A password manager is a tool that allows you to store your login information in an encrypted format and retrieve it as needed. To prevent hackers from accessing your private information, most password managers require a “Master Password” to be used the “key” to perform encryption and decryption of you data. All you have to remember is that Master Password and the password manager will remember all your other passwords for you.
Most online users are not aware that such a tool exists. But once you start using it, you will never want to go back to the old way of entering your user name and password. It simplifies your life so much that you wish you would have known about it sooner.
Listed below are 7 features that you should expect from a password manager:
The password manager should use some sort of encryption algorithm to encrypt your logon information. Some examples of encryption algorithms are: DES (Data Encryption Standard), Blowfish, AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), Rijndael, etc. Do not use a password manager that stores your password and user name in clear text (unencrypted). Anyone can copy your user name and password if they are stored in a clear text file. When your data file is encrypted, it will be rendered useless even if a hacker gets a hold of it. The text will look like a bunch of gibberish characters and the hacker won’t be able to do anything with it unless if he has your master password.
Ease of Use
You should be able to save and retrieve your password and user name with a click of the mouse. Most password managers are implemented as a toolbar on your browser so that you do not have to go hunt for them in your Programs folder. When you are at the logon page, all you should need to do is to type in the user name, password, and click on “Save Password” button on the toolbar of your browser. The password manager should remember the URL (web address) of the site, your user name, password, and any other options that you have selected on the page. You should be able to rename the entry as needed (for example, Hotmail, CitiBank, PayPal, etc).
When you need to visit the site, you can just select the entry from the toolbar and the password manager should automatically log you in. Avoid password managers that require you to drag and drop user name and password fields to the page because the password manager is not intelligent enough to figure out what fields go where on the page. That is extra work for you and you know that there are better password managers out there that would automate the “drag and drop” action for you (RoboForm is one of them).
The user names and passwords that you save into your password manager should be “portable”, meaning you should be able to export the list from one computer and import it from another computer. That way you are not tied down to just one computer when using your password manager. Having the ability to export your password list also enables you to make a copy of it and store it in a location other than your computer’s hard drive (i.e. your pen drive, external hard drive, memory flash card, iPod, etc). Just in case your whole computer is stolen or damaged in a fire, you still have your password list.
Compatibility with Your Browser
Not all password managers are compatible with the browser that you are using. Most password managers are compatible with Internet Explorer. If you are using FireFox or Opera browser, make sure that your password manager is compatible with it.
Built-in Password Generator
Your password manager should have a built-in password generator that generates difficult-to-guess passwords for you. This will avoid hackers from breaking into your account using words extracted from a dictionary.
Ability to Modify Password
When the webmaster of the site changes the logon fields on the logon page, your password manager will stop working because the URL (web address) of the site might have changed or the logon fields might have been renamed. When that happens, your password manager should allow you to refresh your logon settings so that the latest changes are saved to your password manager.
Built-in Form Filler
Although not a required feature, it will be a bonus if your password manager provides a form filler. A form filler allows you to fill out online forms (like payment form, address form, personal information form) with preset data with a mouse-click. You just have to type in your personal information (like name, address, credit card number, etc) once and the form filler will fill out all the fields for you with a click of the mouse.
Our Recommendation: RoboForm
We have tested various password managers, both paid ones (like RoboForm) and free ones (like KeePass Password Safe and LastPass).
I like RoboForm the most because it has all the features mentioned above plus more. It has a lot of intelligence built into it and it does a fantastic job in grabbing the correct user name and password fields from various logon pages. and we are able to log on to different sites with the fewest clicks. Its form filler is so smart that it can handle any form that you throw at it while other password managers fail miserably. You can download the free trial version of RoboForm here. You will be amazed by what it can do for you.