Review: 7 password managers for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android
1Password and KeePass lead the field in features, flexibility, browser integration, and ease of use
I hate passwords. I hate coming up with them. I hate remembering them. I hate mistyping them four times in a row. And I hate getting locked out of whatever I'm trying to log into in the process.
That said, I hate being hacked only slightly more, so I've done my part to use passwords that aren't "password123" or something equally foolish. The hard part is keeping them straight, which I could do by writing them down -- but isn't that a security hole all over again? Heck, I've known that since I was a kid. I saw "WarGames."
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Password vaults, aka password safes or password managers, help solve this problem. They give you a central place to store all your passwords, encrypted and protected by a passphrase or token that you provide. This way, you have to memorize a single password -- the one for your password vault. All the other passwords you use can be as long and complex as possible, even randomly generated, and you don't have to worry about remembering them.
If having your passwords in a single encrypted store were all you needed, then a password-protected Microsoft Word document would do the trick. There has to be an easier way. One of the reasons I looked at these password vaults -- a total of seven -- was to see how easy it was to work with them over an extended period of time. If they didn't provide much more convenience over simply copying and pasting passwords from a text file, they'd hardly be worth using.
Here's what I found. To keep the list manageable, I've focused on programs that have both a desktop and a mobile version available, with the desktop taking precedence.
KeePass and 1Password stood out as the best of the bunch for slightly different reasons. KeePass is free open source software with a large community of users and add-ons behind it. But most important, KeePass has been written with a good sense for how people need to interact with the program every single day. 1Password, priced at $49.99, is even better in that respect. It's polished, powerful, closely integrated with your browser, and easy to keep in sync with your mobile devices.
RoboForm, a longtime presence in this field, is a close contender for the top choice as well, thanks to many of its unique features, such as an intelligent form-filling function (for name/address forms) and the ability to work with other kinds of applications apart from Web browsers.