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A password generation utility

Project description




passwdgen is a simple password generation utility with a couple of powerful extra features (including password entropy calculation and entropy-based password generation).


To use passwdgen, you will need to install Python 3.9+.

> pip install passwdgen

If you want passwdgen to be globally accessible, you'll need to install it with sudo/root privileges:

> sudo pip install passwdgen


The simplest password generation command you can execute is:

> passwdgen generate


To find out more detailed help about a particular command, simply run:

> passwdgen <command> --help

# For example:
> passwdgen generate --help


Allows you to calculate the entropy of a particular password. For example, on UNIX-like systems, you can simply pipe the password into the info command:

> echo "some-password" | passwdgen info
> cat /path/to/password/file | passwdgen info

If you do not pipe text into passwdgen, it will prompt you to enter the password on the command line:

> passwdgen info
Please enter the password to check: <type your password here>

For more information on password entropy, please see the section on Entropy further on in this README.


Generate a password. Two kinds of passwords can be generated:

  • dictionary-based passwords (the default), or
  • character-based passwords (see this XKCD before you choose this mechanism).

Some examples of dictionary-based password generation:

# Generate a dictionary-based password 6 words long
> passwdgen generate -l 6

# Generate a dictionary-based password with minimum entropy 70 bits
> passwdgen generate -m 70

# Generate a dictionary-based password and copy it to the clipboard
> passwdgen generate -c

# Generate a dictionary-based password with colons (:) as a separator
> passwdgen generate -s colon

# Generate a dictionary-based password and display its entropy info
> passwdgen generate -i

# Generate a dictionary-based password based on the given starting letters
> passwdgen generate --starting-letters hello

Some examples of character-based password generation:

# Generate a password 15 characters long comprising numbers and letters
> passwdgen generate -t alpha-numeric -l 15

# Generate a password 18 characters long comprising numbers, letters and
# special characters
> passwdgen generate -t special -l 18

# Generate a password 12 characters long and display its entropy info
> passwdgen generate -t special -l 12 -i

# Generate a character-based password, copy it to the clipboard, and
# display its entropy info
> passwdgen generate -t special -c -i


Runs a quick test of your OS' pseudorandom number generator (PRNG). Computes a sample set (by default, 1 million entries) of random numbers between 0 and 100 (inclusive)

For example:

> passwdgen rng
Testing OS RNG. Attempting to generate 1000000 samples between 0 and 100 (inclusive). Please wait...

Mean               : 49.966455 (should approach 50.000 as the sample size increases; 0.067% difference)
Standard deviation : 29.151161 (should be as close to 29.154759 as possible; 0.012% difference)
Time taken         : 2.083 seconds

The expected standard deviation for a random variable with a discrete uniform random distribution is expected to be calculated as per this Wikipedia entry.


At present, this command has only one sub-command: clean. To take an arbitrary word list (a text file with one word per line) and clean it up, do the following:

> passwdgen wordlist clean /path/to/input/file.txt /path/to/output/file.txt

This command will:

  • remove empty lines,
  • strip out any plurals ('s at the end of strings),
  • convert all words to lowercase,
  • deduplicate entries, and
  • sort everything alphabetically.


Using passwdgen from your own Python project is easy:

import passwdgen

# Generate a dictionary-based password using the built-in dictionary
my_password = passwdgen.words()

# Generate a character-based password
my_password = passwdgen.chars()

# Generate a dictionary-based password with 6 words
long_password = passwdgen.words(word_count=6)

# Generate a dictionary-based password with minimum entropy 80
difficult_password = passwdgen.words(min_entropy=80)

# Generate a dictionary-based password with a custom dictionary
my_dictionary = passwdgen.load_word_list("/path/to/my/dict.txt")
password = passwdgen.words(my_dictionary)

passwdgen.words(dict_set, separator, word_count, min_entropy, starting_letters)

Generates a dictionary-based password. All arguments are keyword arguments and are optional:

  • dict_set: A set containing all of the possible words from which to generate a password. If not supplied, this will default to the built-in dictionary.
  • separator: The separator character to use between the words. Default value: - (hyphen)
  • word_count: The number of words to use when generating the password. If not specified, and min_entropy is not specified, this defaults to 4.
  • min_entropy: The minimum required entropy of the generated password. If word_count is specified, this parameter is ignored.
  • starting_letters: A string containing the desired starting letters of each word in the generated password. Note: if word_count or min_entropy are specified, this string must contain at least the relevant number of characters to match the number of generated words. Otherwise the generated password will have exactly the same number of words as this string has characters.

