GPG stands for GNU Privacy Guard, which implements the OpenPGP’s specification (RFC 4880) and is a free software implementation of Symantec’s PGP cryptographic software suite.

What’s used for?

We use it to encrypt and sign data to attest its authenticity. For example, we use it to sign our commits while using a VCS like git, or sign e-mails. So we’re making it clear that we, in fact, did write the said commit, or the e-mail.

How’s it possible? Because not only we’re assigning an identifier to our messages, but we can include things like email address and our real name, also anything that we want to include to make sure of our identity may be included in the comment section of the key.

So let’s create our own GPG key using either macOS or Linux environment.


You must use a specific software to generate the GPG key. I use gnupg, which can be used in both Linux and MacOS environments, but you can use anything that’s OpenGPG compliant. You must also install a GPG agent, but it will depend on your OS.

In a terminal, issue the following command, and follow the prompts:

gpg --full-gen-key

I prefer the following configuration:

  • 1 (RSA and RSA)
  • 4096 bits
  • 6m (6 months)

And there are some prompts for identification:

  • Real name
  • Email address
  • Comment

Also, it’s going to ask for setting up a password. It’s optional, but I highly recommend using one. Then, you’re set!


To list your GPG keys:

    gpg --list-secret-keys --keyid-format SHORT
    sec   ed25519/KEY_ID (SHORT) (CREATED_AT_DATE) [SC]
          KEY ID (LONG)
    uid         [ultimate] REAL_NAME (COMMENTS) EMAIL_ADDRESS
    ssb   cv25519/REDACTED (CREATED_AT_DATE) [E]

It’ll list all your keys stored in your keychain.

Exporting and importing

If you need to export the public key to a service that may interact with your GPG key, issue the following command:

    gpg --armor --export SHORT_KEY_ID

To export your GPG key to another environment (it’ll ask you to enter your key’s password if set):

  gpg --export-secret-keys 67F2F4737DF32288 > pkey.asc
  ls -lha ./pkey.asc
  -rw-r--r--  1 carlosdmz  root   693B Mar 23 13:57 pkey.asc

To import:

gpg --import pkey.asc

Signing commits in git

To do this, you need to edit a file called .gitconfig, which is usually under your $HOME directory. So it should be something very similar to this:

  name = <YOUR_NAME>
  email = <YOUR_EMAIL>

You’re going to add one config row under the [user] and, optionally, add a [commit] section and add another config row, which is pretty much in a toml format. The [commit] change is optional, but highly recommended if you want to sign your commits by default:

  • Under [user] section, you need to add the signingkey and pass your key ID, which you can check by listing your GPG keys;
  • Under [commit] section, add the gpgsign and set it to true. With that, git will automagically sign your commits using the GPG key you referred in the signingkey config previously.
      name = YOUR_NAME
      email = YOUR_EMAIL
  +   signingkey = KEY_ID

  + [commit]
  +   gpgsign = true

And now, every commit that you do, it’ll sign your commits right at the end.

If you’ve set the gpgsign to true, it’ll do that by default. If you don’t, you need to use a flag in the git commit command to tell that you want to sign the commit with the key you’ve set under [user], which is the -S.

If you check the log history using git log --show-signature -1, you may check if the commit has a good signature:

git log
Result looks good!