details above describe how to map attributes that flow from one source to another without modification. For example, a first name of "John" imported from Google gets stored as "John" in Okta. However, if you wish to modify attributes before storing them in Okta or sending them to apps, you can do this with expressions within the mappings.

Expressions allow you to concatenate attributes, manipulate strings, convert data types, and more. Okta supports a subset of the Spring Expression Language (SpEL) functions. Find a comprehensive description of the supported functions under Okta Expression Language. All functions work in UD mappings.

Disclaimer: While some functions (namely string) work in other areas of the product (e.g., SAML 2.0 Template attributes and custom username formats), not all do.

Expressions are useful for maintaining data integrity and formats across apps. For example, you might wish to use an email prefix as a username, bulk replace an email suffix, or populate attributes based on a combination of existing ones (e.g., displayName = lastName, firstName).

Configure Expressions

To configure an expression, do the following:

  1. Navigate to the Mappings page of the app (instructions are in the Configure Mappings section).
  2. Enter the desired expression in the Attribute Mapping field.
  3. Preface the variable name(s) with the corresponding object or profile.

    a. source refers to the object on the left hand side:

    • Can be used in either Okta to App or App to Okta mappings.
    • Example: source.firstName

    b. user refers to the Okta user profile:

    • Can only be used in the Okta to App mapping.
    • Example: user.firstName

    c. appUser (implicit reference) refers to the in-context app (not Okta user profile):

    • Can only be used in the App to Okta mapping.
    • Example: appUser.firstName

    d. appUserName (explicit reference) refers to a specific app by name:

    • Can be used in either Okta to App or App to Okta mappings.
    • Is used to reference an app outside the mappings.
    • Example:google.nameGivenName
    • If multiple instances of an app are configured, each app user profile has a different variable name appended with an underscore and an incremented number.
    • Example:google, google_1, google_2, etc.
  4. To find instance and variable names for the above step, use the profile editor

    a. Navigate to Directory> Profile Editor .

    b. View an Okta user profile and note the instance and variable name.

    c. View an app user profile and note the instance and variable name.

    Example screenshots of expressions:

Username Overrides

Okta allows you to handle the most demanding username requirements. Constructing custom Okta user names or application user names with Okta's data and expression language is easy.

Example use cases:

  1. Construct an Okta username by concatenating multiple imported attributes.
  2. Create differently formatted user names using conditionals. For example
    • If attribute1 = A, then username should end in Otherwise, username should end in
    • Example:,
    • This is useful for distinguishing between different types of users (such as employees vs. contractors).
  3. Construct app user names from attributes in various sources.
  4. Enforce a max length by truncating.

The username override feature overrides a previously selected Okta username format or app username format (different per app). When username override is configured, the previously selected username formats no longer apply.

Username override can also be used with Selective Attribute Push to continuously update app user names as user profile information changes. For example, if a user gets assigned to an app with a username of email, and that email subsequently changes, Okta can automatically update the app username to the new email. Prior to this enhancement, an Okta admin had to manually change a user's app username by unassigning the user and reassigning him to the app. This enhancement applies to all apps and is not limited to only apps with provisioning capabilities.

Note: For a list of the characters supported in Okta email addresses, see here.

Configure Username Override

To override an Okta username, do the following:

  1. Navigate to the app's mapping.
    • The app from which Okta accounts are imported – typically AD or Workday.
  2. Choose the mapping direction App to Okta.
    • You're creating an Okta username from app attributes.
  3. Click the Override with mapping link.
  4. Observe that a mapping field appears.
  5. Select an attribute or enter an expression to create the Okta username.
  6. Click Save Mappings and Apply updates now.

To override an app username, do the following:

  1. Navigate to the app's mapping.
    • App whose username you wish to override.
  2. Choose the mapping direction Okta to App.
    • You're creating an app username from UD attributes.
  3. Click the Override with mapping button.
  4. Observe that a mapping field appears.
  5. Select an attribute or enter an expression to create the app username.
  6. Click Save Mappings and Apply updates now.

To keep the app username automatically updated, do the following:

  1. Navigate to the username override configuration.
  2. Click the box with the arrow next to the input box to view the EL expression. Select the green arrow from the menu.

Rich SAML Assertions and WS-Fed Claims

UD attributes can be sent in SAML assertions and WS-Fed claims. Apps can consume rich SAML assertions and WS-Fed claims to do the following:

  • Create rich user accounts in the app
  • Update accounts with rich data
  • Make fine-grained authorization decisions

Configure Rich SAML Assertions and WS-Fed Claims

Currently, only the App Integration Wizard, Template WS-Fed and Template SAML 2.0 can send UD data.

Note: The Template SAML 2.0 is deprecated.

To configure this:

  1. Add the App Integration Wizard, Template WS-Fed or Template SAML 2.0.
  2. Locate the attribute statements field.
    • Labeled Attribute Statements in the App Integration Wizard
    • Labeled Custom Attribute Statements in the Template WS-Fed App
    • Labeled Attribute Statements in the Template SAML 2.0 App
  3. Enter UD attributes in the attribute statements field.
    For information about the attribute statements field, see Mapping Active Directory, LDAP, and Workday Values in a Template SAML or WS Fed Applications and Using the App Integration Wizard.