Essential Software: 1Password


When Adrian of Jetplane Journal first told me about Agile Web Solution’s 1Password my immediate thought was ‘not another password manager’ coupled with a ratber rude rolling of eyes. Memories of hours spent entering passwords into shareware wallet software and the riling senility of browser password managers came flooding to mind. We won’t even talk about Mac OS’s own Keychain. I was silly to reject 1Password that day but that is indeed what I did every day for the next year.

My problem with password managers has always been integration. There’s always been that balance between secure passwords and portability. Long, hashed keys are good, but what’s the point if you can’t remember them when out and about. I need a password manager to be both seamless and ubiquitous, in my browser, on my iPhone, on my spare $99 Android phone I’ll take to Thailand (should I ever get to go there…). Until now, an app that fits the bill hasn’t been so easy to find and I imagine synchronisation has always been the main issue.

Well, Adrian was persistent. Eventually sending me a free license Agile were offering during a recent promotion. I just couldn’t refuse.

1Password gets round these fundamental issues. It’s available on Mac, Windows, iOS and Android. There are browser plug ins for every major browser and I can also run the standalone app to store tonnes of useful information I want to keep secure. Thanks to Dropbox your saved 1Password library file gets synced across all devices seamlessly. If I do ever get to that Tiger sanctuary in Thailand and feel the need to instantly post pictures to Facebook in some back-room internet cafe (don’t pretend you haven’t got FB friends that do this), I can look up my password instantly on my iPhone.

1Password LoginsSo how does it work? During install you add an extension to your browser. Every time you log into a website, 1Password pops up asking whether you want to save the log in information. My first impressions were again filled with doubt, as this window is very similar to the occasional save password alert that pops up every so often in your browser. After visiting several sites in my first day I quickly realised that 1Password wasn’t just more consistent at asking whether to save a password, it was doing so 100% of the time. While saving the login you get to tag the details or rename the entry. I have several accounts for certain sites such as Amazon and PayPal so naming one “PayPal – Private” and “PayPal – Applingua” seemed sensible.

The real test came when visiting these sites later. Would it remember the right information? I can report that with almost 100% accuracy, one click on 1Password’s Chrome extension pops up with the right log in. On those sites where I have more than one account, I can choose which and 1Password will fill in the login and submit too. It’s so seamless it’s hard to imagine why this hasn’t been bought and used by Microsoft / Apple.

In addition to site information you can also enter the standalone app and add credit cards, passport info, social security numbers, pretty much anything. When you get to the checkout of a site you click the 1Password extension and it autofills your credit card information. In my experience, this works fully around 70% of the time, but at least half of the information is filled in nearly 100% of the time with just the expiry date perhaps to correct. Well I have to say I am more than pleasantly surprised. After several months, I just couldn’t do without 1Password.

I’m not alone with my praise. The developers must gush when they read their iOS app reviews, “Congratulations to the app developers. This does them so much credit,” and “This is a must buy!”. Or MacUpdate‘s user reviews with over 86 likes on “Pretty much awesome. This is one of the must-have apps” and “I’ve found few apps that are as fantastic and simple as 1Password, by far the best password saver i’ve used”. I don’t think the Jury is still out there on 1Password. I think they’ve already come back in the room and delivered their verdict.

It isn’t all perfect. There are some sites for which I have several duplicate entries, simply because there are often several different routes to login. Overly complicated SSL logins sometimes produce dynamic form URLs, but I’d sooner blame the web designer who chose a non standard form label attribute than 1Password’s own ability. Then there’s the not-so-great Chrome extension – Safari / Firefoxs iteration is far superior and much less clunky. Again, that may be due to the way Chrome handles extensions rather than Agile’s willingness to create a good experience.

It’s at a point now that if my 1Password library were to get corrupted in some way I would have to spend literally hours resetting passwords and finding old credit cards, passports and driving license information from my highly disorganized paper organiser. 1Passwords saves me time. Saves me rummaging for my old wallet in my winter coat. Saves my passwords, my passport number, my driving license and my tax information. There is no doubt if you had my master password, you would have me. That, however, I will never share…

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