ATTR(5)                        File Formats Manual                       ATTR(5)

       attr - Extended attributes

       Extended attributes are name:value pairs associated permanently with
       files and directories, similar to the environment strings associated with
       a process.  An attribute may be defined or undefined.  If it is defined,
       its value may be empty or non-empty.

       Extended attributes are extensions to the normal attributes which are
       associated with all inodes in the system (i.e. the stat(2) data).  They
       are often used to provide additional functionality to a filesystem - for
       example, additional security features such as Access Control Lists (ACLs)
       may be implemented using extended attributes.

       Users with search access to a file or directory may retrieve a list of
       attribute names defined for that file or directory.

       Extended attributes are accessed as atomic objects.  Reading retrieves
       the whole value of an attribute and stores it in a buffer.  Writing
       replaces any previous value with the new value.

       Space consumed for extended attributes is counted towards the disk quotas
       of the file owner and file group.

       Currently, support for extended attributes is implemented on Linux by the
       ext2, ext3, ext4, XFS, JFS and reiserfs filesystems.

       Attribute names are zero-terminated strings.  The attribute name is
       always specified in the fully qualified namespace.attribute form, eg.
       user.mime_type, trusted.md5sum, system.posix_acl_access, or

       The namespace mechanism is used to define different classes of extended
       attributes.  These different classes exist for several reasons, e.g. the
       permissions and capabilities required for manipulating extended
       attributes of one namespace may differ to another.

       Currently the security, system, trusted, and user extended attribute
       classes are defined as described below. Additional classes may be added
       in the future.

   Extended security attributes
       The security attribute namespace is used by kernel security modules, such
       as Security Enhanced Linux.  Read and write access permissions to
       security attributes depend on the policy implemented for each security
       attribute by the security module.  When no security module is loaded, all
       processes have read access to extended security attributes, and write
       access is limited to processes that have the CAP_SYS_ADMIN capability.

   Extended system attributes
       Extended system attributes are used by the kernel to store system objects
       such as Access Control Lists and Capabilities.  Read and write access
       permissions to system attributes depend on the policy implemented for
       each system attribute implemented by filesystems in the kernel.

   Trusted extended attributes
       Trusted extended attributes are visible and accessible only to processes
       that have the CAP_SYS_ADMIN capability (the super user usually has this
       capability).  Attributes in this class are used to implement mechanisms
       in user space (i.e., outside the kernel) which keep information in
       extended attributes to which ordinary processes should not have access.

   Extended user attributes
       Extended user attributes may be assigned to files and directories for
       storing arbitrary additional information such as the mime type, character
       set or encoding of a file. The access permissions for user attributes are
       defined by the file permission bits.

       The file permission bits of regular files and directories are interpreted
       differently from the file permission bits of special files and symbolic
       links. For regular files and directories the file permission bits define
       access to the file's contents, while for device special files they define
       access to the device described by the special file.  The file permissions
       of symbolic links are not used in access checks. These differences would
       allow users to consume filesystem resources in a way not controllable by
       disk quotas for group or world writable special files and directories.

       For this reason, extended user attributes are only allowed for regular
       files and directories, and access to extended user attributes is
       restricted to the owner and to users with appropriate capabilities for
       directories with the sticky bit set (see the chmod(1) manual page for an
       explanation of Sticky Directories).

       The kernel and the filesystem may place limits on the maximum number and
       size of extended attributes that can be associated with a file.  Some
       file systems, such as ext2/3 and reiserfs, require the filesystem to be
       mounted with the user_xattr mount option in order for extended user
       attributes to be used.

       In the current ext2, ext3 and ext4 filesystem implementations, each
       extended attribute must fit on a single filesystem block (1024, 2048 or
       4096 bytes, depending on the block size specified when the filesystem was

       In the XFS and reiserfs filesystem implementations, there is no practical
       limit on the number or size of extended attributes associated with a
       file, and the algorithms used to store extended attribute information on
       disk are scalable.

       In the JFS filesystem implementation, names can be up to 255 bytes and
       values up to 65,535 bytes.

       Since the filesystems on which extended attributes are stored might also
       be used on architectures with a different byte order and machine word
       size, care should be taken to store attribute values in an architecture
       independent format.

       Andreas Gruenbacher, <> and the SGI XFS
       development team, <>.

       getfattr(1), setfattr(1).