Less is more. After looking at password and serial number organizers I’m convinced the Mac platform is here to stay awhile.
There are plenty of options to store sensitive information on your Mac. Here’s what I like. Steel and Wallet and SecretBook.
We started the new year trying to think different by thinking less is more. In a few critical areas, I’m inclined to agree.
While Microsoft Office is the end-all, be-all of monolithic application design, most of us have needs far less than the mega-feature mentality of Microsoft.
I’ve looked at a good dozen Mac applications to handle the organization and tracking of login ID, password, serial number, and credit card information.
Why? I grew tired of Stickies, Excel spreadsheets, and trying to set up a proper table in Word documents—all just to handle something that’s got to be easily accessible, easy to use, and ultra secure.
Alexis recommended iSafe, and I’m inclined to agree that this may be the best value to handle such information. It’s free. Everything Alexis reviews is free.
While iSafe is quite good, I have this odd feeling that such an important application that’s totally free, fully niche oriented, may not keep the developer interested after a few years of hard work and no money.
You know how it is. Once you start using something like this, get it all full of information, switching to something else is going to be painful.
The price is modest, the interface simple, and it stores files in a database that’s encrypted using 448-bit Blowfish encryption.
The user interface is simple and straightforward. Set up the left column to handle Groups; serial numbers, credit cards, contacts, or anything else you want.
There’s a middle column which shows the Entries for each Group, and a right column which displays the detail. You don’t need a map or a PDF to figure out Wallet, either.
I compared Wallet to Steel, which remarkably, has an even simpler interface. If less is more, then Steel is more than Wallet.
Steel’s user interface is actually more like iTunes and iPhoto. The left hand column stores Categories, and the right hand column lists both the individual Entry and details.
Categories can be whatever you want. Bank accounts, credit card information, login IDs and passwords, email account details, or almost anything.
Both Wallet and Steel are flexible, but stay within the column, Group and Entry metaphor.
Steel’s right hand column lists both the Entry and the detail, in what looks more like an Excel spreadsheet. It’s not. It just lists items that way.
By the way, that Excel spreadsheet is similar to how I had about two-thirds of my login IDs, passwords, and serial numbers listed.
With either Steel or Wallet, there’s not much else going on. You can set up a secure password making it difficult for someone to break in and get your data.
Preferences are limited. You may choose where to store your database in Steel, both databases can be copied to other Macs but the password is still required to open.
Steel is relatively easier to use than Wallet. I say that knowing that either one is about as straightforward as you can get. Steel has a side bar which lets you click on URLs for a faster login.
I found a few quirks in Wallet that made me choose Steel, and it wasn’t that Steel is $9 and Wallet is $15.
Tabbing doesn’t tab in Wallet. Don’t ask why.
Enter some detail in an Entry, tab to the next field. Uh oh. It doesn’t tab. You have to mouse and click into the next field to enter data (maybe there’s another way and I couldn’t figure it out; after all, I’m looking for simple).
Steel uses a spreadsheet layout so tab works from field to field and the field size is adjustable. That did it for me. Not only was the Entry detail layout a comfortable spreadsheet metaphor, it worked the way I work; tab from field to field.
Regardless, both Steel and Wallet are good values, attractive, straightforward, and won’t load you down with features you may not need, ala the Microsoft method.
The only really important feature missing from either is the ability to click on a web site link that uses a login ID and password, and have the login take place automatically.
That brings me to SecretBook, arguably the most attractive, simple, straightforward of the commercial password applications.
SecretBook imports files from other competitor applications, though I had a problem pulling in Notes data from Steel. And the icons are, uh, in need of improvement and variety.
The sleeper password application has to be 1Passwd, so we’ll do a future review with more detail. Though not simple to set up and use, 1Passwd has some terrific auto login capability that improves on Safari and Firefox.
In the end, less is more. I need an application I can trust that stores login ID’s, passwords, serial numbers, and little details that just need to be secured and safe and simple for me to manage.
In my case, Steel was the better “less is more” choice. The only thing so far is that it has not be updated in ages. Maybe it’s true that you get what you pay for.
What do you use for password management? Share your knowledge, experience, and problems in the Comments section below.