Review: 1Password

1Password is a software application that I reviewed way back in November 2009 during the pilot episode of Tech tAUk. And so it only seems fitting that it is the first application to kick off my Summer of Reviews Series. Actually, a lot about 1Password has changed in the two years since I reviewed it on-air, such as the addition of a Windows version. But one fact remains the same: if you have online accounts and passwords, then this is the #1 must-have app for you.

How many times in the past week or two has there been news of some major website that got hacked? From businesses like Sony and Citibank to government websites such as the CIA and the IMF, and even on Kim Kardashian’s Twitter account, hackers have run amok as of late. But what’s always striking about these hacks is that when user passwords from these hacks are revealed, it always turns out that a significant percentage of the passwords are lame. The #1 most-used password on the internet is “password.” Seriously. The #2 most-used password is “123456” or some other string of numbers. And the vast majority of internet users use the same password on most of their websites.

These practices are so ridiculously insecure because a) they make it easy for hackers to brute-force your password, and b) if one site gets hacked, hackers can use that password to gain access to your account on other websites as well. Of course, the reason this persists is because insecure passwords are easy to remember. In a perfect world, every website we use would have a unique, really long password filled with nonsense gibberish. But how would we be able to remember all of them? This is where 1Password comes in.

Overview of 1Password
Summed up in a nutshell, 1Password is an application that stores an encrypted database of all of your online passwords. It integrates with most of the popular web browsers (Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, and a few more obscure ones — Opera and Camino are not supported), so that it can save and autofill your passwords as you login to various websites. And it secures the database of passwords with a single Master Password — the “one password” that you have to remember.

But 1Password is far more than just a replacement for your web browser’s Autofill. First off, it includes a really powerful password generator, accessible within your web browser. So when you go to register for a new account on a website (or to change your existing password), you can ask 1Password to generate a completely random password of any length, and you also have control over the algorithm used to generate the password: for example you can have a password that is semi-pronounceable or completely random, and you can control whether to include digits or symbols and how many of each. 1Password can then automatically fill that password for you, and it keeps a running history of generated passwords.

1Password also makes the very process of logging in a really easy task. By default, when you use 1Password to autofill your login information, it will also auto-submit the login form for you (you can turn this feature off). Another great feature is Go & Fill: by accessing the 1Password extension in your browser (or within 1Password itself) you can browse all of your saved passwords, double-click on one, and 1Password will automatically launch that website in your browser and submit your login info for you. Not too shabby, eh?

1Password isn’t just for passwords either, you can store a lot of other information in its encrypted database. You can separately store information for other accounts, such as your iTunes account, internet provider, e-mail, etc. You can create multiple identities with your personal information that can be autofilled on websites, which is great if, say, you have multiple addresses or phone numbers (or even nicknames) that you want to use with autofill. 1Password also has a Wallet feature that lets you store private information such as credit cards, bank accounts, your social security number, etc. (and credit cards can also be autofilled in web forms). 1Password also lets you add a list of software applications that you’ve purchased along with their license keys or files (great to have if you need to reinstall an app). And finally, you can also create custom secure notes — a great place to store other details that you want kept private, such as a locker combination or your list of secret admirers. 😉

1Password’s Sharing Abilities
Of course, the number-one hesitation that you probably would have to use 1Password to create a whole bunch of complex, secure passwords would be the concern of what would happen if you needed to be away from your computer to login to a website. Well, the good folks at AgileBits have done quite a bit to make 1Password as portable as possible. For starters, there are 1Password apps for the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and Android (beta). All of them work great on their own, and can sync with the Mac and Windows versions of 1Password over Wi-Fi.

But what if you don’t have a smart phone? Or what if you want to keep your passwords in sync with multiple computers? Well, to solve this issue, 1Password is brilliantly integrated with Dropbox. If you have a free Dropbox account set up and installed on your computer, you can tell 1Password to automatically store its database in your Dropbox folder. This lets you keep your data in sync across multiple computers, but it also opens you up to another awesome feature called 1PasswordAnywhere, a web-based version of your 1Password database. If, for example, you’re on a friend’s computer, you can log into your Dropbox account, access your 1Password keychain, and open it up within the web browser. You get the same strong encryption and the same great 1Password interface right there. It really is an ingenious feature.

My Review of 1Password
I have been using 1Password regularly since version 2, and it is an integral part of my online workflow; I can’t even imagine using the internet without it. The awesome developers over at AgileBits have been really on top of their game, delivering regular updates to 1Password to add new features, maintain consistent compatibility with the ever-changing landscape of web browsers, and make the program faster and easier to use. 1Password makes one of the most challenging aspects of using the internet easier to use and manage, and as such, 1Password has become without a doubt the app that I recommend to friends and family above all others.

The Nitty-Gritty
1Password by AgileBits
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

*Note: Only the Mac version was specifically reviewed in this article.

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About Douglas Bell

I live in Washington, D.C., and work as a Broadcast Technician at WAMU 88.5 FM, the local NPR affiliate in the Washington metro area. My primary shift is to engineer the local feed of NPR’s Morning Edition, including local news and weather, long-form features and station breaks… and yes, the shift starts at 5 am, so I’ve got the whole quasi-nocturnal thing going on. I am also the Coordinating Producer for Ken Rudin’s Political Junkie, an independently-produced podcast and public radio program. Extracurricularly, I play cello, and participate in a church choir and a handbell choir. I enjoy discovering new places, and am constantly searching for the perfect cheeseburger. I am also known as a frequent teller of puns.

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