Returns a string.

passwdgen.chars(charset, length, min_entropy)

Generates a character-based password. All arguments are keyword arguments and are optional:

  • charset: The ID of the character set from which to source characters for the generated password. Default: special. See the section on Character Sets below.
  • length: The required number of characters in the generated password. If neither length nor min_entropy are specified, this defaults to 12.
  • min_entropy: The minimum required entropy of the generated password. If length is specified, this parameter is ignored.

Returns a string.

passwdgen.load_word_list(filename, encoding)

Loads a word list into memory. All arguments are keyword arguments and are optional:

  • filename: The path to the file from which to load the words. This file must be a plain text file containing one word per line. If not specified, this loads the built-in dictionary into memory.
  • encoding: The character encoding to use when reading the file.

Returns a set containing the loaded words.

passwdgen.secure_random(a, b)

Securely generates a random number using the given limits.

  • a (required): If b is specified, a represents the lower limit (inclusive) of the resulting random number. If b is not specified, a represents the upper limit (exclusive) of the generated number, and the lower limit defaults to 0.
  • b (optional): The upper limit (exclusive) of the generated random number.

Returns a securely generated random number with a <= result < b if b is specified, or 0 <= result < a if b is not specified.

passwdgen.calculate_entropy(password, dict_set)

Attempts to calculate the entropy of the given password based on the preconfigured character sets and the dictionary.

  • password (required): The password whose entropy is to be calculated.
  • dict_set (optional): A set of words comprising the dictionary for which to perform the dictionary-based entropy calculation.

Returns a dict whose keys represent the IDs of the different character sets tested, and values represent the corresponding entropies.

Character Sets

The following character sets are available at present (for use with the generate --charset <charset> command).

  • dict: Dictionary-based password generation.
  • alpha-lower: Lowercase alphabetical letters (a-z).
  • alpha-upper: Uppercase alphabetical letters (A-Z).
  • alpha: Alphabetical (a-z, A-Z).
  • alpha-numeric: Alphanumeric characters (a-z, A-Z, 0-9).
  • alpha-numeric-spaced: Alphanumeric characters and spaces (a-z, A-Z, 0-9, ).
  • numeric: Numeric characters (0-9).
  • alpha-lower-sep: Lowercase alphabetical letters and separators (a-z, -_. ,;:).
  • alpha-upper-sep: Uppercase alphabetical letters and separators (A-Z, -_. ,;:).
  • special: Alphanumeric characters and special characters (a-z, A-Z, 0-9, -_. ,;:!@#$%^&*()+={}[]'\"\\/?<>`~).


Entropy, in the context of information theory, provides a convenient way to quantify the amount of information in a particular set of data. With regard to password strength, the higher the entropy of a password, the more difficult it is for an attacker to guess.

From the perspective of the generator, the password strength is measured by way of the information source. From the perspective of an attacker, the more information is known about the information source that generated the password (e.g. the kind of random number generator used, the character set to which the password belongs), the lower the entropy of that password.

Secure random number generation

Entropy calculations are based on the assumption that the random number source is of good quality (see CSPRNG) and generates uniformly distributed random numbers. The random number generator (RNG) used in passwd is provided by the os.urandom() function, which uses /dev/urandom on POSIX systems and CryptGenRandom() on Windows systems.

Character-based calculation

This password generator uses the following definition for entropy: a single character c from a character set of size n characters has an entropy of log2(n) bits (per character). Entropy adds up as the length of the password increases, i.e. two characters from the character set of size n will have a combined overall entropy of 2 x log2(n).

For example, if the lowercase alphabet a..z is used as the character set, it has n=26. Each character would have an entropy of log2(26) = 4.700439718141093 bits per character. A password string, therefore, such as mysuperweakpassword of length 19 characters, will have a total entropy of 19 x log2(26) = 89.31 bits.

As the size of the character set increases, so does the entropy of the password of a certain length, as an attacker attempting a brute force attack would have to search a much larger set of possibilities to find the password.

Dictionary-based calculation

The dictionary-based method of entropy calculation assumes that an attacker has prior knowledge that the password was generated using a dictionary of words, and even knows which dictionary was used. This would obviously be the case if you personally used passwdgen to generate a dictionary-based password, as all the code and the dictionary are out in the open.

In this case, instead of assuming a character set (which would mean a far higher entropy in passwords with 2 or more words), a dictionary-based attack could be performed much quicker.

For example, the password dog-far-nightly-can is 19 characters long and makes use of the lowercase alphabet and hyphens (resulting in a character set of 27 possible characters). This means that a brute force attacker using the full lowercase alphabet and hyphens would be faced with a potential password entropy of 19 x log2(27) = 90.34 bits.

If, however, the attacker knows that the password is dictionary-based and that the words are separated by hyphens, the attacker would only have to guess the 4 words from the dictionary making up the password. This results in a potential entropy from the perspective of the attacker of 4 x log2(275,185) = 72.28 bits (assuming dictionary size of 275,185 words). This is still a pretty strong password, but it is still easier to crack than a password where the attacker does not know that it is dictionary-based.

How much entropy is enough?

So how does one select an appropriate entropy for trying to prevent brute force attacks? This is difficult to estimate, because it depends entirely on the resources available to an attacker. Usually it's cheaper and easier to perform social engineering attacks if someone wants to obtain your password, but if you're paranoid about security and want to cover all your bases, you have to think about the kinds of computing power available to attackers.

Assuming that whichever service stores your password does not store the clear password itself, but a SHA-256 hash of the password (common practice today), and an attacker manages to get hold of this SHA-256 hash, they will have to try many possible permutations of input passwords that will eventually match to that SHA-256 hash.

In general, GPU-based hash attacks are much faster than CPU-based hash attacks. At the time of this writing, it would seem as though high-end GPUs have the ability to perform around 1,000 megahashes per second (that's 1,000,000,000 hashes per second, or 10^9 hashes per second).

Let's assume you generate a dictionary-based password, where the source dictionary size is 71,188 words. Let's also assume that the attacker has the same source dictionary, and knows which character you use to separate the words in your password (in this case, a hyphen).

Words Permutations Time to Crack Entropy
2 5,067,660,156 5.07 seconds 32.24 bits
3 360,746,455,865,016 4.175 days 48.36 bits
4 25,679,736,460,751,163,960 814 years 64.47 bits
5 1,827,986,360,222,110,855,328,640 57,965,067 years 80.6 bits

Of course, if an attacker splits the work up evenly across multiple GPUs, the time to crack goes down linearly, so a 4-word password being brute-force cracked by 2 GPUs would take 407 years, 3 GPUs would take 203.5 years, 10 GPUs 81.4 years, 100 GPUs 8.1 years, 1,000 GPUs would take about 9.5 months, and 10,000 GPUs would take 29.7 days.

So, as you see, it really depends on the resources available to an attacker. In general though, right now, a password with entropy 80 bits and upwards, from the perspective of an attacker, is pretty much infeasible to crack (so a 5-word password from a significantly sized source dictionary and a good quality PRNG). This will, of course, possibly change in the age of quantum computers.


The included dictionary is a "cleaned out" (see the wordlist clean command provided by passwdgen) version of a dictionary created through SCOWL (And Friends), using their word list generator.

At present, the embedded dictionary contains 71,188 words, ensuring an entropy of log2(71,188) = 16.119 bits per word.


Copyright 2000-2014 by Kevin Atkinson

Permission to use, copy, modify, distribute and sell these word lists, the associated scripts, the output created from the scripts, and its documentation for any purpose is hereby granted without fee, provided that the above copyright notice appears in all copies and that both that copyright notice and this permission notice appear in supporting documentation. Kevin Atkinson makes no representations about the suitability of this array for any purpose. It is provided "as is" without express or implied warranty.

Copyright (c) J Ross Beresford 1993-1999. All Rights Reserved.

The following restriction is placed on the use of this publication: if The UK Advanced Cryptics Dictionary is used in a software package or redistributed in any form, the copyright notice must be prominently displayed and the text of this document must be included verbatim.

There are no other restrictions: I would like to see the list distributed as widely as possible.

Many sources were used in the creation of SCOWL, most of them were in the public domain or used indirectly. For a full list please see the SCOWL readme.


The following sources were consulted in building the password generator:


The MIT License (MIT)

Copyright (c) 2016-2019 Thane Thomson

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.


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