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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.

There's no doubt that until recently, RoboForm used to be the stand-out product in the category.  However, it has been replaced by the new kid on the block - LastPass. LastPass is a free password manager that integrates with both Internet Explorer and Firefox, and allows you to save your passwords and website login details and access from them anywhere in the world. Like RoboForm, your saved passwords and secure notes are accessible on all other machines that are running the browser plugin within minutes of your changes.

On the other hand, my favourite offline password manager is the open source program KeePass. It's not nearly as well integrated into your browser as RoboForm or LastPass, 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 webforms. 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 logons 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. And it's skinable. 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 capabiliities 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.

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Quick Selection Guide

LastPass    Rating 9 of 10  Gizmo's Top Pick

Pros   Auto-login to all your favorite sites, passwords and secure notes are always available even when away from your own computer and can be accessed even when the website is down (via the browser plugin).
Cons   Some sites fool the password field detection, and the browser plugin only supports Firefox and Internet Explorer.
Developer Home Page
Download link
File Size   3.6 MB   Version 1.50   License Type Unrestricted Freeware   Installation Requirements Firefox/Internet Explorer toolbar for full access
Portable version available   Portable version available

RoboForm    Rating 6 of 10

Pros   Integrates well with Internet Explorer and Firefox, makes remembering your login name and password a thing of the past, click-and-fill functionality makes filling in forms quick and easy.
Cons   There are free alternatives that do the same if not more
Developer Home Page
Download link
File Size   2.8 MB   Version 6.9.92   License Type Restricted Freeware (full commercial version available)   Installation Requirements Windows only, unless using Mobile Phone/PDA version
Portable version available   Portable version available
Info   If your want to remove the 10 passcard limitation of the Free version, the Pro version is available for USD$29.95

KeePass Classic    Rating 7 of 10

Pros   Compact, programmable auto-type sequences, strong encryption, multiple user 'keys' for authentication, can assign expiry dates and time limits to keys, can add attachments to entries
Cons   Doesn't not have direct integration with web browser, can't 'auto-detect' passwords and usernames,
Developer Home Page
Download link
File Size   1.34 MB   Version 1.15   License Type Unrestricted Freeware    
64 Bit version available   64 Bit version available   Portable version available Portable version available
Info   iPhone, Blackberry and PocketPC versions also available

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