Portability is definitely the latest trend when it comes to technology. Wireless Internet connection is yesterday's news and USB keys, PDAs, Webtops make the hottest news. I for one was baffled when hearing about the 64GB USB key and even more dumbfound when I learned the price.
And speaking of portability, the greatest leap were the portable softwares. No more writing in the registry, no more cleaning to do. Just install the application on the USB key and use it as usual. The idea received so much appreciation that it is no wonder that entire websites dedicate their effort to turning every useful (and useless) app into a portable format.
However, not all apps can be taken away on a thumbdrive, but the ones used on a daily basis have found a place on the portable device. You have everything from web browsers, email clients, FTP clients, compression tools or multimedia software to encryption tools, file management, backup and recovery or antivirus applications.
As passwords are a commonality of our life today, preserving them in a safe place is also as important as the content they are guarding. For active users with multiple web accounts (I reached about 50 of them) a password manager is an absolute must. And if you throw in the portability feature, you're all set up. Of course, in this case no leak is acceptable, so everything has to stay on the USB key.
I give you Password Safe, a nifty looking application designed to safe keep as many countersigns and login details as you need. More than this, it also lets you add a few personal notes for each entry you make. And to make the presentation complete, it is perfectly portable and free, so you can take it with you anywhere you go with no fear of leaving important data behind.
As far as the interface is concerned, it is crystal clear that the developer made an effort to make the wrapping eye candy. The clean cut design is nice and slick and in perfect harmony with Windows Vista. All the entries are displayed in the left hand side of the application window while the password entry is in the right side. The notes for the entry are at hand, right under password entry window so you can place there a description of the account or anything
Password Safe comes complete with search options allowing a fast finding of the right account details. However, the quick search option works only if you type in the title of the entry. No results shall be displayed if the query consists of a username or password. This comes as a downside of the application as sometimes a list of all the accounts sharing a common password may be helpful.
Sorting options are also available and all the entries can be displayed alphabetically or in reverse order, according to the date when they were added or the date when they have last been updated.
Password entry section of the application is particularly important as it contains all the details of an account. As I said before, title is very important for quick finding an account, so be careful with what you type in this field (I recommend filling it with the name of the account). The password can be user defined or, if you are looking for a better protection, use the built in generator. It will make up an eight character countersign formed of alphanumeric and special characters.
For more characters, invoke the password manager in Tools menu (under Generate Password). This tool is more elaborate as it is capable of making up to 20 characters countersigns. The pitfall is that the Copy button is not working at all, so you have to go manually on this one.
Email Account section can be anything you want. The section is already populated with some presets (bank details, computer logon, credit card, email account, instant messaging etc.) but you can add your own types in there with a simple editing.
Expiration Date and Passphrase are not mandatory, but if the account requires it, do fill these fields as well, you never know what might happen and when you might need them. "Better safe than sorry" applies perfectly in this case.
Configuring the application is not too much of an effort either. General settings let you enable Password Safe to stay on top of all the other windows - but don't bother with this as it is not working (at least on the two different systems I tested, the product it had no effect) -, show tooltips and highlight notes URLs.
Security section comes with a bit more settings allowing the user to make visible the usernames, passwords and passphrases, empty the clipboard on program exit (but as Password Safe does not place anything in clipboard, I guess the option is out), minimizing the app after a user defined time of inactivity and prompting for password when restoring the minimized program.
The on-screen keyboard can be of great help, but the Copy button is still broken. It seems that no matter where you access it from, it just won't work.The Good
Having Password Safe in portable form is just great. It will no longer interact with the registry and all the files that need to be written will be saved in its folder, so there is absolutely no leak.
There aren't too many options available but the present ones are enough to offer a safe deposit box for your account details, no matter what that is.
The user can add his/her own types of account and is not limited to the list of available presets.The Bad
Copy to clipboard button is not working, regardless of the location it is accessed from. Quick search and Advanced search provide absolutely the same result. The only difference between them is the form they take.
Setting the application to ask for the master password after resuming from minimized mode results in the setting disabling itself.
Backing up and restoring the data can be made only from the native file format. This does not allow saving the account details in a TXT or CSV file.The Truth
The application lacks a finishing touch that would make all the options work properly. Other than the mischiefs mentioned above, it makes for a great password storage utility.Here are some snapshots of the application in action: