A command-line password manager
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A command-line password manager written in Haskell.

It uses external programs for most of its tasks:

  • gpg for encryption of your password database (but you can easily adjust it to use openssl with AES and a master password)
  • xdg-open for interaction with your web browser
  • xclip for interaction with your X selection
  • pwgen for generation of user names and passwords
  • vim and shred if you want to edit your password database with a text editor

Currently only Unix-like systems are supported.

Any questions/comments/patches are gladly welcome!


How to use pwsafe.

Adding a new entry to the password database

Let's say you want to create an account on the website http://www.niftyservice.com. Then you would proceed like this:

  1. Only once: setup gpg and generate a keypair. pwsafe uses the gpg default keypair to decrypt and encrypt your password database.

    $ gpg --gen-key
  2. Point your web browser to http://www.niftyservice.com and navigate to the sign-up page where you have to enter your new login credentials like username and password. Don't enter anything yet. Usually, these pages have at least three input fields:

    • enter your desired username
    • enter your desired password
    • repeat your desired password
  3. In a terminal, call pwsafe like this:

    $ pwsafe -a http://www.niftyservice.com
    You need a passphrase to unlock the secret key for
    user: "Some Body <some.body@some.where>"
    Waiting for one selection request.

    pwsafe has generated a random username and password for you, and added it to the password database. At this point, pwsafe blocks and waits for a paste request. In X, you do that with your middle mouse button.

  4. In your web browser, middle-click on the "username" field. pwsafe pastes the username it has generated for you.

  5. pwsafe now waits for you to paste the password two times. Middle-click on the "password" field, then again in the "repeat password" field.

  6. pwsafe exits, because it's job is done for now. Fill out the rest of the fields in the web form to your liking.

Looking up a password in the database

If you want to log in to niftyservice again, proceed as follows.

  1. Call pwsafe like this

    $ pwsafe -q nifty
    You need a passphrase to unlock the secret key for
    user: "Some Body <some.body@some.where>"
    Waiting for one selection request.

    The term nifty must match exactly one entry in your password database. If you have two entries, one for niftyservice and one for niftycatpictures, pwsafe exits with an error. Make the term long enough to be unambiguous.

    At this point, pwsafe has opened the website that corresponds to the entry in your default web browser. To configure your default web browser, consult the documentation of xdg-open and update-alternatives.

  2. Switch to your browser window and navigate to the login page.

  3. Middle-click on the "username" field.

  4. Middle-click on the "password" field.

  5. pwsafe exits, and you can proceed with the login.

Changing or deleting an entry in the database

pwsafe does not have commands to edit entries in your database. Instead, it fires up vim with the complete decrypted database for you to edit it. pwsafe decrypts your database to a temporary file, loads this file in vim with sensible defaults (no backupfile, no vimfile, no swapfile, etc). Once you are done editing, pwsafe encrypts the file again and calls shred to securely delete the decrypted copy. If you are using an SSD, shred is useless, so you better be using hardware encryption.

Currently, only vim is supported for database editing.

An entry in the database has a symbolic name and three fields: user, url and password.


Only the "name" and "password" fields are required. "user" and "url" are optional. If the url field is not present, pwsafe will not invoke your web browser on query. If the user field is not present, pwsafe will only provide the password to paste on query.

Command line options

Usage: pwsafe [OPTION]...

             --help           display this help and exit
  -a URL     --add=URL        add a new entry to the database; the password is
                              always automatically generated; the username is
                              generated unless --user is specified
  -q TERM    --query=TERM     lookup a password, the term must match exactly one
  -l[TERM]   --list[=TERM]    list all entries matching the given term
  -e         --edit           invoke vim to edit the database using sensible
                              defaults (no backup, no swapfile etc)
             --dump           dump database to stdout
             --lock           acquire write lock for database
             --unlock         release write lock for database
             --dbfile=FILE    file where passwords are stored;
                              defaults to ~/.pwsafe/db
             --user=USER      specify a username to be used for a new entry;
                              this option is to be used with --add
  -n NUMBER                   copy password n times to clipboard;
                              defaults to 1
             --password-only  only copy password to clipboard


pwsafe is primarily here to serve my needs. If we can extend it in a way that makes it more useful for you and still serves my needs, even better!

Make sure that the test suite passes with your changes and add tests for new code.

Running the tests

First make sure that you have the latest version of cabal-install:

$ cabal update && cabal install cabal-install

Make sure that ~/.cabal/bin/ is on your PATH.

Run the tests:

$ cabal install --enable-tests --dependencies-only
$ cabal test

Running the tests during development

During development you want to run the test with GHCi. This is much faster and provides better feedback:

$ chmod og-w .ghci
$ ghci test/Spec.hs
*Main> :main

After making changes, run:

*Main> :reload
*Main> :main