AZDecrypt notes, tips and tricks

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AZDecrypt's main window has a list of solvers. Each one is a type of hillclimber that specializes in different types of ciphers:

  • Substitution
    • Simple substitution ciphers (including homophonic substitution)
  • Substitution + columnar rearrangement
    • A combination of simple substitution and moving columns around.
  • Substitution + columnar transposition
  • Substitution + crib grid
    • This solver displays a grid that is the same shape as the input cipher. You can enter your guesses for portions of the plaintext. Then, the solver will search for the rest of the plaintext but maintain the plaintext entries you've made.
  • Substitution + crib list
  • Substitution + monoalphabetic groups
  • Substitution + nulls and skips
    • Tries to figure out if certain symbols in a substitution cipher don't actually contribute towards the plaintext.
    • A "null" is a position in the cipher text that does not translate to plaintext (and is ignored during decryption). The solver will consider different positions to be nulls, and exclude them prior to the next steps of decryption.
    • A "skip" is a missing symbol that is inserted at some position in the cipher. The solver will put them in different positions of the ciphertext before proceeding to the next steps of decryption.
    • More info
  • Substitution + polyphones
  • Substitution + row bound
  • Substitution + row bound fragments
  • Substitution + sequential homophones
  • Substitution + simple transposition
  • Substitution + sparse polyalphabetism
  • Substitution + units
    • Jarl's note on using this solver on nomenclator type ciphers:
      • After launching the solver a menu will pop up. You can set the Unit as Symbol or Horizontal sequence, the Mode to Replace with new symbols. If selected Horizontal sequence set the Horizontal sequence to 1. The Key length start determines the amount of Symbols or Horizontal sequences to be replaced. And set Replace, # of symbols per instance to 2 if you want to replace symbols with bigrams for example.
  • Substitution + vigenere
  • Substitution + vigenere word list
  • Bigram substitution
  • Higher-order homophonic
  • Merge sequential homophones


Under "Options -> Solvers":

  • [General] CPU Threads
  • [General] Thread wait
  • [General] Entropy weight
  • [General] Iterations
    • The number of total iterations performed during the search by the main hill climber (aka, the "inner" hill climber. see "Hill climber iterations" below)
    • Note: When AZdecrypt writes results to the Output directory, it will write intermediate output files after 60 seconds of no output. This is more likely to occur when the solver takes a while to run, such as when iterations are high.
    • List of solvers that use only the inner hill climber (and thus, "hill climber iterations" setting will have no additional effect):
      • Substitution
      • Substitution + crib grid
      • Substitution + crib list
      • Substitution + monoalphabetic groups
      • Substitution + polyphones: User defined polyphones
      • Substitution + polyphones: Hafer shifts: -N/+N
      • Substitution + row bound
      • Substitution + sequential homophones
      • Substitution + sparse polyalphabetism
      • Substitution + vigenère word list
      • Bigram substitution
      • Higher-order homophonic
      • Merge sequential homophones
  • [General] Iterations factor
  • [General] Hill climber iterations
    • Some solvers use two hill climbers: An "inner" hill climber, and an "outer" hill climber.
    • The "iterations" setting is for the inner hill climber (substitution solver etc), and the "hill climber iterations" setting is for a secondary hill-climber on top of the substitution hill-climber. For example, solvers that use a secondary hill-climber have the following on top in the Output window: Restart: 1 Hill climber: 90/5000 @ 500000. The 5000 here are the hill-climber iterations and the 500000 the iterations.
    • List of solvers that use both the inner and outer hill climbers:
      • Substitution + columnar rearrangement
      • Substitution + columnar transposition
      • Substitution + nulls and skips
      • Substitution + polyphones: User defined polyphones + extra letters
      • Substitution + polyphones: Hafer shifts: any 2 shifts
      • Substitution + row bound fragments
      • Substitution + simple transposition
      • Substitution + units
      • Substitution + vigenère
  • [General] Hill climber iterations factor
  • [General] N-gram factor
  • [General] Multiplicity weight
    • This value will "punish" solutions that are produced by increasing the multiplicity (ratio of unique symbols to cipher length) of the cipher text. Defaults to 0 which means this punishment will not occur. A value of 1 is a good starting point for including the punishment.
    • Jarl says: It follows this calculation: score/=1+((unique_symbols/cipher_length)*multiplicity_weight). The higher the multiplicity, the more the score will be reduced. It may prevent some of the solvers from inflating the score by changes that increase multiplicity. It will still do that but now there is a trade off. Secondly it can also be used as a filter, in case of using the Substitution + units solver for removing the spaces as nulls, the key size (amount of null symbols) will increase with every hill-climber iteration and eventually the multiplicity will become very high and the solver may find non-solutions that exceed the score of the underlying plain text, in that case the multiplicity weight will punish these and the best solution (according to the multiplicity weight trade off) will still be on top, sort of.
  • [General] Output to file
  • [General] Output to batch
  • [General] Output scores over
  • [General] Output improvements only
  • [General] Output additional stats
  • [General] Overwrite existing solver output
  • [General] Add PC-cycles to file output format
  • [General] Restarts
  • [General] Temperature
  • [General] Enable memory checks
  • [General] Enable screen size checks
  • [General] 8-gram memory limit
  • [General] 8-gram caching
  • [General] Add spaces to output
  • [General] Add spaces to output iterations
  • [General] N-gram log value cut-off


AZDecrypt was not able to solve this cipher with default settings:


The plaintext consists of two pangrams:


Jarl's fix, under "Options -> Solvers":

  • Boost Entropy weight to 10
  • Click the "Normalize n-gram factor" button

Now it can solve the cipher.

Batch mode

In batch mode (processing multiple ciphers), under default settings, AZDecrypt will not write output files if newly cracked ciphers' scores are not higher than previously cracked ciphers' scores. To change this, set "Output improvements only" to "No" in "Options -> Solvers"

Solving "Ambiguous Caesar shift" ciphers (aka Hafer ciphers or Hafer homophonic ciphers)

Instructions and details on configuring AZDecrypt to solve these kinds of ciphers can be found here.

The description of the encipherment system is here.

Jarlve posted a new version of AZDecrypt that can solve Hafer ciphers here.

Polyphone solver improvements

Jarl has added improvements to the polyphone solver. Details here.

Compute score for a given plaintext

Sometimes, you might want to know what score AZDecrypt would give to a piece of plaintext. There is not yet an exact feature for this, but you can achieve it this way: Use the "Substitution + crib grid" solver, click on Show cipher and then type in the letters of the plain text. Though you will have to leave one letter uncribbed for it to work.

Homophonic substitution with spaces

Sometimes a homophonic substitution cipher will encode spaces with one or more symbols. AZdecrypt does not have a direct feature for this. However, it can be made to deal with spaces by using the Substitution + units solver with the standard settings, Unit: symbol, Mode: Remove and perhaps Multiplicity weight: 1. (Thread)

Build steps

1) Unzip the 3 folders in the root of C drive. (AZdecrypt, FbEdit and FreeBASIC-1.07.1-win64-gcc-8.1.0)

2) Open FbEdit under FbEdit.

3) Open AZdecrypt.bas.

4) Click the green play icon to compile and run.

  • Next to the green play icon there is [Windows GCC] which can be changed to [Windows GAS] for much faster compilation time. But GAS builds a slower program.
  • Options, Build Options to change compiler flags.
  • Options, Path Options to change paths.
  • The substitution solver = sub azdecrypt_234567810g(byval tn_ptr as any ptr).