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Prefix any command with keycmd to safely source your secrets and credentials from the OS keyring, instead of risky .env files (or worse 🙈). Common applications include npm, pip, poetry, docker, docker compose and kubectl!

Supports Windows, macOS and Linux.


The main functionality of keycmd is to load secrets from your OS keyring and expose them as environment variables for the duration of a single shell command or alternatively for the lifetime of a subshell.

This enables you to store sensitive data such as authentication tokens and passwords in your OS keyring, so you no longer need to rely on insecure practises such as .env files, or pasting secrets into your terminal. 😱

The most common use case is to load credentials for package managers such as pip and npm when using private package indexes, such as Azure Artifact Feeds. Another common use case is docker build secrets.


Note If you're intending to install keycmd in a WSL or pyenv environment, you'll have to skip ahead to the specific installation instructions for those environments.

Global installation

Install keycmd from pypi using pip install keycmd, or whatever alternative python package manager you prefer.

Note that the executable keycmd has to be installed to a folder that is on your PATH environment variable, or the command won't be available globally. Assuming you were able to run pip just now, the keycmd executable should end up in the exact same location and everything should be fine.

To verify keycmd is installed and available, run keycmd --version.

pyenv installation

Now, if you're using pyenv, you're going to have to jump through a few hoops since keycmd needs to be installed globally, which flies directly into the face of what pyenv is trying to accomplish.

This guide assumes you've also installed pyenv-virtualenv, in order to get you the cleanest of setups. ✨

Note These pyenv instructions are for pyenv on Linux and MacOS. If you are using pyenv-win on Windows, these instructions are most likely not 100% compatible with your setup.

Run the following commands one by one to install keycmd into its own standalone environment:

# run the following commands one by one
pyenv virtualenv 3.9 keycmd
pyenv activate keycmd
pip install keycmd
pathToKeycmd=$(python -c 'import sys; from pathlib import Path; print(Path(sys.executable).parent / "keycmd")')
pyenv deactivate
mkdir -p $HOME/.local/bin
ln -s $pathToKeycmd $HOME/.local/bin/keycmd

Finally, edit your ~/.bashrc file (or whatever shell profile you use) to include ~/.local/bin in your PATH variable:

export PATH="$HOME/.local/bin:$PATH"

Note This line may already be in place in your ~/.bashrc, for example, if you installed poetry! It's a common trick used to expose specific binaries on PATH when they are in folders that also include binaries that should not be exposed on PATH.

To verify keycmd is installed and available, run keycmd --version.

WSL installation

If you're using WSL, you'll run into a wall when you first try to use keycmd. That's because keycmd uses the keyring library to connect to OS keyrings, and keyring will attempt to connect to your linux distro's (probably Ubuntu) keyring background service, which by default isn't actually running in a WSL environment!

If you did actually set up your linux distro's keyring background service, that's fine, you can continue using it and don't need to perform any additional steps.

Note Just because you installed WSL on your system, does not mean you are actually working in WSL. Think about this for a moment; are you using Python from Windows or from WSL? The instructions here are only necessary if you are actually working in WSL.

So, if you would like keyring to connect from the WSL environment to your Windows Credential Manager instead, continue with the next steps.

You have to install keycmd according to the above instructions (globally, or with pyenv) in Windows, not in WSL. Then, assuming keycmd is on your Windows PATH, it should now be available in WSL as well!

Up- and downgrading

If at a later point in time, you want to install a different version of keycmd, just use pip again.

Note If you're using pyenv, make sure to activate the virtual environment first with pyenv activate keycmd. Don't forget to pyenv deactivate afterwards.

  • To upgrade to latest: pip install -U keycmd
  • To install a specific version: pip install keycmd==0.6.0


Now that keycmd is installed, we can perform a quick test to see how it works!

Let's add a new key to our OS keyring, and then see how we can expose it with keycmd.

For the purpose of this example, use my-secret as the credential name and my-username as the... username. I used foobar as the password.

On Windows, that means clicking Start and typing "Credential Manager" to find the app. Click the Windows Credentials tab, and click "Add a generic credential". See the screenshots below.

