Why is there not a universal login ID and password? I have dozens of passwords, each with different login IDs. There’s a few dozen web sites to login in to, multiple email accounts to manage, web mail, Yahoo!, Google, sites with forums, not to mention banks and credit card sites. Who can remember all those login ID’s and passwords? I don’t have to. I learned to manage them all in 3 minutes. Here’s how…
Your Mac stores login ID’s and passwords in the OS X Keychain, a somewhat cryptic, uninspiring, and unfriendly utility such that Apple buries it in the utilities folder. Keychain works hand in hand with Safari and Mail so you don’t have to remember passwords every time you check mail or visit a web site.
Keychain has obvious benefit and proponents, but a number of serious drawbacks, too. It’s a pain to manage; such a pain that Apple provides almost no detail about how to use Keychain.
For quick web site logins and email, Keychain hides in the background and stores those ever important login ID’s and passwords. Only the daring go there to see how it does what it does.
Many users still have the bad habit of sharing passwords with multiple websites. The thought is that the less passwords to remember, the better. From a security point of view, this is very dangerous. Sharing a password for many sites is a very bad idea because it allows thieves to easily access your other online accounts once they compromise one site.
For years I’ve used a variety of password and serial number managers, but none of them do all things related to login ID’s and passwords. Neither does Keychain.
Is there anything better?
It took all of about 3 minutes to figure out that 1Password works better because it works with Keychain, not against it.
What makes 1Password unique is its direct integration with web browsers. By running inside Safari or one of the other 8 supported web browsers, 1Password is able to automatically generate strong passwords, remember them for you, and then quickly log you in without the need to type or even see the password.
1Password keeps what OS X does best, holding information in the Keychain, and improves on the web browsing experience with more security.
Yes, though your mileage may vary, there isn’t much about 1Password to learn to get started. Install is drag and drop. Update all your browsers with the plug-in, and go (click any image for a pop up close up view).
You’ll create a master password for 1Password so make it something you can remember, yet something strong. I suggest a look at the 3 Minute Expert Overview.
Getting started is a breeze. Walk through the Password Manager features, generate a Strong Password, learn how to use the Auto Form Filler.
The power of 1Password is the smooth integration with your browser; Safari, Firefox, Camino, Flock, OmniWeb, even NetNewsWire or Netscape.
This makes it a snap to switch between browsers without fear of migrating your information. Synchronize your 1Passwd keychain to your .Mac and you can easily manage your passwords across machines.
1Password is more visible than Keychain but makes it less necessary to worry about what’s inside Keychain.
You’ll find more than enough options for the geekiest Mac user, but for the rest of us simplicity rules.
Other preferences include the ability to save web forms (very handy, highly underrated), make backups of the Keychain, and turn on the PhishTank anti-phishing service.
You don’t really use 1Password as much as it steps in to be used, sometimes asking, never interfering. It remembers web sites, forms in web sites, login ID’s, passwords, and more.
Those who have used Safari or Camino will already be familiar with the concept of AutoFill. 1Passwd takes the concept to a whole new level by allowing you to define multiple identities and by allowing more types of information to be stored.
Create more than one identity and allow 1Password to remember and use those identities when logging in. The automatic form filler is the best I’ve ever used.
Behind the Curtain
1Password usually stays behind the scenes, operating as a plug-in for Safari, Firefox, or whatever browser you need or use. Open 1Password and you’ll see intuitive settings and editable URL’s, login ID’s and passwords.
You think Apple has your six? Not so. 1Password goes a few extra steps.
All data is securely kept within the built-in OS X Keychain program which uses strong encryption technology. By default the “login” keychain is unlocked when a user logs in, which could pose a security risk. To combat this, 1Passwd creates a new keychain upon installation, and all information stored by 1Passwd is kept there.
Actually, yes. If you’ve downloaded and installed 1Password and walked through the 3 Minute Expert Overview, you’ve learned the basics and you’re ready to start a secure online experience.
But there’s more behind the scenes.
Synchronize your 1Passwd keychain to your .Mac and you can easily manage your passwords across machines.
There’s also one-click sync to your iPhone, to those aging Palm and Treo devices, the ability to create passwords, strong ones, on the fly, and importantly, import login ID and password information from Safari and Firefox.
You don’t have to give up Apple’s secure but arcane and hidden Keychain, which works wonderfully for managing email login ID’s and passwords (heaven help you if you need to begin editing in Keychain).
1Password is classy and affordable at $35, indispensable for the security minded who need a little relief from managing passwords. What it doesn’t do a good job of is managing software serial numbers, credit card numbers, and so on. For that I have yet another Mac utility to keep me secure. Sigh.