Penknife Quick Start
Ritter Software Engineering
2609 Choctaw Trail, Austin, Texas 78745
(512) 892-0494 firstname.lastname@example.org
Installing Penknife in DOS
- Copy one of the Penknife versions (typically PENKNIFE.EXE, the
Advanced version) into one of the program directories in your DOS
command "path". To see your path, just type "set" -- plus
enter -- at the DOS prompt, and look for "PATH".
Alternately, use the DOS "md" command to create a new
subdirectory such as "pen" and copy the program there. Then use
the DOS "cd" command to move to that directory whenever you use
the program. You can use the program from any directory by
adding the penknife subdirectory (e.g., ";C:\PEN") to your
command path, which is normally set in AUTOEXEC.BAT.
- Check out the internal help panels: Just enter the name
of the program (plus return). When the program starts without
command-line parameters, it offers an option to enter the help system.
Almost all needed information is available in help. Then exit the
Suppose you have advanced Penknife and a file named
FILE.TXT; to encipher the contents of FILE.TXT into a new file
penknife file.txt file.pen /e
^ ^ ^ ^ encipher
| | resulting file
| source file
Penknife will announce itself, then ask for the User Key, twice. The
User Key can be any sequence of characters, but a long unique text
phrase is easier to remember than random characters. After getting
the key, a 30K file should finish in a second or two. The result is
a file of random-looking text lines which can be examined with your
text editor or displayed with the DOS type command.
- Decipher FILE.PEN to FILE.RES:
penknife file.pen *.res /d
^ ^ ^ ^ decipher
| | resulting file (FILE.RES)
| source file
Penknife will again ask for the User Key twice, and this must be
exactly the same key as was used to encipher the file. (An advanced
Penknife alias file makes using keys much easier.)
Alias Files (Advanced Version)
An alias file holds a list of hidden keys. A particular
hidden key can be selected from the list by using an "alias" or
"nickname." The alias file is enciphered to protect the hidden
keys, but each particular alias need not be secret. This means
that we need only remember the one secret key for the alias file
instead of remembering a different secret key for each person.
- Create a new alias key:
penknife newfred.trn /a fred /g
Here Mary creates a new key to Fred: "fred" is the alias which she
will use for the new key. "newfred.trn" is the name Mary gives the
file she will later transport to Fred (and she should have previously
erased any existing file of that name). Penknife will generate a
random key for alias "fred" and automatically place it at the start
of Mary's closest alias file, or will create a new alias file.
Mary will be asked to enter the key for her alias file; this is
the most-used and most-important key she will have, and should be a
long unique phrase which she can remember.
Penknife will also place the new random key in NEWFRED.TRN, and
Mary will enter "mary" as the far-end tag; this is the alias Fred will
use for the new random key, once he installs the key in his own alias
file. Mary will also enter another phrase to protect that file during
- Encipher or decipher using an alias key:
penknife file.txt *.pen /e /a fred
Now Mary only needs to enter a key once: the key for the alias file.
Decipher is similar except using /d instead of /e.
- Transport the key to the far end: Mary copies the
transport file onto a floppy and sends it through the postal mail,
or gives it to a friend to deliver. She could also use an express
delivery service, or just hand the disk to Fred the next time she
- Add a transported key to your alias file (not in the
Corporate version): Fred will need both the
transport file and the transport key; then he can decipher that file,
immediately re-encipher it under his own alias key, and place the
result at the start of his alias file:
penknife newfred.trn /d
(then Fred enters the transport key)
penknife newfred.trn /e
(then Fred enter his alias-file key)
copy penknife.mgt penmgt.old
copy newfred.trn+penmgt.old penknife.mgt
Here we assume that Fred is in his alias directory (which is usually
the Penknife directory) and so will have direct access to the relevant
alias file. Fred might have multiple alias files, in which case the
last two commands would be modified and repeated for each alias file
where the new alias is needed.
Installing Penknife in Microsoft Windows
- Copy the Penknife program to your hard drive. First
create an appropriate directory, such as PEN, using File Manager,
double-clicking on root (typically "c:\") and using the File,
Create Directory selections. Then copy PENKNIFE.EXE and
PENKNIFE.PIF from the distribution floppy to that directory, using the
File Manager selection File, Copy.
