Remember when passwords were an absolute pain in the backside? Maybe they still are for you, in which case, I’d urge you to read on.

Despite this, there’s no getting away from the fact that we all need a multitude of passwords to get stuff done these days. Which would be fine, if we weren’t asked to devise different combinations of letters, numbers, and special characters for every single point of access.

Throw in two-factor authentication and what often feels like needless login requests (hello, Adobe Reader), and it’s a bit of a ’hot mess’, as they say on the internet.

This is why password managers exist. If you’re not using one, you’re wasting an immeasurable amount of time and leaving the back door open for cybercriminals.

Last year, I changed tact with my password management, and it made a massive difference to everything I do.

Warning: this is a hugely divisive topic

There are several topics for which I create content that bring out the most depressingly miserable comments from people who can’t see past their own noses.

Take headphones, for example. Trust me – if you ever get into this content creation game and choose the tech niche, get ready to encounter The Headphone Massive if you dare provide a favourable opinion on one particular brand.

There’s the obvious, too; Apple versus Android, Apple versus Microsoft, Apple versus Linux (do not mispronounce the latter, please).

And then, there are password managers.

This one took me by surprise. It isn’t, after all, the sexiest of topics. But, good lord are there some staunch fans out there of particular platforms.

Some are absolutely lovely. They’ll have their favourite method of securing all of their digital stuff, and they’ll politely let you know about it. Others are, I’m afraid, utter clowns. They’ll accuse you of misinforming your audience or tell you to “take down this video and remake it with the correct information” (I kid you not) if you fail to mention their favourite password manager.

Let me confirm this once and for all: there are many, many options for password management out there, which range from keeping everything in your head to widely-used, privately-owned and VC-funded platforms. There are also a bunch of open-source, free-to-use password managers (from which the majority of the Password Massive appears to emanate).

This is why the world is such a wonderful place. You have a choice – and this particular choice is about as personal as it gets, given the nature of the data being stored.

The solution to this is simple: choose the option that makes you feel the most comfortable. I can only offer so much advice on what platform that might be, and I will freely admit that I simply cannot be bothered to sit down and try every password manager out there; I’d rather eat my own hair.

But I do have my own favourite, and it has changed the game for me, big time.

A note on Apple Keychain

For many years, I used Apple Keychain and absolutely loved it.

For the uninitiated, Keychain is Apple’s own form of password management. It arrived in 1999 and enables users to store passwords, network information, credit card details, and much more.

More importantly, it allows you to share access to all of that confidential information across all of your Apple devices. Need to log into a website? Keychain will do the filling-in for you, providing you can authenticate yourself. It’ll even suggest new passwords, and take the hassle out of entering payment information at checkout.

It is quite simply brilliant. And, if you’re an Apple user who wants the simplest form of password management without paying a penny extra for it, you should give it a go.

However, as I began to spread my tech horizons, Keychain became more of a hindrance than a useful tool for me.

I needed an alternative.

Switching to 1Password

I’d been aware of 1Password for quite some time – I’d even tried it many years ago. But I always returned to Keychain, simply because of my reliance on Apple gear and the nagging feeling that it was the best, safest option.

Then, I started a tech review brand and began peering over the other side of the fence. This led me back to Windows, and into a far more wholesome experience with Android.

There was just one problem. When using something that wasn’t Apple-branded, I found myself reaching into Keychain to manually pull out and use my various login credentials. That’s a pretty horrible experience and the complete antithesis of secure password management.

So, I decided to try out 1Password again, and boy have I been missing out.

The good news is that switching from Keychain to 1Password is pretty straightforward. As you’d expect, 1Password has created a guide for this, but I opted to populate 1Password manually by adding to it as I went about my daily business. This might sound long-winded, but it was super simple; whenever I encountered a website whose login credentials weren’t in 1Password, I simply added them. This has resulted in a clean database of only the websites and services I use most often, rather than bringing across all of the legacy stuff from Keychain via an import.

Full disclosure: I now work closely with 1Password. I receive early access to stuff, and they sometimes sponsor my content (although not this blog post). The reason for this burgeoning friendship is simple: 1Password is a wonderfully lovely company, and I like surrounding myself with positive people.

There’s a huge irony to this, though, because I initially came into close contact with 1 Password following a blog post I wrote in September 2021 titled ‘The 1Password Disaster (And Two Brilliant 1Password Alternatives)’.

