When I set up a username and password for a new account I have but two options: use the same U/P for all accounts, or set up an individual U/P for each site, service and software program. The first is the easiest and least secure. The second challenges my brain and usually leads to me clicking the “forgot my password” button. Enter the password manager.
There are a handful of notable ones out there: KeePass, LastPass, RoboForm, SplashID, and 1Password. Of these, I’ve used KeePass and 1Password. The former is free, supports all platforms, is fully customizable, and has the support of the entire open-source community. The latter costs a pretty penny, is designed specifically for the Mac, has a bunch of features, and is developed by the folks over at Agile Web Solutions. So what’s your favorite? 1Password. Why? Because it rocks.
1Password wasn’t always my favorite. I used KeePass for months until I began using multiple devices. KeePass is built for the PC and is somewhat compatible with non-PCs. To get it to work on Mac and Linux systems users must install the .NET framework app, Mono. I tried it out, but kept running into issues with Mono. When the forum help dried up, I began searching the Web for a different password manager and came across 1Password. The $40 price tag was a bit much (i.e. $40 more than I paid for KeePass), so I opted for the 30-day unrestricted free trial.
Importing Data. Since I already had hundreds of entries in KeePass my first task was to import ‘em into 1PW. To do it, I just clicked File –> Import and follow the instructions of the Import Assistant. Within seconds, all my KeePass info was in 1PW. In fact, if you store your passwords in some other manager like Firefox, RoboForm, or Splash ID, 1PW supports those and several others. My only beef here is with duplicates. Currently there is no easy way to find and merge dupes. Not a deal breaker, but a big pain in the ace on occasion.
Syncing Devices. Next, I had to get all my Macs, PCs, and iDevices synced up. Before, if I had a password on the PC, but not on the Mac, I’d have to log in to the other computer via LogMeIn Free and grab the info I needed. While it worked, it sucked as a solution. Now that I’m using 1Password Anywhere, the iPhone/iPad apps, and the 1PW desktop Mac app I’m able to access all of my 1PW data all the time from any device (including my PCs). The icing came with the latest 1PW update which brought Dropbox syncing into the picture. Just be sure to let 1PW generate a better Dropbox password for you since all of your stuff is being stored in the cloud. Of course, you could always leave your info local and sync over WiFi. Your call.
Additional Features. Then there’s the other stuff that makes 1PW stand out.
Browser integration. 1PW has extensions for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox and a toolbar for the Safari and Firefox. I’m not a big toolbar user, but I am a fan of their less intrusive counterpart. With the extension installed, if a site requires a U/P or requires you set one up, 1PW recognizes this and pops open a window asking if you want to save the information. The other Web component is the auto-fill function for web forms. Add your identity to 1PW and let it fill in the blanks for you (I’m so lazy).
Password generator. Most people will generate passwords based on their environment—birthdays, anniversaries, siblings, spouses, even pets. Screw that! Let 1PW generate a password for you. While I’ve never had an account hacked, I feel really good knowing that my passwords are some insanely random combination of characters generated by 1PW. So, instead of using ABCDE12345 for your wireless network let 1PW generate a key for you. When you’re done, you can test the strength of your password using Microsoft’s password checker.
Software licenses. When I plop money down for a software program I save the information somewhere on my computer so I can access it later. While this worked fine for me in the past, 1PW provides me with a space specifically designed to store all my software deets (serial numbers, icons, e-mail, dl URL, etc). As an added bonus, I can drag my software support files right into the entry. Handy when you want to reference the actual e-mail.
Secure Notes. Let’s say there’s a door key, PIN, or Voicemail passcode you want to have with you at all times, but don’t want those notes accessible to anyone with access to your device. Secure Notes handles this beautifully. Sure I could go with any of the 100s of note apps out there (Lord knows I’ve tried most of them) but I’d rather trust 1PW for my Area 51 secrets (sorry Evernote).
Store files. I use Dropbox and Live Mesh as my syncing solutions. However, if I have files associated with logins, software, notes, or financial accounts I store them within the 1PW entry. Then, when I look up the information it’s all there in one spot. Brilliant!
Tags and Folders. I’m an organization freak. I like to have stuff labeled, tagged, and categorized so all I have to do is search for things based on the metadata I assign. 1PW lets you create folders and assign tags. Trust me, after you create a few hundred entries you’ll be kicking yourself in the face for not sorting your info ahead of time (me=guilty).
Customer Support. On occasion I have a question or twelve that I can’t find a solution for in the forums. With KeePass I had to rely on the forums. With 1PW, I have the forums and the support of Agile Web Solutions. These guys are great. For every e-mail I’ve sent to Agile, I’ve received a prompt response from a real person who’s intent on finding a solution to my problem.
User interface. One of the reasons I got rid of KeePass was its ridiculously anti-user user interface. With 1PW, there’s no mistaking where you’re at in the program or what needs to be done. It’s really a thing of beauty. Props to the design team.
That’s my spiel. I enjoyed KeePass when I used it, but I’ve moved on to 1Password because it has everything I need in a password manager (and some that I’ll probably never use). Sure it set me back $40 for the Mac and Windows desktop versions (each) and another $15 for the iPhone/iPad Universal Pro version. But the money was well spent. Now it’s your turn. Head over to Agile and try 1Password for yourself.
BTW, I only hit the tip of the iceberg. There are a ton of other features, and given 1Password’s changelog history there will be plenty more to come. Go ahead and chime in on password managers by posting a comment below or sending me an email.