- Create a new program item under Program Manager, and
connect it to an icon. Use Program Manager to open the
Accessories group and use File, New to create a new
Program Item. Enter the Description "Penknife Cipher" and set
Command Line as the full path to the program (e.g.,
"c:\pen\penknife.exe"). Set Working Directory to where you
want files without full paths to end up (e.g., "c:\pen"). (Your
alias file will also normally be in that working directory.)
Enter "p" for Shortcut Key (which becomes Ctrl+Alt+P), and
check Run Minimized. Use Change Icon and select the
pocketknife icon, if desired.
- If you do not have PENKNIFE.PIF, construct it!
Use the PIF Editor (in Program Manager group Main) selections
File, New to start a new definition. Then set
Program Filename as the complete path to Penknife (e.g.,
"c:\pen\penknife.exe"). Optional Parameters and Start-up
Directory should be empty. Video Memory should be
"Text". Memory Requirements for KB Required and
KB Desired should both be "150"; for both EMS and
XMS memory, KB Required and KB Limit should
be "0". Display Usage should be "Windowed", Close Window
on Exit checked, and neither Background nor Exclusive
Execution need be checked.
Of the Advanced Options, Uses High Memory Area
need not be checked, but Emulate Text Mode should be.
Then use the PIF Editor selections File, Save As
to save the new file as PENKNIFE.PIF, in the same directory as
Penknife (e.g., "c:\pen\penknife.pif").
The "PIF" file tells Windows how to set up the DOS window when
Penknife is invoked.
4. Now Penknife can be started by double-clicking on the selected icon
in Accessories, and then activated when desired with Ctrl-Alt-P, or
Ctrl-Esc and Switch To.
Using Penknife in Microsoft Windows
- Penknife can be started by double-clicking on its icon
(probably the pocketknife in the Accessories group), or by
double-clicking on PENKNIFE.EXE in File Manager. Penknife will then
lurk in the background waiting for interactive command-line parameters.
- When desired, bring up the waiting Penknife (use
Ctrl-Alt-P or Ctrl-Esc and Switch To). Normally, Penknife waits in
the interaction menu where there are three options: "h" to enter
the help system, "e" to "Enter new command line parameters", and
"q" to end the program. If you enter a command line, Penknife will
execute it and then return for another command.
- When done, type "q" to quit, or just minimize the window.
Type "q" to quit the program and close the window, or just minimize the
window to keep Penknife instantly available.
- Create the message and save it as a file. Use an
editor, Notepad, or some other application to create the message,
and then File, Save As to save it. Be sure to
remember the directory and filename you give to it (for example,
- Encipher the file with Penknife. Open up Penknife
(use Ctrl-Esc, Switch To), select "Enter" and enter an encipher
command (for example, "/e c:\email\john01.ltr"). You will be asked
to enter a User Key and then Penknife will encipher that file.
If you have Advanced Penknife, it is better to establish an
to hold your keys. You can use public alias tags to select any
of the keys, and you need only enter the one key for the alias file,
once. A typical command would be: "/e c:\email\john01.ltr /a johnj"
after you establish a key for "johnj".
- Send the resulting file as your e-mail message. One
way to do this might be to get into the e-mail application and do
File, Open. Alternately, some other application could
do File, Open; and the Clipboard used to Edit, Cut and then Edit,
Paste the message into the e-mail editor.
- Save the received e-mail message to a file. Use
File, Save As in the e-mail application to save the
message. Be sure to remember the directory and filename you assign
(for example, C:\EMAIL\FRED1.MSG).
- Decipher the file with Penknife. Open up Penknife
(use Ctrl-Esc, Switch To), select "Enter" and enter a decipher
command (for example, /d c:\email\fred1.msg). You will be asked to
enter a User Key and then Penknife will decipher that file.
Again, if you have Advanced Penknife, it is better to establish
an alias file
for your keys. Then "/d c:\email\fred1.msg /a fredw" will
select the key for "fredw".
- Read the deciphered message. The resulting message
can be viewed from almost any editor, Notepad, the e-mail application
(usually), or any other application which has File, Open and will
show the file.
Terry Ritter, his
current address, and his
Last updated: 1995-12-14