GnuPG is one of these annoying tools that has a non-scriptable command line.

I want to run gpg --gen-key in a script, the rest of the process is simple commands. Any one had any luck with this? Entering the password seems to be supported, but not the other questions it asks, key type, key size, expiry, name.

If you use the --yes option, it still shows confirmation dialogs.

Is there any way some more friendly tool like openssl can be used to generate keys?

2 Answers 2


OpenSSL does not support OpenPGP, so you can't use it for key generation. Anyway, GnuPG is rather easy to script using --with-colons together with --batch. For most operations, using GPGME is the way to go, at least for high-level programming languages where libraries exist to interface GnuPG through it without having to parse the output on your own.

Also scripted key generation is possible: you're looking for unattended key generation, which is well possible. In the end it boils down to storing a description on how to generate the keys in a file, and running gpg --batch --genkey [filename].

The documentation linked above hosts following example on unattended key generation:

$ cat >foo <<EOF
     %echo Generating a basic OpenPGP key
     Key-Type: DSA
     Key-Length: 1024
     Subkey-Type: ELG-E
     Subkey-Length: 1024
     Name-Real: Joe Tester
     Name-Comment: with stupid passphrase
     Name-Email: [email protected]
     Expire-Date: 0
     Passphrase: abc
     %pubring foo.pub
     %secring foo.sec
     # Do a commit here, so that we can later print "done" :-)
     %echo done
$ gpg2 --batch --gen-key foo
$ gpg2 --no-default-keyring --secret-keyring ./foo.sec \
       --keyring ./foo.pub --list-secret-keys
sec  1024D/915A878D 2000-03-09 Joe Tester (with stupid passphrase) <[email protected]>
ssb  1024g/8F70E2C0 2000-03-09
$ gpg --quick-gen-key --batch --passphrase '...' [email protected]

From what I can see --quick-gen-key is a better choice for scripts:

4.5.3 The quick key manipulation interface

Recent versions of GnuPG have an interface to manipulate keys without using the interactive command --edit-key. This interface was added mainly for the benefit of GPGME (please consider using GPGME, see the manual subsection “Programmatic use of GnuPG”).


4.5 Unattended Usage

gpg is often used as a backend engine by other software. To help with this a machine interface has been defined to have an unambiguous way to do this. The options --status-fd and --batch are almost always required for this.

  • Programmatic use of GnuPG: Programmatic use of GnuPG
  • Ephemeral home directories: Ephemeral home directories
  • The quick key manipulation interface: The quick key manipulation interface


--batch makes it not ask questions (except for a passphrase):

Use batch mode. Never ask, do not allow interactive commands.


Or a bigger example.

  • While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. - From Review
    – Toto
    Jun 8, 2022 at 9:12
  • @Toto The question is about generating a key. The link covers... I'd say 5 times more. I decided to not include things that doesn't answer the question. In my view the link is a bonus for those who might find it interesting. If you disagree, I'm open to suggestions about what exactly my answer is lacking.
    – x-yuri
    Jun 8, 2022 at 9:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .