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When I list the details of a key I get output like this:

$ gpg --edit-key SOMEID
pub [..] created: [..] expires: [..]   usage:SC
sub [..] created: [..] expires: [..]   usage: E

Or even usage: SCA on another key (the master-key part).

What does these abbreviation in the usage field mean?

I can derive that:

S -> for signing
E -> for encrypting

But what about C and A?

And are there more?

And where to look stuff like this up?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Ok, the gpg manual does not seem to mention these abbreviations. Thus, one has to look at the source.

For example under Debian/Ubuntu:

$ apt-get source gnupg2
$ cd gnupg2-2.0.17
$ cscope -bR
$ grep 'usage: %' . -r --exclude '*po*'
$ vim g10/keyedit.c
jump to usage: %
jump to definition of `usagestr_from_pk`

From the code one can derive following table:

Constant              Character

Thus, for example, usage: SCA means that the sub-key can be used for signing, for creating a certificate and authentication purposes.

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really anywhere in the docs? –  Jaime Hablutzel Jul 2 '14 at 19:48
@JaimeHablutzel, did you find any good documentation on this? –  Eric Fail Nov 3 '14 at 17:59
No, sorry, but the source seems a good place to start –  Jaime Hablutzel Nov 5 '14 at 18:21

These key flags are defined in the OpenPGP spec Key Flags

(N octets of flags)

This subpacket contains a list of binary flags that hold information about a key. It is a string of octets, and an implementation MUST NOT assume a fixed size. This is so it can grow over time. If a list is shorter than an implementation expects, the unstated flags are considered to be zero. The defined flags are as follows:

   First octet:

   0x01 - This key may be used to certify other keys.

   0x02 - This key may be used to sign data.

   0x04 - This key may be used to encrypt communications.

   0x08 - This key may be used to encrypt storage.

   0x10 - The private component of this key may have been split
          by a secret-sharing mechanism.

   0x20 - This key may be used for authentication.

   0x80 - The private component of this key may be in the
          possession of more than one person.
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This looks like a useful reference, but it doesn't really answer the question. –  G-Man Feb 22 at 5:33

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