Despite working in the tech press, there are very few applications that I follow religiously. I find out about most updates from an email, or a tweet. AgileBits’ 1Password 4 for the Mac is an application I have heard whispers around the techosphere about for months and have been patiently waiting for. I have relied on previous versions of this software to keep my Macs and other computers safe. After taking it for a spin, I’m going to tell you why you should too.
Security Shouldn’t Be Hard
Having a password manager may not seem sexy. That’s until your Pass123 password you use on all your sites gets hacked. You get hacked, and your accounts and credit cards get compromised. Then you try to get serious about security. Only it’s darn near impossible to remember secure passwords and the website requirements sure don’t make it easy. That’s where a password manager like 1Password comes into play. Sure there are others and Apple is inching to this game with iCloud Keychain, but there are some attributes I think puts 1Password at the top of the lift.
You remember those days before cell phones where you had to remember everyone’s number? How many phone numbers do you actually know now? It’s a bit like that. 1Password stores all your passwords in an encrypted database file on your computer. You just have to know the password to that database file. Since you don’t have to remember the password, you’re free to come up with the most ridiculous random password you can think of. Though you don’t have to. 1Password includes a random password generator to do it all for you. What makes this even more secure is that its all done via local storage with a 256-bit authenticated encryption. There is no 1Password account and if AgileBits get hacked, they don’t have your master password. On a Mac, you can access your password through the in-app database or you can do it the easy way by simple pressing Command- backslash to insert the correct password. 1Password also has the ability to create different password vaults if you want to keep your work and home passwords separate. Vaults can even be shared and if that is too broad so can individual items.
That means its all stuck on your Mac right? Absolutely not. Versions of 1Password exist for Mac, iOS, Android, and Windows. 1Password employs several syncing techniques to bring these together including iCloud, Wi-Fi sync, and for those of you in a cross platform world, it has syncing via DropBox. That’s how I do it and it’s worked nothing but flawlessly. I literally have all my passwords available to me on a new machine or mobile device as soon as my dropbox is done being synced. This was put to the test the other day when I had to reinstall my user account after an error related to my OS X Mavericks upgrade. Because of 1Password and other synced services, I was back up and running in a ridiculously short time.
1Password is a three-part solution. There is the main application which is the central depository for your passwords. There’s also a mini version of the menu bar. The last part of the triad is probably going to be the one you most interact with, the browser extension. The extension is available for Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and new for IP4, Opera as well. With either a right click to the contextual menu, or the cmd- \ keyboard command, you have most options of the full 1Password software when it comes to adding and storing passwords.
The interface of the main application is easy to use and very familiar if you’ve ever used a 3-pane mail or RSS app. It’s been overhauled since 1Password 3 for a little more color to match Mavericks. It’s also got some new features, like designating favorites for immediate access. You have your main menu on the far left. This gives you your items and categories. The next pane over is the list of items. You’ll have all your logins here. This is generally also the largest pane. To make things easy, there’s a search above the second pane on the toolbar. The interface is clean, but not customizable. It makes it really easy It really doesn’t have to be though, it does what it needs to. Almost everything can be done from the graphical interface, that includes accessing a built-in audit for your passwords.
Did I Say It Was Just for Passwords?
The name 1Password is a little misleading because it’s so much more than that now. Then again, 1placeforanythingyouneedsecureandeasilyaccessible is a bit convoluted isn’t it? In addition to passwords, 1Password can hold secure notes, credit/debit cards, your social security number, drivers license information, software keys, bank account, fishing license info, passport info, and I could go on all day for this. Not only does it keep it all safe, if you need access to it online, you got it. This kind of flexibility makes 1Password really appealing.
Pricing and Availability
In the world of the App Stores, software has been really devalued in most cases. AgileBits chose not to go this route and for that reason, you’re probably going to balk a bit with what I’m about to tell you. For a new user, or someone coming over from an older non-Mac App Store version, 1Password costs $49.99 in the MAS. If you need the Windows version, that is $49.99 as well. You can buy both for $69.99 and save some money The iOS version is $17.99 and the Android reader app is free. No, that’s not $1.99. Yes, they have to pay their bills and their employees. If you got 1Password 3 from the Mac App Store, you’re probably not reading this because it’s a free update.
1Password makes it easy to save your own bacon. No, it’s not cheap, but then again it’s not crap. You can save everything you need to keep safe and easily access it across multiple platforms. Just pay the $50 already and get to it.