You read that right. That piece led me to a brief exchange on Twitter with one of the co-founders, followed by an interview and, consequently, a far better understanding of what 1Password is all about. The team cares deeply about the product they create. Sure, they make mistakes and decisions that don’t hit the right note with everyone (like we all do), but that makes them even more relatable.

I love it when there’s more to a piece of software than the bits and bytes, and 1Password’s response to my initial article speaks volumes (let’s be honest – they could have told me to sling my hook!).

How I use 1Password

I’m not a 1Password power user. I use it in its most base-level form, which is to store login credentials, credit card information, and confidential notes.

I throw the odd software license in there, and I’ve made sure my passport details and driving license are securely in their respective vaults, but I don’t go much further than that.

This is the great thing about 1Password – you can use it to any degree you see fit. If you fancy going further and integrating Fast Mail for masked email duties, you can. If you’re running a business, you can use 1Password to ensure the whole team is on-point with its cyber security. There’s even a great product tier for families for anyone who wants the entire household to adhere to the same levels of digital security.

But for me, 1Password is just a great cross-platform password manager. Whether I’m setting up a new Mac, switching phones, or revisiting Windows, it’s there for me, immediately.

Hello, 1Password 8

I’ve been using the beta version of 1Password 8 for Mac for a little while now, and I absolutely love it.

There are two things to cover initially: the switch to a subscription-only model for 1Password 8, and the use of Electron, which forms part of the system’s core.

Subscription pricing models will always be divisive – particularly when they’re implemented by a software developer that offered a one-time purchase option for many years. Personally, I have no qualms with this. Having worked within the software industry for nearly two decades, I know how hard and necessary those choices are behind the scenes; I lost most of my hair while transitioning an on-premise platform to that of a SaaS subscription model.

This move won’t please everyone – it can’t. And I’m aware that 1Password has lost some long-standing customers because of its decision. But they know that too, and they’ll have pre-empted it; some of the toughest decisions are also the bravest, after all.

Secondly, Electron – and this is where I have to put my hands up, I’m afraid. As my Twitter bio states, I am the least techy tech reviewer out there, and I didn’t even know Electron existed, let alone understand what it was for.

Put simply, Electron is a framework that is intended to speed up the development process for native apps. In its crudest form, it’s a quick, dirty way of turning a web app into a macOS app (for instance – Discord). I won’t speak for 1Password on this, because I’m not smart enough, but they refer to their use of Electron as ‘hybrid’, in that they’re still relying largely on the Rust programming language, bundled in with Typescript, React, and, finally, Electron.

What matters, as always, is how this relates to real-world usage – that’s all I care about.

The primary concern with Electron is related to resource management and the impact that might have on battery life when using 1Password 8 on a MacBook. You see, Electron apps are generally pretty inconsiderate in this regard and will regularly chew up needless amounts of RAM and processing power.

Having used 1Password 8 exclusively on my M1 MacBook Air for the last few weeks, I’m happy to confirm that there has been no measurable impact on performance or battery life. As always, you don’t know 1Password is there – until you need it.

In fact, if I’d never picked up on the whole Electron thing, I’d never have thought twice about this. It is a total non-event; 1Password 8 is super-fast, and you have to scroll for quite some time to find it in activity monitor.

With that out of the way, one can enjoy the changes the team at AgileBits has made to 1Password 8 on the Mac. The new design is a delight – refreshed, tidied, and with everything more conveniently placed. Just the presence of a Categories drop-down at the top of the user interface makes for a far more pleasurable experience.

There’s better universal search, a new generation of the brilliant Watchtower feature, far more convenient and contextualised editing, unlock via Apple Watch (I use this all of the time when my MacBook Pro is in clamshell mode), and much more – including one huge feature which I’ll review as soon as I can talk about it!

I’ll be covering 1Password in more detail once it is fully ready for the public, but I’d recommend reading Dave Teare’s rundown of everything they’ve done so far with 1Password 8 (you’ll need to grab a coffee).

Wrapping up

As I’ve said numerous times, I can’t tell you which password manager is right for you, but I can tell you what works for me.

As always, the magic happens in the comments. It’s where I learn, and where my readers learn, and if you want to add to this conversation with thoughts about your own favourite password manager, the floor is yours – go!

(just don’t tell me to try out Bitwarden, please 😉)

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