1Password is a well-known password manager with a solid reputation and a good track record. Is it the right pick for you, though? I took a long, hard look at 1Password to see how it works and if it stands up to the competition.
The short answer is that 1Password is one of the best password managers out there, maybe even the best. Though it could be a smidge cheaper and there are some small usability issues, overall it’s a solid password manager and is almost guaranteed to keep your online accounts safe. Let’s dive in.
Using 1Password: Organization Is Key
1Password is very easy to use overall, though it has a few oddities you need to learn to live with. However, since most of those issues exist because they’re part of 1Password’s security systems, they’re an unavoidable evil; all password managers have these issues to some extent. LastPass was easier to use, for example, and, well, that didn’t turn out too great…
1Password has clients for Windows, macOS, and Linux. On mobile, it has apps for Android, iPhone, and iPad. Most importantly, since it’s where you’ll need to fill out the most passwords, 1Password also has browser extensions for Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Brave, and Safari.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed the app or extension you want—chances are a browser extension is all you need—you’re ready to get started. The desktop and web clients are practically the same and serve as a kind of nerve center for 1Password. It’s here where you get an overview of all the passwords you have, for example, and where you can organize them to your liking.
This may actually be 1Password’s biggest strength, the ability to organize and file all your accounts. For example, since I review a lot of software, I have accounts coming out my ears; I even have multiple accounts for some providers. With 1Password, I can tag all of them as relevant to my business or another entity and leave everything else as personal, entertainment, or whatever. It’s a good system.
That said, as nice as having everything organized, actually doing it is another matter. For example, to delete an entry, you need to first open up the edit screen and then find the delete button. To add or remove tags, you need to type the name out, which feels pretty outdated.
It gets annoying when you have more than one or two entries you want to edit and it feels like an issue that would be pretty easy to fix. That said, the tags 1Password assigns automatically do work quite well, so you’ll be doing less tweaking than you think.
Saving and Filling Out Passwords
However, the web client is probably where you’ll spend the least amount of your time. You’ll interact with 1Password mainly through the web extension, where you can quickly access your passwords while browsing. Opening up the extension is as simple as clicking the icon at the top of your browser’s screen or hitting a hotkey combination.
This is a much simpler view and won’t allow you to edit or alter any entries. Just add them and fill them out. This is where another small crease appears in 1Password’s otherwise ironed exterior: The automatic saving and filling out of passwords doesn’t work great.
For example, to save a password you just entered in a site, you need to have already unlocked 1Password. More than once, while creating a new account somewhere, I realized I had to access 1Password or not have its password generator show up. Compared to other password managers and how smoothly they handle this, it gets a little tiring, to be honest.
Filling out passwords is a bit smoother: if you’re on a site 1Password recognizes, you’ll get a prompt to have 1Password fill in your credentials. You’ll have to unlock it first, and the program takes it from there. On mobile, you’ll have to first activate the 1Password app before it prompts you, so keep that in mind.
Though I understand that this cumbersome process exists to keep your accounts safe, I can’t escape the nagging feeling it could be smoothed out a little. For example, when you start a browser session, you could get a reminder that you should unlock 1Password. While I appreciate 1Password’s dedication to security, I doubt most of us will lose control over our laptop mid-session.
That said, the overall experience using 1Password is good: most of the issues described above are no more than minor irritants, and I’d rather have an overzealous password manager than one that sacrifices security for comfort—LastPass once again springs to mind. And while not recommended, you can go into the password manager’s settings and extend how long the app or extension will stay unlocked.
How Much Does 1Password Cost?
A slightly more serious issue is 1Password’s price, which is a bit higher than the rest of the market. It’s not a grievous amount, but considering you can also use a free password manager like KeePass or Bitwarden, it feels a bit high. 1Password is one of the few services not to have a free plan, but all its offerings come with a free 14-day trial, so you’re not jumping in blind.
You have a few plans to choose from. For regular users, there’s the Personal and Family plans. At $36 per year, the Personal plan is a bit pricey. For example, Keeper is only $30 per year, and Dashlane is only a few dollars more than that. Still, it’s not a huge difference, and a few bucks per year isn’t enough to balk at.
The Family plan, however, is priced a lot better. At just $60 per year for five people, it shares its price with most major password managers while offering a better product. Since it links all the accounts used by the people that are on the plan, you may not want to share it with just anybody, but it’s a great way to keep track of everybody’s accounts,especially for families with kids.
1Password Business Plans
1Password also offers plans for businesses, which operate on the same principle as the Family plan, but just for much larger groups of people and likely without any Netflix logins and the like.
The Teams Starter Pack is a great option here: at $240 per year for 10 people, it’s one of the cheapest options on the market. The regular Business plan, though, doesn’t seem as great value at $96 per year per user. Still, its advanced features may be just the ticket for the right business.
Is 1Password Safe?
Security-wise, 1Password seems like it has its act together. It has a full page on its site dedicated to explaining how its security works, but the upshot is that it uses advanced encryption to keep hackers away from your passwords.
However, this wouldn’t really set 1Password apart since any service worth its salt promises this type of security. In fact, you could go so far as to say the real danger isn’t hackers trying to bruteforce a password vault, but rather the access points for those vaults. In other words, you and I are the ones more likely to foul up than 1Password.
To prevent this, 1Password has a few failsafes in place. For one, your master password, the one you use to access 1Password itself, isn’t stored anywhere. Every time you need 1Password, you will have to enter it again—or every few hours at least; my experience says it’s 1-2 hours before you need to enter it again.
As I mentioned earlier, this can get a little annoying, but that’s the price of safety. Many other password managers or built-in system keyrings will let you log in automatically, negating the safety password managers offer. After all, if the system is wide open like that, anybody who steals your laptop or phone will automatically have access to your passwords.
Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe
The second measure 1Password has in place is a so-called secret key. This key is an extra password that you need whenever you install 1Password on a new device. You’re given this on signup in an official looking document that you need to store somewhere safely; you may even consider printing it out and hiding it somewhere.
That said, you can look up your secret key in an existing 1Password install at any time, so as long as you never wipe all your devices at the same time, you should be okay. For example, when I installed 1Password on a new laptop, I got the secret key from my Android app.
Another nifty feature is Watchtower, which tracks your accounts to see if any have been breached, which is nice, as well as alerting you to any weak or vulnerable passwords you may have. This is what my report looks like:
Before, I had two passwords in the red, which I quickly fixed. Though other password managers offer something along the same lines, I like how 1Password presents this information. It makes it much easier to see the issues and which need dealing with first.
Should You Sign Up for 1Password?
1Password is a solid password manager for just about anybody. Though it’s not perfect, it’s small annoyances are exactly that—small. For a reasonable amount of money you get a reliable piece of software that’s pretty easy to use. I recommend anybody in the market for a password manager to check out 1Password’s 14-day free trial.
1Password Password Manager
- Easy to use
- High-end security
- Family plan is fantastic value
- Some issues with navigation
- Personal plan is a bit pricey