As we store more and more of our information digitally, it becomes more important than ever to make sure it’s safe-guarded. Part of that security should always consist of strong and unique passwords. Password manager apps are available not only on the iPhone and iPad, but on Macs and PCs as well. (No, putting your passwords in the Notes app is never acceptable, so stop it.)
Password manager apps aren’t hard to use, and once you get started, they actually offer you more convenience than any other way of maintaining and storing passwords. Not convinced? Let me help you understand…
Why do I need to use a password manager?
Every day we are allowing our iPhones, iPads, Androids, and other devices to store more and more of our personal data. We log in to financial apps, we check our credit scores, and we manage our social and work lives using technology.
Now imagine your iPhone falling into the possession of someone you don’t know. Are your passwords hard to guess? Do you have different ones for every account? If the answer is no, this is why you need a password manager.
Not only to protect yourself from a lost iPhone or iPad, but think about all the hackers out there stealing information from big banks and credit card companies. How many people in the last year alone have fallen victim to credit card fraud and identity theft?
I’m willing to bet most of those people had the same easy to crack passwords for all of their accounts. You should never use the same password twice. While that may seem like a huge inconvenience, tools like password managers exist to help make better security accessible and convenient.
Throughout the course of this guide, I’m going to offer suggestions on good password managers as well as walk you through how to use them to help keep you, and all of your data, as safe as possible.
What are the best password managers?
There are tons of password manager apps available both in the App Store and online. In this article I’m going to recommend three services that I have experience with and think offer the most benefits for the widest audience.
By that I mean best cross-platform support, flexibility, and ease of use. Whether you use an iPhone, iPad, and PC or an Android phone, iPad, and Mac – all of the password management services mentioned below will work for you.
The debate over the best password managers could go on forever, so I’ll let you decide for yourself while we cover the basics.
1Password is my personal favorite and what I’ve been using for almost 7 years now. I’ve always found the support to be great and updates are regular. They’re also great about supporting new features of iOS rather quickly.
1Password also just started offering a 1Password Family plan. For $5 a month you get to use one of the best password management services in the world for up to 5 people. That’s an amazing deal and helps up to 5 people in your house learn proper password management practice.
If you only need a password management service as an individual, it’s worth pointing out that while 1Password may have a higher up-front cost than Dashlane and LastPass, you only pay that one time. The other two services mentioned below, while great, use a subscription-only model if you want all they have to offer.
- 1Password for iOS – Free w/ one time IAP – Download
- 1Password for Mac – $50 – Download
- Browser extensions – Downloads for 1Password
Dashlane makes a great looking iOS app and it’s incredibly simple to use. I have several friends who begrudgingly decided it was time to handle passwords properly and they found Dashlane to be their favorite.
Dashlane is completely free to use, however, if you want to sync passwords across devices, have automatic backups, and other features like accessing passwords from their website, you’ll have to opt for a premium subscription.
- Dashlane for iOS – Free w/ subscription – Download
- Dashlane for Mac – Free w/ subscription – Download
- Browser extensions – Sign into the Mac app and click Dashlane and Install browser extensions
LastPass also offers the same cross-platform capabilities that both Dashlane and 1Password do. Just like Dashlane, LastPass is subscription based but free to try and get started. I’ve never been a huge fan of the way LastPass is laid out, but I know many others that swear by it.
And at the end of the day, you should pick the password manager that’s right for you.
- LastPass for iOS – Free w/ subscription – Download
- LastPass for Mac – Free w/ subscription – Download
The best part about all the password manager apps and services listed above is that they’re all completely free to get started with and try out. If you aren’t sure which one is the right fit for you, try them all and practice inputting passwords, generating new ones, and explore the features each has to offer.
Ultimately the decision is yours. Choose the one that best fits your needs. All are different enough to make one better than the other for you. You’ll have to figure that part out on your own.
What are browser extensions and do I need them?
You may have noticed that in the last section, I not only provided links to the iOS and Mac apps, I also provided URLs to browser extensions. That’s because each of the password managers I’ve recommended come with great support for all browsers. That means no matter what type of operating system you’re running (Windows, Mac OS X, etc) – the password manager instead relies on the browser for support.
That means whether you use Safari, Firefox, Chrome, or something else – you’ll be able to instantly access your passwords. Each respective service does a good job of walking you though installing and activating them, so just click the link and follow the instructions for the password manager of your choice.
Some password managers may even prompt you to install extensions when you launch the app for the first time.
How to generate strong passwords with a password manager app
One of the most important things password managers can assist you in doing is generating strong passwords. It is never safe to use things like Password123. Actually, you should never be using sequential numbers that are easy to guess, birthdays, or anything else someone could easily find out.
Instead, password managers can generate strong passwords. You can even tell it the length you want and whether or not special characters are ok or not.
The best part? You don’t have to actually remember that long, difficult password. That’s the point. Your password manager only requires you to remember one master password, which you’ll set up when you get started. As long as you know that, you’ll have access to all your other passwords. Just be sure not to make your master password too weak, or guessable. That could be you in an equally bad spot if someone guesses it.
Here’s how to generate a strong, unique password with 1Password. The process should be fairly similar with both LastPass and Dashlane as well:
- Create a new login item or open an existing one you’d like to create a stronger password for.
- Tap on edit if you’re editing an existing login.
- Choose the generate password option instead of typing your own in.
- Here you can change the length and dictate whether or not special symbols are used (choose the Show Password Recipe option for this).
- Tap Save and you’re done.
- To use that password manually, just tap on the hidden password and copy it.
How to automatically input saved passwords on your iPhone or iPad
While you can always jump into 1Password, Dashlane, or LastPass to view and use passwords, all of these apps make it even easier to autofill your passwords. All you’ve got to do is activate the action extensions and you’ll be good to go. Here’s how to do that:
- Launch Safari and browse to any page.
- Tap on the Share button in the bottom navigation.
- Tap on More in the bottom row of icons.
- Enable the extension for your password manager of choice.
- Drag it to the top of the list. You don’t have to do this but I always keep my password manager as my first action extension so I can access it without scrolling through all of them.
You’ll only have to perform the above steps a single time. Once the action extension is activated, it always will be unless you turn it off, which you can do by following the exact same steps.
Once you’ve got it activated, it’s time to use it:
- Browse to any web page you need to fill in a password for. In this case, I’ll use Amazon.
- Tap on the Share button and choose 1Password, or whatever password manager you’re using.
- Verify with your master password or your fingerprint.
- Tap on your login and voila. It should automatically fill in the web page you’re on.
This also works in any app that supports password manager extensions. In most cases, you’ll see a keyhole icon you can tap on if the app supports password managers. If not, just hop into your password manager and copy the password.
How to automatically input saved passwords on your Mac or PC
Browser extensions are what allow you to automatically input passwords on your Mac or PC. Once installed they can sit next to your address bar, or wherever you choose to put them. They can then auto-recognize what site you’re on and offer suggestions.
Here’s an example for when I navigate to twitter.com:
I just click the keyhole icon in the address bar and I get all my options. If the right password doesn’t show, just search for it! Keep in mind, if you’re using Dashlane or LastPass, their icon in your address bar will look different, but the concept is exactly the same.
Any questions? Ask!
Password managers greatly enhance the security of your data and are worth taking the time to learn your way around. Sure, setting them up and potentially changing passwords to be stronger in the beginning is a hassle, but it’s so worth it in the long run.
And once you’re up and running, they’re far more convenient than typing in passwords manually. Gross. Who does that anymore? 😉
So pick one, try it out, and let me know in the comments if there’s any way I can help, or if you have any questions!