1Password 3.9.6: Manage passwords or die trying

While it is available for other platforms, 1Password is probably the most popular password manager for the Mac. It also integrates into your browser to make website logins easier, and it enables you to effortlessly generate strong passwords. It may be well-known, but is it worth using? Read on to find out.

The main interface

As you can see from the screenshot above, the main interface is quite simple. It allows you to store your logins, software registration details, credit card information, secure notes, etc.

One very helpful feature is the password strength indicator associated with each of your passwords. This is an easy way to see at-a-glance which passwords should be hardened.

My main gripe with launching the app is that it’s slow, and by that I mean I’m usually teleported to the 90s. I’m running a 2.94 Ghz i7 and I’m used to apps launching really fast, which makes 1Password stand out. Not only does it take a while to start up, but when I input the master password, I still have to wait a few seconds to use the app. When you have to do this dozens of times per day, it’s frustrating to say the least.

Generating passwords

The process of picking a strong password is better left to a piece of software. 1Password has a very simple yet effective password generator that offers all the options you may need:

You can select the password size, it can be pronounceable or random, and you can also insert symbols and numbers. When saved, the password is conveniently copied to the clipboard. All in all, very convenient.

The tale of the browser add-on that wouldn’t

1Password comes with a browser add-on that sits in your browser window as a key icon. The idea is simple – as you visit a website that needs your login information, you click the lock and the software will find the appropriate info in its database. You can also use it to auto-save the data you enter into registration forms. These are all good ideas that are supposed to make you more productive, but in reality, this is where most of the issues I experienced with 1Password pop up:

1. I found the information saved upon registration quite often to be unusable since on numerous occasions the add-on saved my username as something entirely different, and instead of the password I often got one single character. And no, my passwords are never just one character.

2. Most of the time the add-on just doesn’t work. It doesn’t recognize the site that I’ve visited and it usually displays some other site at random. If I use the search function to try and search for the info I’d like to use I get this dialogue:

I’ve been in contact with 1Password support and their idea was to remove the add-on and all references to the add-on in the Library. They sent me a lengthy step-by-step guide which was easy to follow, but it didn’t fix the problem for more than a few days. It’s important to note I haven’t upgraded any browser in the meantime or installed / uninstalled any other add-on.

Months of living with this problem have confirmed that the 1Password add-on dies for no apparent reason.

I tried removing the add-on a few times with no avail. I have the same problem in the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome, on two different machines. It got so bad I now have 1Password open all the time and I had to stop using the add-on.

I have to say that the people at 1Password support are fast, polite and helpful. The problem is that what they ask you to do in reality has no effect. The software continues to not work as it should, month after month after month…

My 2 cents

I’ve been a 1Password user since it was initially released, and while the software has certainly improved when it comes to looks, usability leaves a lot to be desired. You need extra clicks to perform simple tasks, syncing your data with a mobile device is cumbersome, and the browser add-on is a broken disgrace.

While once absolutely amazing, 1Password 3.9.6 is the most disappointing piece of software I have to use on a daily basis, and I can’t wait to find a decent alternative. The fact that it has so many issues is beyond frustrating, and I wouldn’t recommend it even if it was free. At $49.99, think long and hard before your buy since the features that actually work are, in my opinion, not worth that amount of money.

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