26 releases

0.4.2 Jul 27, 2021
0.3.25 Mar 10, 2021
0.3.18 Dec 11, 2020
0.3.16 Nov 19, 2020

#201 in Command line utilities

Download history 4/week @ 2021-07-04 1/week @ 2021-07-11 31/week @ 2021-07-18 47/week @ 2021-07-25 56/week @ 2021-08-01 5/week @ 2021-08-08 40/week @ 2021-08-15 3/week @ 2021-08-22 2/week @ 2021-08-29 5/week @ 2021-09-05 4/week @ 2021-09-12 12/week @ 2021-09-19 31/week @ 2021-09-26 3/week @ 2021-10-03 29/week @ 2021-10-10 3/week @ 2021-10-17

51 downloads per month



Please, a sudo alternative with regex support

Great! This is what I need.

The aim is to allow admins to delegate accurate least privilege access with ease. There are times when what is intended to be executed can be expressed easily with a regex to expose only what is needed and nothing more.

The idea is to help you admin your box without giving users full root, just because that is easier. Most admins have experience of regex in one form or another, so lets configure access that way.

I saw regex but don't like regex. No problem, you can still use please without regex, just treat each field/property as plain text, and escape control characters ?(){}[]+ etc.

Please is written with memory safe rust. Traditional C memory unsafety is avoided, logic problems may still exist. Logic problems would exist in both systems, but I choose the smaller problem set.

How do I install it

It might already be in the repo that you're using:

Packaging status

If not, it is a simple install:

git clone https://gitlab.com/edneville/please.git
cd please
cargo test && cargo build --release \
&& install -oroot -groot -D -m4755 target/release/please target/release/pleaseedit /usr/local/bin


pacman -Syu git openssh fakeroot devtools make gcc rust
git clone https://aur@aur.archlinux.org/pleaser.git
cd pleaser && makepkg -isr

Debian (Bullseye)/Ubuntu (Hirsute):

apt-get install pleaser

Fedora (35):

dnf install pleaser


pkgin install pleaser

SUSE Tumbleweed:

zypper refresh
zypper install pleaser

Optionally, set sudo as an alias of please:

alias sudo="please"
alias sudoedit="pleaseedit"

Or, if you like, symlink in local:

cd /usr/local/bin && ln -s /usr/local/bin/please sudo && ln -s /usr/local/bin/pleaseedit sudoedit

How do I set it up

You'll need to configure PAM in order for require_pass to authenticate. Debian-based needs something similar to this in /etc/pam.d/please and /etc/pam.d/pleaseedit:

@include common-auth
@include common-account
@include common-session-noninteractive

Red Hat based needs something similar to this in the same files:

auth       include      system-auth
account    include      system-auth
password   include      system-auth
session    optional     pam_keyinit.so revoke
session    required     pam_limits.so
session    include      system-auth

Next, configure your /etc/please.ini, replace user names with appropriate values. The ini is divided into section options, matches and actions.

Section options

Part Effect
[section-name] Section name, shown in list mode
include=file Include file as another ini source, other options will be skipped in this section.
includedir=dir Include dir of .ini files as other sources, in ascii sort order other options will be skipped in this section. Files not matching .ini will be ignored to allow for editor tmp files.

include and includedir will override mandatory arguments.


One of the simplest, that does not require password authentication can be defined as follows, assuming the user is jim:

The options are as follows:

Part Effect
name=regex Mandatory, apply configuration to this entity.
target=regex May become these users.
regex=rule This is the command regex for the section, default is ^$
notbefore=YYYYmmdd The date, or YYYYmmddHHMMSS when this rule becomes effective.
notafter=YYYYmmdd The date, or YYYYmmddHHMMSS when this rule expires.
datematch=[Day dd Mon HH:MM:SS UTC YYYY] regex to match against a date string
type=[edit/run/list] Set the entry type. Run = execution, edit = pleaseedit, list = show user rights
group=[true/false] True to signify that name= refers to a group rather than a user.
hostname=regex Hosts where this applies. Defaults to 'localhost'.
dir=regex Permit switching to regex defined directory prior to execution.
reason=[true/false] when true, require a reason to be provided by -r, defaults to false
permit_env=regex when combined with -a, permit matching environments keys


Part Effect
permit=[true/false] Defaults to true
require_pass=[true/false] Defaults to true, mandatory in run and edit, become this user.
last=[true/false] when true, stop processing when matched, defaults to false
syslog=[true/false] log this activity to syslog, default = true
env_assign.key=value force environment key to be assigned value
exitcmd=[program] (edit) continue with file replacement if program exits 0
editmode=[octal mode] (edit) set destination file mode to octal mode

Using a greedy .* for the regex field will be as good as saying the rule should match any command. In previous releases there was no anchor (^ and $) however, it seems more sensible to follow find's approach and insist that there are anchors around the regex. This avoids /bin/bash matching /home/user/bin/bash unless the rule permits something like /home/%{USER}/bin/bash.

