Password protecting entire directories in MacOSX

Every once in a while I have some files in a directory that need a password. I am not looking for a fancy encryption mechanism like PGP… I just want to compress the entire directory, put in a strong password and forget about it. Anyway, there are several applications that do this on the mac store… but none provide the flexibility that I was looking for. Plus, I realized this can be done in a couple of lines in the terminal.

Lets say you have a directory tmp with a bunch of files you want to compress and password protect it. You can go the standard route using the zip utility. Just type the following:

zip -R tmp/* -e

This will compress the directory tmp/ and store all the files in the It will also ask you for the password you would like to use. Unfortunately you cannot give the password as an argument. So, you are stuck typing the password every time you want to compress a new directory.

There is a hack you can use to bypass the manually password submission… It involves using expect. This program is a really neat utility. It basically allows you to create interactive dialogues with your terminal programs, which makes task automation a walk in the park. You can check its manual pages here.

Step #1: Go into the mac terminal and find out where the expect utility is located. This is done using the whereais command. Type the following on your terminal window.

whereis expect

In my macosx version, the program expect is located at /usr/bin/expect.

Step #2: Create a file (e.g. with the following lines. Make sure you modify the location of the expect program in the first line of the script.

Step #3: Make sure your script is executable and run it.

chmod u=+rwx
./ tmp hello

The first argument will be the output filename (, the second argument is the directory you wish to compress (tmp) and the last argument is the password you wish to use (hello). Neat no? Here is a screenshot of all the steps.

Since I am running a mac, I could also have done this easily using AppleScript… maybe next time.