How to configure SAML-based single sign-on

After you've added an app to your Azure AD Enterprise Applications, you configure single sign-on settings. This article describes how to configure SAML-based single sign-on for a non-gallery app.


Adding a gallery app? Find step-by-step setup instructions in the list of SaaS app tutorials

To configure single sign-on for a non-gallery application without writing code, you need to have a subscription or Azure AD Premium and the application must support SAML 2.0. For more information about Azure AD versions, visit Azure AD pricing.

Before you begin

  • If the application hasn't been added to your Azure AD tenant, see Add a gallery app or Add a non-gallery app.

  • Contact your application vendor to get the correct information for the following settings:

    Basic SAML Configuration setting SP-Initiated idP-Initiated Description
    Identifier (Entity ID) Required for some apps Required for some apps Uniquely identifies the application for which single sign-on is being configured. Azure AD sends the identifier to the application as the Audience parameter of the SAML token. The application is expected to validate it. This value also appears as the Entity ID in any SAML metadata provided by the application. You can find this value as the Issuer element in the AuthnRequest (SAML request) sent by the application.
    Reply URL Optional Required Specifies where the application expects to receive the SAML token. The reply URL is also referred to as the Assertion Consumer Service (ACS) URL.
    Sign-on URL Required Don't specify When a user opens this URL, the service provider redirects to Azure AD to authenticate and sign on the user. Azure AD uses the URL to start the application from Office 365 or the Azure AD Access Panel. When blank, Azure AD relies on the identity provider to start single sign-on when a user launches the application.
    Relay State Optional Optional Specifies to the application where to redirect the user after authentication is completed. Typically the value is a valid URL for the application. However, some applications use this field differently. For more information, ask the application vendor.
    Logout URL Optional Optional Used to send the SAML Logout responses back to the application.

Step 1. Edit the Basic SAML Configuration

  1. Sign in to the Azure portal as a cloud application admin, or an application admin for your Azure AD tenant.

  2. Navigate to Azure Active Directory > Enterprise applications and select the application from the list.

    • To search for the application, in the Application Type menu, select All applications, and then select Apply. Enter the name of the application in the search box, and then select the application from the results.
  3. Under the Manage section, select Single sign-on.

  4. Select SAML. The Set up Single Sign-On with SAML - Preview page appears.

  5. To edit the basic SAML configuration options, select the Edit icon (a pencil) in the upper-right corner of the Basic SAML Configuration section.

    Configure certificates

  6. In the appropriate fields, enter the information described in the Before you begin section.

  7. At the top of the page, select Save.

Step 2. Configure User attributes and claims

An application might require specific user attributes or claims in the SAML token it receives from Azure AD when a user signs in. For example, specific claim URIs or claim values could be required, or Name might need to be something other than the username stored in Microsoft identity platform. Requirements for gallery apps are described in the application-specific tutorials, or you can ask the application vendor. The general steps for configuring user attributes and claims are described below.

  1. In the User Attributes and Claims section, select the Edit icon (a pencil) in the upper-right corner.

  2. Verify the Name Identifier Value. The default value is user.principalname. The user identifier uniquely identifies each user within the application. For example, if the email address is both the username and the unique identifier, set the value to user.mail.

  3. To modify the Name Identifier Value, select the Edit icon (a pencil) for the Name Identifier Value field. Make the appropriate changes to the identifier format and source, as needed. For details, see Editing NameId. Save the changes when you're done.

  4. To configure group claims, select the Edit icon for the Groups returned in claim field. For details, see Configure group claims.

  5. To add a claim, select Add new claim at the top of the page. Enter the Name and select the appropriate source. If you select the Attribute source, you'll need to choose the Source attribute you want to use. If you select the Translation source, you'll need to choose the Transformation and Parameter 1 you want to use. For details, see Adding application-specific claims. Save the changes when you're done.

  6. Select Save. The new claim appears in the table.


    For additional ways to customize the SAML token from Azure AD to your application, see the following resources.

Step 3. Manage the SAML signing certificate

Azure AD uses a certificate to sign the SAML tokens it sends to the application. On the Set up Single Sign-On with SAML page, you can view or download the active certificate. You can also update, create, or import a certificate. For gallery applications, details about the certificate format are available in the application’s SAML documentation (see the application-specific tutorials).

  1. Go to the SAML Signing Certificate section. Depending on the type of application, you'll see options to download the certificate in Base64 format, Raw format, or Federation Metadata XML. Azure AD also provides the App Federation Metadata Url where you can access the metadata specific to the application in the format<Directory ID>/federationmetadata/2007-06/federationmetadata.xml?appid=<Application ID>.

  2. To manage, create, or import a certificate, select the Edit icon (a pencil) in the upper-right corner of the SAML Signing Certificate section, and then do any of the following:

    • To create a new certificate, select New Certificate, select the Expiration Date, and then select Save. To activate the certificate, select the context menu (...) and select Make certificate active.
    • To upload a certificate with private key and pfx credentials, select Import Certificate and browse to the certificate. Enter the PFX Password, and then select Add.
    • To configure advanced certificate signing options, use the following options. For descriptions of these options, see the Advanced certificate signing options article.
      • In the Signing Option drop-down list, choose Sign SAML response, Sign SAML assertion, or Sign SAML response and assertion.
      • In the Signing Algorithm drop-down list, choose SHA-1 or SHA-256.
    • To notify additional people when the active certificate is near its expiration date, enter the email addresses in the Notification email addresses fields.
  3. Select Save at the top of the SAML Signing Certificate section.

Step 4. Set up the application to use Azure AD

The Set up <applicationName> section lists the values that need to be configured in the application so it will use Azure AD as a SAML identity provider. The required values vary according to the application. For details, see the application's SAML documentation.

  1. Scroll down to the Set up <applicationName> section.
  2. Copy the value from each row in this section as needed and follow the application-specific instructions for adding the value to the application. For gallery apps, you can view the documentation by selecting View step-by-step instructions.
    • The Login URL and Logout URL values both resolve to the same endpoint, which is the SAML request-handling endpoint for your instance of Azure AD.
    • The Azure AD Identifier is the value of the Issuer in the SAML token issued to the application.
  3. When you've pasted all the values into the appropriate fields, select Save.

Step 5. Validate single sign-on

You're ready to test the settings to see if single sign-on works for you, the admin.

  1. Open the single sign-on settings for your application.
  2. Scroll to the Validate single sign-on with section. For this tutorial, this section is called Set up GitHub-test.
  3. Select Test. The testing options appear.
  4. Select Sign in as current user.

If sign-on is successful, you're ready to assign users and groups to your SAML application. If an error message appears, complete the following steps:

  1. Copy and paste the specifics into the What does the error look like? box.

    Use the "What does the error look like" box to get resolution guidance

  2. Select Get resolution guidance. The root cause and resolution guidance appear. In this example, the user wasn't assigned to the application.

  3. Read the resolution guidance and then, if possible, fix the issue.

  4. Run the test again until it completes successfully.

Next steps