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I'd like to use john to crack passwords that has 3 chars and 1 symbol in it, e.g 123$

If I use mask mode I will have to specify it 3 times,

-mask='[a-z0-9]?s[a-z0-9][a-z0-9]'
-mask='[a-z0-9][a-z0-9]?s[a-z0-9]'
-mask='[a-z0-9][a-z0-9][a-z0-9]?s'

Is there anything better than this?

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The logic of masks does not allow for this. If you want only a certain number of a certain character set in more than one position, then you have to permute the options yourself, either by what you have done or by creating a wordlist.

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    And using multiple masks is faster (more compatible with running efficiently on GPU) than creating a wordlist, all other things being equal - and the faster the hash, the greater the difference. If the hash is slow enough, it doesn't make much difference. So preferring the multiple-mask method is good general advice. – Royce Williams Mar 9 at 14:56

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