NetInfo Manager, Directory Access, and the Command Line
Many Mac OS X power users are probably familiar with some of the NetInfo tools. NetInfo Manager, the most well known, serves several functions.
First, it is used to enable/disable the Unix root account as well as to set the root password. For general use, Mac OS X doesn’t require root access. In fact, root access is discouraged in favor of the Unix sudo command. However, some users may find the need for root access while working at the command line.
Beyond working with root, NetInfo manager is the tool used to manage NFS mounts shared on Unix (or Mac OS X) computers and servers. It also provides the direct ability to edit account data (as well as other types of directory service records) including system-level user accounts.
This can be useful for making modifications beyond what most Mac users would need, creating local groups, and for some advanced troubleshooting.
While these functions are beyond the scope of many users, they are used by power users, systems administrators, and developers.
Along with NetInfo manager, there are a number of NetInfo command-line tools that can be used to import and export NetInfo records (which offers the ability to back up local accounts), alter account data, and troubleshoot low-level problems.
In addition to NetInfo-specific tools, the Directory Access utility has traditionally been used to manage a wide variety of Mac OS X system variables.
Directory Access enables/disables and configures access to all shared Open Directory and alternate directory services domains including Open Directory/LDAP domains, legacy shared NetInfo domains, Active Directory domains (in a Windows environment), Unix NIS servers, and BSD-style flat files.
Directory Access also manages which self-discovering network protocols (which have been a component of Open Directory) are available and, if applicable, configures them.