Penknife Quick Start

Ritter Software Engineering
2609 Choctaw Trail, Austin, Texas 78745
(512) 892-0494


Installing Penknife in DOS

  1. 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.

  2. 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 program.

  3. Suppose you have advanced Penknife and a file named FILE.TXT; to encipher the contents of FILE.TXT into a new file FILE.PEN, enter:
         penknife  file.txt  file.pen  /e
             ^        ^         ^       ^ encipher
             |        |      resulting file
             |      source file
         program name
    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.

  4. Decipher FILE.PEN to FILE.RES:
         penknife  file.pen  *.res  /d
             ^        ^         ^    ^ decipher
             |        |      resulting file (FILE.RES)
             |      source file
         program name
    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.

  1. 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 transport.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 sees him.

  4. 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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Enciphering E-Mail

  1. 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, C:\EMAIL\JOHN01.LTR).

  2. 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 alias file 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".

  3. 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.

Deciphering E-Mail

  1. 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).

  2. 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".

  3. 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 top page.

Last updated: 1995-12-14