Password management from the command line

Advanced Uses and an Alternative

Pass was designed with passwords in mind. However, like many password managers, it can also be used for storing other small bits of information, such as credit card numbers that you want to be stored securely but accessed quickly.

Another advanced used of Pass is to set it up as a Git repository with the command pass git init. By adding the pass or push command in front of the basic commands listed above, you can then pass whatever information you store to both local and remote repositories. In this way, you have version control and backup storage that can help you if anything goes wrong. However, this use of Pass requires an article in itself. The samples provided at the end of the man page will show you the details if you are interested [9].

If you are already using a password manager, Pass's home page also links to a number of Python scripts for migrating from other leading password managers to Pass. Before migrating, however, set up a dummy .password-store with which to experiment, and satisfy yourself that Pass is the solution you want.

As you use Pass, calling on GnuPG and pwgen, you might wonder whether you actually need a dedicated password manager. Could you not just use other common Linux utilities instead? In fact, the answer is yes – with a little work. Several users have detailed such solutions online [10], using Vim and the GnuPG plugin [11] along with GnuPG itself and pwgen. Their solutions are ingenious, with extras such as using Vim's folding ability [12] to ensure that only one line at a time is visible to anyone looking over their shoulder.

Functionally, the result is much like Pass, but with more effort and knowledge for users. In fact, you might think of Pass as a trade-off: In return for memorizing eight or nine commands, you get much the same simplicity and efficiency with less effort than such do-it-yourself solutions, and less mystery than with desktop or cloud alternatives.

The Author

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist and a freelance writer and editor specializing in free and open source software. In addition to his writing projects, he also teaches live and e-learning courses. In his spare time, Bruce writes about Northwest coast art. You can read more of his work at http://brucebyfield.wordpress.com

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