This manual describes the Emacs auth-source library.
It is a way for multiple applications to share a single configuration (in Emacs and in files) for user convenience.
This file describes the Emacs auth-source library.
Copyright © 2008–2018 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with the Front-Cover Texts being “A GNU Manual,” and with the Back-Cover Texts as in (a) below. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled “GNU Free Documentation License”.
(a) The FSF's Back-Cover Text is: “You have the freedom to copy and modify this GNU manual.”
|Overview||Overview of the auth-source library.|
|Help for users|
|Multiple GMail accounts with Gnus|
|Secret Service API|
|The Unix password store|
|Help for developers|
|GnuPG and EasyPG Assistant Configuration|
|GNU Free Documentation License||The license for this documentation.|
The auth-source library is simply a way for Emacs and Gnus, among others, to answer the old burning question “What are my user name and password?”
(This is different from the old question about burning “Where is the fire extinguisher, please?”.)
The auth-source library supports more than just the user name or the password (known as the secret).
Similarly, the auth-source library supports multiple storage backend, currently either the classic “netrc” backend, examples of which you can see later in this document, the Secret Service API, and pass, the standard unix password manager. This is done with EIEIO-based backends and you can write your own if you want.
2 Help for users
“Netrc” files are a de facto standard. They look like this:
machine mymachine login myloginname password mypassword port myport
machine is the server (either a DNS name or an IP address).
It's known as :host in
auth-source-search queries. You
can also use
port is the connection port or protocol. It's known as
user is the user name. It's known as :user in
auth-source-search queries. You can also use
You can use spaces inside a password or other token by surrounding the token with either single or double quotes.
You can use apostrophes inside a password or other token by
surrounding it with double quotes, e.g.,
"he'llo". Similarly you
can use double quotes inside a password or other token by surrounding
it with apostrophes, e.g.,
'he"llo'. You can't mix both (so a
password or other token can't have both apostrophes and double quotes).
All this is optional. You could just say (but we don't recommend it, we're just showing that it's possible)
to use the same password everywhere. Again, DO NOT DO THIS or you will be pwned as the kids say.
“Netrc” files are usually called .authinfo or .netrc; nowadays .authinfo seems to be more popular and the auth-source library encourages this confusion by accepting both, as you'll see later.
If you have problems with the search, set
'trivia and see what host, port, and user the library is
checking in the *Messages* buffer. Ditto for any other
problems, your first step is always to see what's being checked. The
second step, of course, is to write a blog entry about it and wait for
the answer in the comments.
You can customize the variable
auth-sources. The following may
be needed if you are using an older version of Emacs or if the
auth-source library is not loaded for some other reason.
(require 'auth-source) ;; probably not necessary (customize-variable 'auth-sources) ;; optional, do it once
auth-sourcesvariable tells the auth-source library where your netrc files, Secret Service API collection items, or your password store live for a particular host and protocol. While you can get fancy, the default and simplest configuration is:;;; old default: required :host and :port, not needed anymore (setq auth-sources '((:source "~/.authinfo.gpg" :host t :port t))) ;;; mostly equivalent (see below about fallbacks) but shorter: (setq auth-sources '((:source "~/.authinfo.gpg"))) ;;; even shorter and the default: (setq auth-sources '("~/.authinfo.gpg" "~/.authinfo" "~/.netrc")) ;;; use the Secrets API Login collection ;;; (see Secret Service API) (setq auth-sources '("secrets:Login")) ;;; use pass (~/.password-store) ;;; (see The Unix password store) (setq auth-sources '(password-store))
By adding multiple entries to
auth-sourceswith a particular host or protocol, you can have specific netrc files for that host or protocol. Usually this is unnecessary but may make sense if you have shared netrc files or some other unusual setup (90% of Emacs users have unusual setups and the remaining 10% are really unusual).
Here's a mixed example using two sources:(setq auth-sources '((:source (:secrets default) :host "myserver" :user "joe") "~/.authinfo.gpg"))
If you don't customize
auth-sources, you'll have to live with
the defaults: the unencrypted netrc file ~/.authinfo will be
used for any host and any port.
