Products in this class are among the most useful of all PC utilities because they allow you to complete the common task of filling in web forms and logins by simply clicking a button, as well as allowing you to store program serial numbers and registration details in a secure electronic form.
They work by saving (in encrypted form) user IDs, passwords and other information needed by individual sites for later retrieval.
To login to a site you need only type in a single master password to allow retrieval of the specific password information for that site. This information is then used by the program to automatically login.
This greatly improves security because it allows different passwords to be assigned to individual sites without the need to remember them. And it makes the login process easy and quick.
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If you’re worried about security or reliability, then let me tell you LastPass is as safe as it can possibly get. It uses the same encryption algorithm that the US Government uses for top secret data. The key to decrypt the data is only known to you, so the database is meaningless to hackers. All encryption/decryption occurs on your computer, not on the servers. This means that it does not travel over the Internet and it never touches the servers. The entire site is encrypted and verified by Comodo.
There's no doubt that RoboForm is the stand-out product in the category; it's full featured, easy to use, seamlessly integrated into both Internet Explorer, Firefox and even Google Chrome browsers, and is constantly being enhanced by the developer. It also allows your saved passwords to be used on any PC, which is very convenient if you use multiple machines or are upgrading.
I do have a major reservation though: The free version allows only 10 forms or passwords to be stored. This used to be 30 in earlier versions, which was adequate. However, 10 passwords is not enough for most people and that really defeats the purpose of a password manager. What's the point in having a password manager if it cannot manage all of your passwords?
NB: If you use Internet Explorer, there's some good news: the last free version of RoboForm (V5.7.6) that allowed 30 passwords is still available from the RoboForm web site, though it's well hidden in the FAQ. Firefox users are out of luck, because you can't use this version with the current version of Firefox.
Some alternatives: Firstly (my personal favorite) there is the open source program KeePass. It's not nearly as well integrated into your browser as RoboForm, but it's a very good product that works without any limitations at all. There's also an excellent KeePass plug-in for Internet Explorer that automates web form filling. You can simply drag and drop saved information to password prompts or web forms. Alternatively, you can use the powerful auto-type functionality that allows you to define a sequence of key presses, which KeePass can automatically perform when a global hotkey is pressed – perfect for email logins or entering program serial numbers.
Some alternatives to KeePass include Password Safe and PINS, which are both open-source and free and come with an auto-type system. Yet another possibility is KeyWallet, which allows you drag and drop saved information directly into web forms. Not quite as neat as RoboForm's click-and-fill system, but it's still highly effective. KeyWallet can also automatically save form data and handle difficult Java based forms. It's also skinnable. However, KeyWallet has not been updated since 2001, before the release of XP, and there are still some XP related issues. Access Manger is similar to KeyWallet, but is still being maintained. It doesn't have the skinning capabilities of KeyWallet, and requires the .NET framework to run.
Finally, if you want to separate password keeping from filling out forms, consider PassPack. Its advantage is that it's entirely online: there's nothing to download and install. This lets you generate and use passwords from any computer that's connected to the Internet. My only concern at this time is the legitimacy of the service, but at present it would seem to be a viable alternative to software password managers.
Related Products and Links
You might want to check out these articles too:
- A Free Password Manager that's Just as Good as RoboForm
- How to Improve Your Security When Using a Public Terminal
Quick Selection Guide
Portable version available here. v2.23 released 20 July, 2013
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