Credential Manager

Add Key

On macOS, open Keychain Access (Command-Space bar, type keychain access), then press Command-N to add a new password item. Please note that Account Name holds the username.

Add New Password Item

Note Pull requests to add visual guides for linux keyrings are most welcome!

Now, create a .keycmd config file in your user home folder. Put the following configuration in the file and save:

SECRET = { credential = "my-secret", username = "my-username" }

Finally, open a terminal and run a command to print the secret, so we can see if it worked. That's going to look different depending on what shell you're using, so here's a couple examples:

  • Cmd: keycmd echo %SECRET%
  • Powershell: keycmd 'echo $env:SECRET'
  • Bash: keycmd 'echo $SECRET'

You should see the text foobar being printed to the terminal.

You've successfully set up keycmd! 👏

See the advanced configuration example below for a more involved usecase for keycmd, where poetry, npm and docker-compose are all put together.


The CLI has the following options:

❯ keycmd --help
usage: keycmd [-h] [-v] [--version] [--shell] ...

positional arguments:
  command        command to run

optional arguments:
  -h, --help     show this help message and exit
  -v, --verbose  enable verbose output, useful for configuration debugging
  --version      print version info
  --shell        spawn a subshell instead of running a command

There are two main ways to use the CLI:

  • keycmd 'your command'
  • keycmd --shell

The first is the most preferred method, since your secrets will only be exposed as environment variables during a one-off command. The latter is less preferable, but can be convenient if you are debugging some process that depends on the credentials you are exposing.


Note if you are having trouble configuring keycmd, refer to section debugging configuration.


Configuration can be stored in three places (where ~ is the user home folder and . is the current working directory when calling keycmd):

  • ~/.keycmd
  • all .keycmd found while walking file system up from .
  • first pyproject.toml found while walking file system up from .

Note: The search for .keycmd and pyproject.toml will stop at the root of a git repository, and before the user home folder, to ensure your configuration can be applied locally to subtrees of your filesystem.

Configuration files are loaded and merged in the listed order.


The options schema is defined as follows:

  • keys: dict
    • {key_name}: dict
      • credential: str
      • username: str
      • b64: bool, optional
      • format: str, optional
  • aliases: dict
    • {alias_name}: dict
      • key: str
      • b64: bool, optional
      • format: str, optional

You can define as many keys as you like. For each key, you are required to define:

  • the key_name, which is the name of the environment variable under which the credential will be exposed
  • the credential, which is the name of the credential in your OS keyring
  • the username, which is the name of the user owning the credential in the OS keyring

Optional fields:

  • b64, set this to true to apply base64 encoding to the password
  • format, apply a format string (before optionally applying base64 encoding)
    • you have access to credential, username and password
    • so for example you can put together a basic auth header like this: "{username}:{password}"

The aliases make it possible to expose the same credentials in another way, the fields work the same.


This configuration exposes a specific credential both plainly under the environment variable MY_TOKEN, and again with base64 encoding applied as MY_TOKEN_B64:

MY_TOKEN = { credential = "MY_TOKEN", username = "azure" }

MY_TOKEN_B64 = { key = "MY_TOKEN", b64 = true }

pyproject.toml example

You can also store your configuration in pyproject.toml, by prefixing the keys with tool.keycmd. So if we were to convert the previous example it would look like this:

MY_TOKEN = { credential = "MY_TOKEN", username = "azure" }

MY_TOKEN_B64 = { key = "MY_TOKEN", b64 = true }

OpenAI example

With OpenAI, you're instructed to use an API key to authenticate with their APIs. When you put that string in a .env file, or directly in your code, you risk sharing your API key with the world! 🙅‍♂️

Instead, just put it in your OS keyring, and expose it with keycmd when you run your python scripts or jupyter notebooks.

