Skip to content

keyring provides a way to securely manage secrets using your operating system’s credential store. Once a secret is defined, it persists in a “keyring” across multiple R sessions. keyring is an alternative to using environment variables that’s a bit more secure because your secret is never stored in plain text, meaning that you can for instance never accidentally upload it to GitHub. For more security, you can also store secrets in a custom keyring that always requires a password to unlock.

keyring currently supports:

  • The macOS Keychain (backend_macos).
  • The Windows Credential Store (backend_wincred).
  • The Linux Secret Service API (backend_secret_service).

It also provides two backends that are available on all platforms:

  • Encrypted files (backend_file)
  • Environment variables (backend_env).


Install the package from CRAN:

# install.packages("pak")

We recommend using pak to install keyring as it will ensure that Linux system requirements are automatically installed (for instance Ubuntu requires libsecret-1-dev, libssl-dev, and libsodium-dev).

To install the development version from GitHub, use:



The simplest usage only requires key_set() and key_get():

# Interactively save a secret. This avoids typing the value of the secret
# into the console as this could be recorded in your `.Rhistory`

# Later retrieve that secret

Each secret is associated with a keyring. By default, keyring will use the OS keyring (see default_backend() for details), which is automatically unlocked when you log into your computer account. That means while the secret is stored securely, it can be accessed by other processes.

If you want greater security you can create a custom keyring that you manually lock and unlock. That will require you to enter a custom password every time you want to access your secret.

key_set("secret-name", keyring = "mypackage")
key_get("secret-name", keyring = "mypackage")

Accessing the key unlocks the keyring, so if you’re being really careful, you might want to lock it after you’ve retrieved the value with keyring_lock().


When you use keyring on GitHub, it will fall back to the environment variable backend. That means if you want to use key_get("mysecret") you need to do two things:

  • Add a new action secret to your repository.

  • Make the secret available in your workflow .yml, for instance

          GITHUB_PAT: ${{ secrets.GITHUB_TOKEN }}
          R_KEEP_PKG_SOURCE: yes
          MY_SECRET: ${{ secrets.my_secret }}

The envvar backend doesn’t support custom keyrings, so if you’re using one locally you’ll need to use the default keyring on GitHub.

Development documentation

Please see our writeup of some keyring internals, and as always, use the source code.