Siber Systems Roboform

If you're an enthusiastic surfer, you've probably accumulated dozens -- or even hundreds -- of password-protected sites. Roboform can help you keep your passwords organized and available.

October 3, 2006

6 Min Read
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Passwords are the bane of my existence. Yes, I know they're necessary -- I really don't want anybody pulling several hundred dollars out of my online checking account, thank you very much. But because I'm paranoid enough not to want to use the same passwords all the time, I'm constantly forgetting which username/password combination I've used for which site.

It's true that most browsers will save passwords for you these days, but they don't offer a simple way to organize or edit your password list. Some, like Internet Explorer, don't give you access to a password list at all.

Which is why a good password manager is such a life saver -- and one of the best is Roboform. Siber Systems introduced Roboform in 1999, and while it's one of the more expensive of these utilities (there are a few free and/or cheaper ones around), it's also well worth the price of admission.

Setup literally takes minutes; what could have been a frustrating task is made exceedingly simple. There's only one drawback: You can't sign up through Google for a new domain. If you want to get a new domain, you'll have to first register it with a registrar, then walk through the Google setup steps.Once installed, Roboform adds a toolbar to the top or bottom of your browser; if you don't like toolbars, you can simply open it by clicking on the icon in your Windows taskbar. Roboform currently works "out of the box" with Internet Explorer; if you use a Mozilla-based browser, you have to install a small adaptor applet. There are a number of less-known browsers that Roboform also works with; however, Opera and Mac OS users are out of luck.

Prepping Your Passcards
It's easy enough to start working with the product. To begin with, each time you fill in a user ID or password form, Roboform pops up a window asking if you'd like to save the information in what it calls a "Passcard." Each Passcard is associated with an URL, and includes a user ID, password, email address, or any other information needed to log in. Once you've got most of your regular sites covered, you may want to turn off the automatic request function -- I started to find it a bit irritating. Roboform assigns a name to the Passcard (which is editable), and that's that.

From that point on, if you go to that site from your normal Bookmarks or Favorites list, Roboform will offer to fill in the password for you. Or you can save time and simply click on the site listing on Roboform's drop-down menu -- Roboform will go to the site, drop in your password info, and "click" the login button. It's the perfect solution for the lazy surfer.

Roboform also fills in online forms with information such as your name, address, credit card numbers, etc., taking the information from a small cache of data it calls an Identity. You create your Identity by entering the data into a series of tabbed pages. You can have more than one Identity, if you wish -- for example, one for your business expenses and one for personal shopping. Then, if you hit an online form that you need to fill out (for example, if you're buying something online), click on your Identity (which is available as a button on the Roboform toolbar), and the software will fill out any fields it recognizes -- which is usually most or all of them.

Additional Features
Roboform has a number of handy little features. For example, you can protect your Roboform lists with a Master Password, an especially good idea if you're using a mobile version of the product. (Roboform uses AES encryption to protect the data.) You can create freeform notes (call SafeNotes) for extra information that you want handy. You can have one or more "Profiles" that contain separate sets of Passcards -- handy if you share a computer, or if you want separate copies for work and personal surfing.

The latest version, 6.7.9, offers a number of small improvements to its predecessor. The most visible -- and perhaps the most redundant -- is RoboForm's search box. Since most browsers already come with search boxes (and each search engine offers its own toolbar), I wondered at first why the programmers bothered. However, I have to admit that RoboForm's idea of a search box is interesting -- when you type in a search term, you get a drop-down listing of a variety of search venues, such as Google News and SEC Info. Each of these is called a "SearchCard" -- everything in this application is a card, apparently --, and there are a variety that you can download. In fact, if you've got the right parameters, RoboForm lets you can create your own search card.

As mentioned before, Roboform is not free. Like other password products, Roboform does offer a free version -- you can save ten Passcards before it asks you to actually pay for the product. That's fine -- ten is enough to try out the software, although it's certainly not enough to keep even a modest surfer in passwords -- and Siber Systems' asking price of $29.95 is not excessive. Costs can mount up, though -- if you want to add a mobile copy for your Pocket PC or Palm PDA, that's another $9.95; if you want one on your USB key, that's another $19.95 (although why the USB version is worth $10 more than the PDA version is a mystery to me). You can even buy it preloaded on a 256Mb USB key for another $9.95. Siber Systems also offers a discount program for low-income users.

Roboform is one of those handy utilities that can instill a great deal of loyalty in its users. It lets you easily access all your sites without having to worry about remembering the password; its USB version (called Roboform2Go) lets you carry your passwords (and URLs) around with you from your home system to your work system to your friends' system; it gets you out of the tediousness of filling out yet another online form -- and it does this all efficiently, easily, and well.

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