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I visit over 100 websites that require a user ID and password to access.  You probably do, too.

And if you're like me, there's no way you can keep track of 100 different passwords.  So you 'cheat' and use the same password many different places.

Chances are it is also an easily remembered - and therefore easily guessed - password.

Roboform is a much better way to manage your passwords.

 
 
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Roboform Password and Form Filler review

Securely solves the problem of managing passwords
 

How can you ever hope to remember so many different passwords to so many different websites?

You need the help of a password manager program such as Roboform.

 

 

Most people seem to have only one or two passwords, which they use everywhere.  Convenient?  Yes.  But secure?  No.  If a person finds your password to one site, they can then explore other popular sites to see if you have accounts there, too.

Some sites impose strict password controls on you, requiring certain combinations of letters and digits, making it impossible to create a password you'll remember unaided.  So what do you do?

Here's a simple program that works with leading browsers to automate the creation and management of your passwords.

 

Introducing Roboform Password Manager

Imagine yourself visiting a website that requires a username and password to access.  You simply move your cursor up to the browser's menu bar and click a button.  The correct username and password for the website you're on is automatically entered.  You don't need to remember anything - everything is done automatically by Roboform.

Roboform really is as simple as that.  There's nothing to configure and precious little to learn.  It just works.  (Shall I finish the review now?)

Roboform compared to Internet Explorer's password memory

If you're using a recent version of Internet Explorer (and most of us do) then you probably know that IE has a limited degree of automatic password assistance built in already.  However, you probably also know this limited degree of functionality is far from a complete solution for all situations.

IE's limited functionality is not nearly as complete as offered by Roboform, and is also not nearly as secure.

IE recognizes username and password fields on webpages by the names of the fields on the pages.  So when you go to a webpage, you might be presented with lots of different options to choose from, because lots of different webpages might have used the same field name.

And so you still have to remember your username, even though, after selecting the appropriate username, IE might possibly then enter the correct password.

Strangely, there are some webpages where IE doesn't help at all, forcing you to remember both your username and passwords.

And IE stores all the mistakes you make as well as the valid entries, which can sometimes present you with a bewildering range of choices.

It also seems IE sometimes forgets your login details.

IE doesn't show your stored passwords, and you just see a row of dots when it fills the password data in.  So if you're switching to another computer, you don't necessarily know what your password was before and can't easily find out.

Neither can you conveniently edit the passwords in IE.

As for security, anyone who has access to your computer obviously has access to IE's automatic password entries too, both when visiting webpages, or by accessing the unencrypted data files stored on your hard disk.  This is a particular problem if you lose a laptop, for example - the thief can go through your history, your favorites and IE's stored data, and use this to access all your online accounts.

Roboform suffers from none of these limitations or weaknesses.  All the limitations listed above are resolved in Roboform.  Whether you like or dislike IE's limited help, you're sure to love the much greater help provided by Roboform.

OS and Browser Compatibility

Roboform only operates on Windows computers, and is compatible with all versions of Windows as far back as Windows 95.  It does not work on Macs.

It is compatible with Internet Explorer versions from 5.0 and forward.  If you're not running the most up-to-date version of IE, and with all the latest patches, now might be a good time to do that, too.

It can also work with most recent versions of Netscape, Mozilla and Firefox.  In addition, there are at least 50 other browsers it runs with (I didn't even know there were that many browsers).

There are only a very few browsers it can not work with; Opera being perhaps the best known of these.

What Roboform Does

Roboform is actually two different programs in one.  The main reason most of us buy it is for its password management functions, but it also has a broader form filling feature as well - hence the name, Roboform.  When you think about it, filling in other forms is basically a superset of filling in only username and password fields.

The program saves your username and password information, website by website.  This information is usually automatically captured and saved when you're signing in to a website for the first time.  If it isn't, you can manually add it into the Roboform database.

When you go back to a website and need to log in again, Roboform automatically retrieves the username and password data for that particular website and offers it for you to use.

There's a subtle but important element to how Roboform ties its passwords to websites.  Unlike IE, which simply links user names and passwords to fields on forms, Roboform links to the website.  This means that if you are being tricked by a phisher, when you're taken to the pseudo-site that is pretending to be a real site, Roboform is not fooled, and refuses to automatically help you log in.

When you're on a bona fide web page for which you already have an established user name and password, all it takes is a single click on a button on the Roboform tool bar (this installs into your web browser) and the data is added to the form and you've logged in.

Roboform knows which identity to use based on the site you're visiting.  If you have multiple login identities at a single website, Roboform retrieves them all and you can choose which one to use.  You can name each identity anyway you like to help you better understand what each one is for.

You can also display and edit your log in details, and you can see your password shown in plain letters rather than in hidden symbols.

The form filling service is a logical extension of the user name and password filling.  Instead of just filling in these two fields, it allows you to create standard answers for all the information usually asked for when creating a new account, and fill it all with a single click.

This information is stored securely and with heavy encryption, on your computer.  It is not stored anywhere else, so you can quite safely store credit card details, social security number, and any other sensitive personal data you wish.

You can also require Roboform to be unlocked by entering a password each time you start your computer, and optionally every time the computer goes to standby, or after a specified amount of inactive time.  This is an important added safety measure, particularly on a laptop.  There's no protection in a password management program if it automatically starts when the computer is turned on.  So Roboform doesn't eliminate your need to remember passwords, but it does reduce the number of passwords you need to know down to a single one - a much more manageable situation.

Other Features

Roboform also has an intelligent search facility that can be used to automatically search for text in a variety of places.  I don't use this - Google does everything I'd ever want, and so have removed it from the toolbar to reduce clutter.