For example, if you add it to your OS keyring under the name my-openai-token and your-username, you would use the following .keycmd configuration:

OPENAI_API_KEY = { credential = "my-openai-token", username = "your-username" }

Now you can run any OpenAI script by just prefixing your commands with keycmd. For example:

keycmd 'python'

Or a jupyter notebook:

keycmd 'jupyter notebook'

That's all! 🤘 Now you can rest easily, knowing your tokens are safe. 🛌💤

Advanced example

This is an example configuration for Poetry, npm and docker-compose. It should inspire you to see the possibilities keycmd provides thanks to its configuration system.

In this case, we are authenticating with an Azure DevOps Personal Acces Token to an Azure Artifacts Feed which serves both python and node.js packages.

Let's begin by creating a Packaging (Read) token in Azure DevOps:

Personal access tokens

Make sure to check the Packaging (Read) permission, it's the only permission we need for this example.

PAT Permissions

In this case, we won't enter it into the OS keyring manually. We'll let Poetry handle it. Let's review our pyproject.toml file:

name = "my-project"
version = "1.0.0"
description = ""
authors = ["My Name <>"]

name = "main"
url = ""
priority = "default"

python = "~3.9"

requires = ["poetry>=1.0.0"]
build-backend = "poetry.core.masonry.api"

Looks like our poetry source is named main, so let's run the appropriate command:

poetry config http-basic.main <username> <personal-access-token>

Poetry will create an entry in the OS keyring, and when you run poetry install it will automatically authenticate using that credential. No need for keycmd here!

Next, we're going to piggyback off this credential with keycmd, to reuse it for npm, and for docker-compose. That way, we only have 1 credential to manage (that means updating it when it expires).

Look up the new credential in your OS keyring, and store the following configuration in a .keycmd file. Of course, review your OS keyring and adjust your configuration to match the credential name and username!

PAT = { credential = "credential-name", username = "your-username" }
PAT_B64 = { credential = "credential-name", username = "your-username", b64 = true }

In this example, we are exposing the same credential twice:

  • As the environment variable PAT
  • Again but with base64 encoding applied as the environment variable PAT_B64

This is important, because npm requires that we supply the token with base64 encoding, but other tools do not.

For my npm project, I have a .npmrc file with the following contents:


Now, I can set up my node_modules just by calling keycmd 'npm install'! 🚀

Note npm will complain if you make any calls such as npm run [...] without the environment variable set. 🙄 You can set them to the empty string to make npm shut up. I use export PAT_B64= (or setx PAT_B64= on Windows).

Additionally, I also have a docker-compose file in this project which is configured as follows:

    environment: PAT
    environment: PAT_B64

When I call keycmd 'docker compose build' these two variables are exposed by keycmd and subsequently they are available as docker compose build secrets. 👌

Debugging configuration

If you're not getting the results you expected, use the -v flag to debug your configuration. Keycmd will verbosely tell you about all the steps it's taking.

Here's an example using cmd.exe, otherwise, the command would be poetry run keycmd -v 'echo $ARTIFACTS_TOKEN_B64':

❯ poetry run keycmd -v echo %ARTIFACTS_TOKEN_B64%
keycmd: loading config file C:\Users\kvang\.keycmd
keycmd: loading config file C:\Users\kvang\dev\keycmd\pyproject.toml
keycmd: merged config:
{'keys': {'ARTIFACTS_TOKEN': {'credential': 'korijn@poetry-repository-main',
                              'username': 'korijn'},
          'ARTIFACTS_TOKEN_B64': {'b64': True,
                                  'credential': 'korijn@poetry-repository-main',
                                  'username': 'korijn'}}}
keycmd: exposing credential korijn@poetry-repository-main belonging to user korijn as environment variable ARTIFACTS_TOKEN (b64: False)
keycmd: exposing credential korijn@poetry-repository-main belonging to user korijn as environment variable ARTIFACTS_TOKEN_B64 (b64: True)
keycmd: detected shell: C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe
keycmd: running command: ['C:\\Windows\\System32\\cmd.exe', '/C', 'echo', '%ARTIFACTS_TOKEN_B64%']

Note on keyring backends

Since keycmd uses keyring as its backend, you're not limited to just working with OS keyrings. 🤯 Any keyring backend will work with keycmd. No special configuration required!

See the third party backends list for all options.

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