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FreeBSD 11.0 - man page for vipw (freebsd section 8)

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VIPW(8) 			   BSD System Manager's Manual				  VIPW(8)

     vipw -- edit the password file

     vipw [-d directory]

     The vipw utility edits the password file after setting the appropriate locks, and does any
     necessary processing after the password file is unlocked.	If the password file is already
     locked for editing by another user, vipw will ask you to try again later.	The default edi-
     tor for vipw is vi(1).

     When run without options, vipw will work with the password files in /etc.	The -d option may
     be used to specify an alternative directory to work with.

     The vipw utility performs a number of consistency checks on the password entries, and will
     not allow a password file with a ``mangled'' entry to be installed.  If vipw rejects the new
     password file, the user is prompted to re-enter the edit session.

     Once the information has been verified, vipw uses pwd_mkdb(8) to update the user database.
     This is run in the background, and, at very large sites could take several minutes.  Until
     this update is completed, the password file is unavailable for other updates and the new
     information is not available to programs.

     If the following environment variable exists it will be utilized by vipw:

     EDITOR	      The editor specified by the string EDITOR will be invoked instead of the
		      default editor vi(1).  This can be used to allow a script to non-interac-
		      tively modify the password file.

     PW_SCAN_BIG_IDS  See pwd_mkdb(8).

     chpass(1), passwd(1), passwd(5), adduser(8), pw(8), pwd_mkdb(8)

     The vipw utility appeared in 4.0BSD.

     The mechanism for checking for password file modifications requires that the modification
     time of the password file changes.  This means that in a default configuration where file
     system timestamps are not calculated with sub-second precision, EDITOR has to run for at
     least one second.	Non-interactive editor scripts should invoke sleep(1) or equivalent to
     ensure this happens.

BSD					February 14, 2012				      BSD
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