Roboform offers a 'Safenote' feature where you can create notes about anything and have them safely stored on your computer.  You might want to keep notes about ATM PINs, combination lock numbers, or just about anything else, and keep them inside the protected Roboform software and the encrypted data files it creates.

Before I installed Roboform, I had various sensitive data stored in open Note files and Word documents.  Now I have everything I don't want other people to read safely held in Roboform files.

Another useful feature is password generation.  Roboform will automatically create passwords for you when you're creating new log ins, using random selections of letters and numbers.  You can specify the length, the number of letters and the number of digits, and it will then offer you passwords that are as close to unguessable as is possible.

You'll probably at first be rather intimidated by the very complicated random passwords it generates and think 'oh no, I could never remember that, and I could never easily type it in, either', but then you'll realize that this doesn't matter.  That is the whole beauty of Roboform - it saves you from the need to remember passwords, and it saves you from the need to type them in.

What Roboform Doesn't Do

Roboform works to fill in user name and password data on web based pages, accessed through web browser programs such as Internet Explorer.

If you're accessing another type of internet service through a different type of access method - for example, if you're logging in to Yahoo Messenger, then because this access isn't through a browser, Roboform doesn't assist.

A second exception is when you are using a browser window, but the website sends a 'Windows system window' type popup login window for you to log in through.  This is bypassing the browser window and so again it does not trigger Roboform.

Installing Roboform

Installing Roboform is very simple.  Download the 2 MB file (for free) from the Roboform website, then run the downloaded program to install it on your computer.

You can safely accept all the defaults in the installation, and allow Roboform to import in the password information it finds stored in your browser as well.

This is an eye-opening thing - watching Roboform find all your most secret user name and password data.  If Roboform can do this, imagine what a hacker could do, just as easily.

I chose to have Roboform delete the password information out of the browser, because with Roboform, there is no longer any need for the data to be kept in the browser as well.

Using multiple computers

If you have, for example, a computer at work, a computer at home, and a laptop computer too, you can easily share the Roboform data between these computers just by copying the files in Roboform's data directory.

This is not a security vulnerability.  The files are heavily encrypted and are meaningless to everyone unless unlocked by the Roboform software, and using your master password.

I share my Roboform data through Sugarsynch, and that seems to work perfectly, ensuring that any new account or password change I make on one computer flows through, automatically, to all my other computers too.

Using someone else's computer

Maybe you're on vacation and relying on internet cafes to access the internet.  Roboform have a wonderful way to take your Roboform software and data files with you, wherever you are, and no matter whatever the (Windows) computer you're using.

This is their Roboform2Go product.  It stores the Roboform software and data on a USB Flash Drive and so can be used on any computer with an available USB port.  Best of all, when you unplug the USB Flash Drive, all trace of your passwords vanishes off the computer you were using, meaning that if you're at a public computer, there's no way for the next person using the computer to retrieve your passwords.

Roboform offers a 30 day free trial

If you're not certain whether Roboform is worth the $29.95 it sells for, you can still go ahead and download the full version of the software and try it for 30 days.  If you like it, you can buy it at any time, and if you don't like it, you can either uninstall it or use it in its much less useful free version after the 30 day full version trial expires.

The free version limits you to only 10 stored passwords (for ten different websites).  This is effectively useless for most of us, but fortunately this limitation only starts after the 30 day free trial.

Reliability

I've been using Roboform extensively for more than two weeks, and haven't had any problems with it at all.  It seems to be reliable and bug free.

About the Company that Makes Roboform

Roboform is made by Siber Systems Inc.  Siber Systems has offices in the US and also in Germany, Japan and Russia, and has been trading since 1995.

I've been using their software for three years so far, and have enjoyed the reliability of the software, the regularity with which they update it, and their occasional support services too.

It seems a well managed company with a quality product.

Support

When using the free or trial version of Roboform, you get online support.  If you end up choosing to buy the full version, you then get access to phone support as well as the online support.

I've used the online support twice.  Once with an unsatisfactory outcome (well, they answered my questions, but the answers weren't what I was hoping for), and the other time with a satisfactory outcome.  Both times the responses came very quickly - indeed one time I sent a question at about 10pm (Pacific time) and got an answer back within 30 minutes; I sent a follow up question immediately after and got a follow up answer back within 5 minutes.  Either they have some insomniacs at work in Virginia, or they do indeed have other offices in other time zones.

Upgrades

The present policy is that registered users get upgrades for free.

Roboform Competitors

There are other programs that also offer password management capabilities.  One of them is free - the MSN Toolbar.  This is a definite improvement over the simple capabilities in IE itself, but is a bit more intrusive than Roboform, due to wanting to add other capabilities to your computer, too.

eWallet is an interesting program that supports PDAs as well as Windows computers.

Aha Password Manager is another similar product, but we don't like their suggestion you should store your sensitive personal data on their website, and we doubly don't like this when we notice the spelling mistakes and html errors on their website, giving us little confidence in their product.

One more product is TK8 Safe.  We don't know much about this software, but it too seems similar to Roboform.

We ended up liking Roboform so much we decided not to spend further time investigating other solutions.  Our opinion is shared by many others - download.com reports over 4 million downloads of Roboform; the next most popular had only 145,000 downloads.  Roboform is clearly the market leader.

Summary

Roboform makes managing your passwords and other secure data very much easier than is otherwise the case.

It is helpful for regular users of regular computers.  And for people with a laptop, or for people in more secure environments, Roboform is not just helpful, but essential.

Other similar products exist, at similar price points, but it is hard to see how they could come up with a simpler or more complete solution than that offered by Roboform.

With a 30 day free trial, and only a moderate $29.95 cost (for one computer, discounted rates for additional licenses), there's no risk and little expense involved.  You definitely should try this software, and you most probably will choose to buy it.  Recommended.
 

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Originally published 30 Dec 2005, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
 
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