Roboform Password and Form Filler review
Securely solves the problem of managing
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
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 really is as simple
as that. There's nothing to configure and precious little
to learn. It just works. (Shall I finish the review
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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 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
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
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.
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
About the Company that Makes
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.
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.
The present policy is that
registered users get upgrades for free.
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.
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
We don't know much about this software, but it too seems similar
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.
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
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30 Dec 2005, last update
28 May 2011
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.