trying out 1Password

I’ve been trying out 1Password for the last few days. I have the (now free) iOS client installed on my iPhone and iPad. And I have the 30-day evaluation versions of the Mac and Windows clients installed on my MacBook and my desktop PC.

In a nutshell: I have a few minor issues with the Mac version, but I think I’ll stick with it, and switch over from KeePass.

There are a few major issues that I want a password manager to address, and none of the solutions I’ve tried previously manage to do all of them well. 1Password isn’t perfect, but I think it does better than anything else I’ve tried.

First, since I’m working with multiple platforms, I need something that runs on all those platforms (or that can be accessed from them all), and that syncs my password database across them without any snags. With KeePass, I was keeping the database in DropBox, and that was working well on the desktop, but was a bit awkward to deal with on mobile. (If I switched to something like LastPass, this problem would go away, since it’s a hosted service rather than client software, but there are other things I don’t like about LastPass.)

With 1Password, I can keep the database in DropBox, and all clients (Mac, PC, and iOS) seem to be able to access it with no problems. I haven’t seen much in the way of documentation about the 1Password database (though I haven’t really gone looking for it), but it appears to be structured as a bunch of individual files within a folder, rather than as one big file, like in KeePass. The obvious advantage here is that this should do a lot to resolve the occasional conflicts that would happen with KeePass. The typical issue with KeePass would be that I’d save a change to the password file on my MacBook, while it was disconnected for some reason, then make a different change on my PC, and save the file, then later go back to the MacBook, and have that machine then try to sync the password file, and cause a conflict. Then, I’d have to open the two conflicting password files, copy the change from the conflict file back to the main one, and then delete the conflict file. Not a horrible thing, and it doesn’t happen often, but it’s a pain when it does. With the way 1Password does things, I think I’d be fine in this scenario, as long as I was changing two different passwords on the two different platforms.

I didn’t come up with a good way to export my passwords from KeePass and import them to 1Password, so that was a bit of a hurdle to get over. But I’m now looking at this as an opportunity to clean up my password database, tossing out some old ones and re-organizing things a bit. I’ve manually copied/pasted over 100 entries from KeePass to 1Password now. That’s gotten me through about one-third of the database, I think. I’ve done this all on the Mac client. While it hasn’t been too much trouble, it has exposed a few things about the current version of the Mac client that I’m not too happy about.

The main issue is that they’ve gone a bit too far in embracing the Yosemite aesthetic. The main window just doesn’t have enough contrast between the background color and foreground text. It’s basically grey on grey. This just isn’t working well for my tired old eyes. Maybe it looks better on a Retina screen, but I don’t have one of those. I posted a question about it on the AgileBits forums, suggesting that maybe they could have an option to change this. They replied that I wasn’t the first person to ask about it, but they didn’t specifically commit to doing anything about it. So I may just have to live with that for now. (As a side note, I recently discovered the “zoom” function on my Mac, so I’ve been using that to make text more readable, especially when I’m using the MacBook at night.)

I also have a few other minor nits to pick with the Mac client, but nothing major. For instance, I’ve found that if you have a lot of text in the note field on a password entry, it doesn’t quite refresh the screen correctly when you’re scrolling through it. And I wish the folder and tag lists would default to ‘show’ instead of ‘hide’, when you open the client. But I can live with this stuff for now.

The newest version of the iOS client is great. I can’t really complain about it at all. It can be unlocked with Touch ID, which is really nice and much easier than having to type in a master password every time. (Though Touch ID hasn’t been working well for me lately, which is a subject for a different blog post.) And it integrates with iOS to the extent that Apple allows — which isn’t much, but it’s better than it used to be, and it’s better than any other password software I’ve tried. There’s a good recent review of the new iOS client up on MacStories. There’s not much more I could say about it that they haven’t already said.

So, to summarize, I think I’ll be migrating the rest of my passwords over from KeePass into 1Password, and paying for the Mac & Windows desktop clients. (And maybe paying the $10 to unlock the premium features in the iOS client, though I probably don’t need them.)

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