If that fails, any host and any port are looked up in the netrc file ~/.authinfo.gpg, which is a GnuPG encrypted file (see GnuPG and EasyPG Assistant Configuration).
Finally, the unencrypted netrc file ~/.netrc will be used for any host and any port.
The typical netrc line example is without a port.
machine YOURMACHINE login YOU password YOURPASSWORD
This will match any authentication port. Simple, right? But what if there's a SMTP server on port 433 of that machine that needs a different password from the IMAP server?
machine YOURMACHINE login YOU password SMTPPASSWORD port 433 machine YOURMACHINE login YOU password GENERALPASSWORD
For url-auth authentication (HTTP/HTTPS), you need to put this in your netrc file:
machine yourmachine.com:80 port http login testuser password testpass
This will match any realm and authentication method (basic or digest) over HTTP. HTTPS is set up similarly. If you want finer controls, explore the url-auth source code and variables.
For Tramp authentication, use:
machine yourmachine.com port scp login testuser password testpass
Note that the port denotes the Tramp connection method. When you don't use a port entry, you match any Tramp method, as explained earlier. Since Tramp has about 88 connection methods, this may be necessary if you have an unusual (see earlier comment on those) setup.
3 Multiple GMail accounts with Gnus
For multiple GMail accounts with Gnus, you have to make two nnimap
entries in your
gnus-secondary-select-methods with distinct
(setq gnus-secondary-select-methods '((nnimap "gmail" (nnimap-address "imap.gmail.com")) (nnimap "gmail2" (nnimap-address "imap.gmail.com"))))
Your netrc entries will then be:
machine gmail login firstname.lastname@example.org password "account password" port imap machine gmail2 login email@example.com password "account2 password" port imap
4 Secret Service API
The Secret Service API is a standard from freedesktop.org to securely store passwords and other confidential information. This API is implemented by system daemons such as the GNOME Keyring and the KDE Wallet (these are GNOME and KDE packages respectively and should be available on most modern GNU/Linux systems).
The auth-source library uses the secrets.el library to connect through the Secret Service API. You can also use that library in other packages, it's not exclusive to auth-source.
After loading secrets.el, a non-
nilvalue of this variable indicates the existence of a daemon providing the Secret Service API.
The atomic objects managed by the Secret Service API are secret items, which contain things an application wishes to store securely, like a password. Secret items have a label (a name), the secret (which is the string we want, like a password), and a set of lookup attributes. The attributes can be used to search and retrieve a secret item at a later date.
Secret items are grouped in collections. A collection is sometimes called a ‘keyring’ or ‘wallet’ in GNOME Keyring and KDE Wallet but it's the same thing, a group of secrets. Collections are personal and protected so only the owner can open them.
The most common collection is called
A collection can have an alias. The alias
commonly used so the clients don't have to know the specific name of
the collection they open. Other aliases are not supported yet.
Since aliases are globally accessible, set the
only when you're sure it's appropriate.
Set alias as alias of collection labeled collection. Currently only the alias
Return the collection name alias is referencing to. Currently only the alias
Collections can be created and deleted by the functions
Usually, this is not done from within Emacs. Do not delete standard
collections such as
The special collection
"session" exists for the lifetime of the
corresponding client session (in our case, Emacs's lifetime). It is
created automatically when Emacs uses the Secret Service interface and
it is deleted when Emacs is killed. Therefore, it can be used to
store and retrieve secret items temporarily. The
collection is better than a persistent collection when the secret
items should not live longer than Emacs. The session collection can
be specified either by the string
"session", or by
whenever a collection parameter is needed in the following functions.
This function creates a new item in collection with label item and password password. attributes are key-value pairs set for the created item. The keys are keyword symbols, starting with a colon. Example:;;; The session "session", the label is "my item" ;;; and the secret (password) is "geheim" (secrets-create-item "session" "my item" "geheim" :method "sudo" :user "joe" :host "remote-host")
Return the secret of item labeled item in collection. If there is no such item, return
The lookup attributes, which are specified during creation of a secret item, must be a key-value pair. Keys are keyword symbols, starting with a colon; values are strings. They can be retrieved from a given secret item and they can be used for searching of items.