If a include directive is met, no other entries in the section will be processed. The same goes for includedir.

The ordering of rules matters. The last match will win. Set permit=false if you wish to exclude something, but this should be very rare as the permit should be against a regex rather than using a positive and then a negative match. A rule of best practice is to avoid a fail open and then try and exclude most of the universe.

For example, using the two entries below:

regex = ^(/usr)?/bin/du (/home/[a-z0-9-]+\s?)+
regex = /bin/bash

Would permit running du, as /usr/bin/du or /bin/du as root:

$ please du /home/*

And would also permit running a bash shell as postgres:

$ please -t postgres /bin/bash

Date ranges

For large environments it is not unusual for a third party to require access during a short time frame for debugging. To accommodate this there are the notbefore and notafter time brackets. These can be either YYYYMMDD or YYYYMMDDHHMMSS.

The whole day is considered when using the shorter date form of YYYYMMDD.

Many enterprises may wish to permit access to a user for a limited time only, even if that individual is in the role permanently.

Date matches

Another date type is the datematch item, this constrains sections to a regex match against the date string Day dd Mon HH:MM:SS UTC Year.

You can permit some a group of users to perform some house keeping on a Monday:

regex = /usr/local/housekeeping/tidy_(logs|images|mail)
datematch = ^Mon.*


pleaseedit enables editing of files as another user. Enable editing rather than execution with edit=true. The first argument will be passed to EDITOR.

This is performed as follows:

  1. user runs edit as pleaseedit -u root /etc/fstab
  2. /etc/fstab is copied to /tmp/pleaseedit.$USER._etc_fstab
  3. user's EDITOR is executed against /tmp/pleaseedit.$USER._etc_fstab
  4. if EDITOR exits 0, and exitcmd exits 0, then /tmp/pleaseedit.$USER._etc_fstab is copied to /etc/fstab.pleaseedit.$USER
  5. /etc/fstab.pleaseedit.$USER is set as (target) root owned and renamed to /etc/fstab


exitcmd can be used prior to the tmp edit file move to the source location. This can be used to test configuration files are valid prior to renaming in place.

For something similar to apache, consider copying the config tree to a tmp directory before running the test to accommodate includes.

Other examples

Members of the audio group may remove temporary users that an application may not have cleaned up in the form of username_tmp.<10 random alphanumerics> using userdel:

name = audio
group = true
permit = true
require_pass = false
regex = /usr/sbin/userdel -f -r %{USER}_tmp\.[a-zA-Z0-9]{10}

How about, for the purpose of housekeeping, some users may be permitted to destroy zfs snapshots that look roughly like they're date stamped:

name = data
group = true
permit = true
require_pass = false
regex = /usr/sbin/zfs destroy storage/photos@\d{8}T\d{6}

To list what you may or may not do:

$ please -l
You may run the following:
  file: /etc/please.ini
    ed_root_list:root: ^.*$
You may edit the following:
  file: /etc/please.ini
    ed_edit_ini:root: ^/etc/please.ini$

The above output shows that I may run anything and may edit the please.ini configuration.

Or, perhaps any user who's name starts admin may execute useradd and userdel:

name = admin_\S+
permit = true
require_pass = false
regex = /usr/sbin/user(add -m|del) \S+



Big installs

For big installs I suggest consider the following:


Where you can use groups when all member least privilege matches the set. It is best here to consider that people often perform the same role, so try and organise the rules that way, so use either a group or list accounts in a single name regex match.

Central configuration considerations

To avoid single points of failure in a service, ini configuration should be generated in a single location and pushed to installs. ini files parse very quickly whilst accessing LDAP is not only slower but also error prone.

It could be possible to use caching, but a form of positive (correct match) and negative (incorrect match) would be required. 10,000 computers with hundreds of active users performing lookups against an LDAP server could be problematic.

For these reasons I prefer rsync distribution as the protocol is highly efficient and reduces network transfer overall.

LDAP may at a later date be reconsidered.


Should you find anything that you feel is missing, regardless of initial design, please feel free to raise an issue with or without a pull request.

Locating bugs and logging issues are very appreciated, and I thank you in advance.

I welcome pull requests with open arms.


The source code for this project is currently hosted on gitlab and mirrored to github. There is a crate on crates.io. It also has a homepage where other project information is kept.

Why pleaser in some circles?

This project is named "please". In some places that project name was used by others for other things. Some packages will be named pleaser, some will be named please. The only important thing is if you wish someone to make you a sandwich, just say "please" first.


~88K SLoC