Managing Code Signing Certificates

In order to add cryptographic signatures using this tool, you’ll need to use a Code Signing Certificate. (Follow the link for what that means.)

In order to perform code signing in a way that is recognized and trusted by Apple operating systems, you will need to obtain a code signing certificate that is signed/issued by Apple. This requires joining the Apple Developer Program, which has an annual membership fee.

Once you are a member, there are various ways to generate and manage your certificates. But first, a primer about flavors of Apple code signing certificates.

Apple Code Signing Certificate Flavors

Apple issues different types/flavors of code signing certificates. Each one is used to sign a different class of software.

If you are logged into your Apple Developer account, you can see Apple’s description for these at Here’s our concise definitions:

Apple Development

Sign applications for Apple operating systems that aren’t distributed publicly.

Apple Distribution

Sign applications for submission to the App Store or for Ad Hoc distribution.

iOS App Development

Legacy version of Apple Development just for iOS apps. (We think.)

iOS Distribution

Legacy version of Apple Distribution just for iOS apps. (We think.)

Mac Development

Legacy version of Apple Development just for macOS apps. (We think.)

Mac App Distribution

Sign macOS applications and configure a Distribution Provisioning Profile for distribution through Mac App Store.

Mac Installer Distribution

Sign package installers (e.g. .pkg files) which will be distributed via the Mac App Store.

Developer ID Installer

Sign package installers (e.g. .pkg files) which will be distributed outside the Mac App Store. i.e. if users fetch your installer via your website, you sign with this.

Developer ID Application

Sign applications which will be distributed outside the Mac App Store. Used for signing Mach-O binaries, .app bundles, and .dmg files.

Essentially, if you are distributing macOS software to end-users via non-Apple channels like your website, you need Developer ID Application and/or Developer ID Installer.

If you are distributing via Apple’s App stores, you need Apple Distribution or one of the other types having Distribution in the name.


The rcodesign analyze-certificate command can be used to print information about Apple code signing certificates. Look for a line with Certificate Profile in its output to see which flavor of certificate this software thinks it is.

Generating Certificates with Xcode

Using Xcode from macOS is probably the easiest way to create and manage your certificates as Xcode has built-in UI to facilitate this.

Apple keeps thorough documentation about how to do this. Please follow Apple’s documentation to generate a certificate.

Obtaining a Certificate via a Certificate Signing Request

You can obtain a code signing certificate by uploading a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) to Apple. Essentially, you generate a CSR, send it to Apple, and Apple will issue a new code signing certificate which you can download.

A CSR is produced by creating a cryptographic signature (using a private key) over a small set of metadata describing the private key for which a certificate shall be issued.

In order to generate a CSR, you need a private key. As of April 2022, Apple appears to require the use of RSA 2048 private keys.

If you have access to macOS, the easiest way to generate a private key and CSR is to use Keychain Access using the procedure outlined here.

If you want to generate your own CSR using rcodesign, you can! First, you’ll need a private key.

To generate an RSA 2048 private key using OpenSSL:

openssl genrsa -out private.pem 2048


The RSA private key will be in plain text on your filesystem. This is not very secure!

Then once you have a private key, we can generate a CSR using rcodesign:

rcodesign generate-certificate-signing-request --pem-source private.pem
rcodesign generate-certificate-signing-request --p12-file key.p12

# Smart cards require generating a new key then creating a CSR from that key.
rcodesign smartcard-generate-key --smartcard-slot 9c
rcodesign generate-certificate-signing-request --smartcard-slot 9c

This command will print the CSR to stdout. e.g.:


You probably want to use --csr-pem-path to write that to a file automatically:

rcodesign generate-certificate-signing-request --smartcard-slot 9c --csr-pem-path csr.pem

Exchanging a CSR for a Code Signing Certificate

Once you have a CSR file, you can attempt to exchange it for a code signing certificate.

  1. Go to (you must be logged into Apple’s website)

  2. Select the certificate flavor you want to issue.

  3. Click Continue to advance to the next form.

  4. Select the G2 Sub-CA (Xcode 11.4.1 or later) Profile Type (we support it).

  5. Choose the file containing your CSR.

  6. Click Continue.

  7. If all goes according to plan, you should see a page saying Download Your Certificate.

  8. Click the Download button.

  9. Save the certificate somewhere. (The file content is likely not sensitive and doesn’t need to be kept secret because this content will be copied to everything you sign with it!)

At this point, you have both a private key and a public certificate: you can sign Apple software!

Exporting a Code Signing Certificate to a File

rcodesign supports consuming code signing certificates from multiple sources, including hardware devices. But sometimes it is desirable to have your code signing certificate exist as a file.

Use the instructions in one of the following sections to export a code signing certificate.


It is generally accepted that private keys stored in files are less secure than stored in special operating system enclaves like keychains. This is because the operating system has protections around accessing the private keys and these protections are often much stronger than those on a file on the filesystem.

This tool has support for using certificates / keys directly from macOS keychains. So exporting to a file is not always necessary.

Using Keychain Access


  1. Open the Keychain Access application.

  2. Find the certificate you want to export and command click or right click on it.

  3. Select the Export option.

  4. Choose the Personal Information Exchange (.p12) format and select a file destination.

  5. Enter a password used to protect the contents of the certificate.

  6. If prompted to enter your system password to unlock your keychain, do so.

The exported certificate is in the PKCS#12 / PFX / p12 file format. Command arguments with these labels in the same can be used to interact with the exported certificate.

Using Xcode


See Apple’s Xcode documentation.

Using security


  1. Run security find-identity to locate certificates available for export.

  2. Run security export -t identities -f pkcs12 -o keys.p12

If you have multiple identifies (which is common), security export will export all of them. security doesn’t seem to have a command to export just a single certificate pair. You will need to invoke some openssl command to extract just the certificate you care about. Please contribute back a fix for this documentation once you figure it out!

Using a Self-Signed Certificate

If you want to cut some corners and play around with certificates not signed by Apple, you can run rcodesign generate-self-signed-certificate to generate a self-signed code signing certificate.

This command will include special attributes in the certificate that indicate compatibility with Apple code signing. However, since the certificate isn’t signed by Apple, its signatures won’t confer the same trust that Apple signed certificates would.

These certificates can be useful for debugging and testing.