Returns the value of key attribute of item labeled item in collection. If there is no such item, or the item doesn't own this key, the function returns
Return the lookup attributes of item labeled item in collection. If there is no such item, or the item has no attributes, it returns
nil. Example:(secrets-get-attributes "session" "my item") ⇒ ((:user . "joe") (:host ."remote-host"))
Search for the items in collection with matching attributes. The attributes are key-value pairs, as used in
secrets-create-item. Example:(secrets-search-items "session" :user "joe") ⇒ ("my item" "another item")
The auth-source library uses the secrets.el library and thus
the Secret Service API when you specify a source matching
"secrets:COLLECTION". For instance, you could use
"secrets:session" to use the
"session" collection, open only
for the lifetime of Emacs. Or you could use
"Login" collection. As a special case, you can use the
auth-sources (not a string, but a
symbol) to specify the
"default" alias. Here is a contrived
example that sets
auth-sources to search three collections and
then fall back to ~/.authinfo.gpg.
(setq auth-sources '(default "secrets:session" "secrets:Login" "~/.authinfo.gpg"))
5 The Unix password store
The standard unix password manager (or just
pass) stores your passwords in
gpg-protected files following the Unix philosophy.
Emacs integration of
pass follows the first approach suggested
by the pass project itself for data organization to find data. This
means that the filename of the file containing the password for a user
on a particular host must contain the host name. The file itself must
contain the password on the first line, as well as a
field containing the username on a subsequent line. A
field can be used to differentiate the authentication data for several
services with the same username on the same host.
pass may also be interested in functionality provided
by other Emacs packages dealing with pass:
- password-store: library wrapping
- pass: major mode to manipulate the store and edit entries;
- helm-pass: helm interface for pass.
6 Help for developers
The auth-source library lets you control logging output easily.
Set this variable to
'triviato see lots of output in *Messages*, or set it to a function that behaves like
messageto do your own logging.
The auth-source library only has a few functions for external use.
This function searches (or modifies) authentication backends according to spec. See the function's doc-string for details.
Let's take a look at an example of using
(defun nnimap-credentials (address ports) (let* ((auth-source-creation-prompts '((user . "IMAP user at %h: ") (secret . "IMAP password for %u@%h: "))) (found (nth 0 (auth-source-search :max 1 :host address :port ports :require '(:user :secret) :create t)))) (if found (list (plist-get found :user) (let ((secret (plist-get found :secret))) (if (functionp secret) (funcall secret) secret)) (plist-get found :save-function)) nil)))
This call requires the user and password (secret) to be in the
results. It also requests that an entry be created if it doesn't
exist already. While the created entry is being assembled, the shown
prompts will be used to interact with the user. The caller can also
pass data in
auth-source-creation-defaults to supply defaults
for any of the prompts.
Note that the password needs to be evaluated if it's a function. It's wrapped in a function to provide some security.
Later, after a successful login,
nnimap.el calls the
:save-function like so:
(when (functionp (nth 2 credentials)) (funcall (nth 2 credentials)))
This will work whether the
:save-function was provided or not.
:save-function will be provided only when a new entry was
created, so this effectively says “after a successful login, save the
authentication information we just used, if it was newly created.”
After the first time it's called, the
:save-function will not
run again (but it will log something if you have set
'trivia). This is so it won't ask
the same question again, which is annoying. This is so it won't ask
the same question again, which is annoying. This is so it won't ask
the same question again, which is annoying.
So the responsibility of the API user that specified
is to call the
:save-function if it's provided.
This function deletes entries matching spec from the authentication backends. It returns the entries that were deleted. The backend may not actually delete the entries.
This function forgets any cached data that exactly matches spec. It returns
tif it forget some data, and
nilif no matching data was found.
This function forgets any cached data matching spec. It returns the number of items forgotten.
Appendix A GnuPG and EasyPG Assistant Configuration
auth-sources variable contains ~/.authinfo.gpg
before ~/.authinfo, the auth-source library will try to
read the GnuPG encrypted .gpg file first, before
the unencrypted file.
In Emacs 23 or later there is an option
automatically decrypt *.gpg files. It is enabled by default.
If you are using earlier versions of Emacs, you will need:
(require 'epa-file) (epa-file-enable)
If you want your GnuPG passwords to be cached, set up
or EasyPG Assistant
(see Caching Passphrases).
To quick start, here are some questions:
- Do you use GnuPG version 2 instead of GnuPG version 1?
- Do you use symmetric encryption rather than public key encryption?
- Do you want to use gpg-agent?
Here are configurations depending on your answers:
|Yes||Yes||Yes||Set up gpg-agent.
|Yes||Yes||No||You can't, without gpg-agent.
|Yes||No||Yes||Set up gpg-agent.
|Yes||No||No||You can't, without gpg-agent.
|No||Yes||Yes||Set up elisp passphrase cache.
|No||Yes||No||Set up elisp passphrase cache.
|No||No||Yes||Set up gpg-agent.
|No||No||No||You can't, without gpg-agent.
To set up gpg-agent, follow the instruction in GnuPG manual (see Invoking GPG-AGENT).
To set up elisp passphrase cache, set
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Each version of the License is given a distinguishing version number. If the Document specifies that a particular numbered version of this License “or any later version” applies to it, you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that specified version or of any later version that has been published (not as a draft) by the Free Software Foundation. If the Document does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published (not as a draft) by the Free Software Foundation. If the Document specifies that a proxy can decide which future versions of this License can be used, that proxy's public statement of acceptance of a version permanently authorizes you to choose that version for the Document.
“Massive Multiauthor Collaboration Site” (or “MMC Site”) means any World Wide Web server that publishes copyrightable works and also provides prominent facilities for anybody to edit those works. A public wiki that anybody can edit is an example of such a server. A “Massive Multiauthor Collaboration” (or “MMC”) contained in the site means any set of copyrightable works thus published on the MMC site.
“CC-BY-SA” means the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license published by Creative Commons Corporation, a not-for-profit corporation with a principal place of business in San Francisco, California, as well as future copyleft versions of that license published by that same organization.
“Incorporate” means to publish or republish a Document, in whole or in part, as part of another Document.
An MMC is “eligible for relicensing” if it is licensed under this License, and if all works that were first published under this License somewhere other than this MMC, and subsequently incorporated in whole or in part into the MMC, (1) had no cover texts or invariant sections, and (2) were thus incorporated prior to November 1, 2008.
The operator of an MMC Site may republish an MMC contained in the site under CC-BY-SA on the same site at any time before August 1, 2009, provided the MMC is eligible for relicensing.
ADDENDUM: How to use this License for your documents
To use this License in a document you have written, include a copy of the License in the document and put the following copyright and license notices just after the title page:
Copyright (C) year your name. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled ``GNU Free Documentation License''.
If you have Invariant Sections, Front-Cover Texts and Back-Cover Texts, replace the “with...Texts.” line with this:
with the Invariant Sections being list their titles, with the Front-Cover Texts being list, and with the Back-Cover Texts being list.
If you have Invariant Sections without Cover Texts, or some other combination of the three, merge those two alternatives to suit the situation.
If your document contains nontrivial examples of program code, we recommend releasing these examples in parallel under your choice of free software license, such as the GNU General Public License, to permit their use in free software.
auth-source-delete: Help for developers
auth-source-forget: Help for developers
auth-source-forget+: Help for developers
auth-source-search: Help for developers
secrets-create-item: Secret Service API
secrets-delete-item: Secret Service API
secrets-get-alias: Secret Service API
secrets-get-attribute: Secret Service API
secrets-get-attributes: Secret Service API
secrets-get-secret: Secret Service API
secrets-list-collections: Secret Service API
secrets-list-items: Secret Service API
secrets-search-items: Secret Service API
secrets-set-alias: Secret Service API
secrets-show-secrets: Secret Service API