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An In-Depth Look at 1Password 4

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Passwords protect our digital lives from prying eyes and malicious individuals. Since so much emphasis is placed on passwords protecting our banking information, saved credit card information on online stores, and the ability to use our digital identity on social media, the risks associated with using the same password on multiple sites is greater than ever before.

In this tutorial I will explain how to use 1Password 4 ($49.99 in the Mac App Store) to manage your digital identity, including passwords, credit cards, software licenses and more.

The Importance of Unique, Secure Passwords

The internet has become an essential part of our lives, and with the increased connectivity comes a need for each person to protect their digital activity from others. When using the same password on multiple websites, we risk the security of all of our accounts should one of the sites we are a member of be compromised.

In the past year, companies such as Ubisoft, Evernote,, and Yahoo! have been hacked allowing hackers access to passwords, names, addresses, and other personal information proving that it is always possible for a website or service to be breached. Evernote alone reset over 50 million users passwords when they were breached.

With this risk, it is important to ensure that should one account be compromised, the rest will not. We can prevent our other accounts from being compromised, should one be hacked, by using a unique and complex password for each website of which we are a member.

By using unique passwords, hackers are not able to use the information obtained to access other websites. By using a complex password, the risk of the password being decrypted by a hacker, once they have gained access to an encrypted copy of it, will be lowered.

Note: Hackers will sometimes access and use multiple computers when attempting to crack a password. For this reason, it’s important to assume the worst and make your password the strongest you can conveniently make it. Weaker passwords such as MyDogLucy may take 8 days or less to crack with a single computer at 4 billion computations per second. (Source)

The 1Password Advantage

The largest obstacle, when maintaining a secure digital identity, is that unique and complex passwords are difficult to remember. 1Password allows you to generate complex passwords using it’s built in Password Generator and save them for the website they are associated with. When used in conjunction with the 1Password browser extension, you can securely populate your username and password to log in to the site with a few keystrokes.

1Password isn’t just about managing passwords, though. 1Password is a digital identity manager and includes the ability to securely store and populate credit card and other personal information making online forms painless to fill out.

Cross-Platform Password Management

Using a password manager is not about using one machine. You will need access to your data on different devices; a password manager needs to be available to you on each and every platform that you use. Currently, 1Password is available on the following platforms:

Tip: If you are a Linux user, you may have noticed that AgileBits does not support Linux directly for the 1Password application. Luckily though, users on Linux can take advantage of 1PasswordAnywhere to access their information.

Password Security

AgileBits, the developer of 1Password, ensures users that security is of the utmost importance to them. They best explain it thus:

"The short answer is that it is very strong."

"The slightly longer answer is that your data is encrypted using AES, the same state-of-the-art encryption algorithm used as the national standard in the United States. 1Password uses 128-bit keys for encryption, which means that it would take millions of years for a criminal to decrypt your data using a brute force attack."

"For the really long answer, full technical details on the encryption algorithm, key generation, and FIPS compliance, please see the Agile Keychain Design document."

If you still have concerns about the safety of your data, or want to know more, I recommend exploring their website or contacting AgileBits directly. In my experience they are more than happy to take the time to explain answers to any questions in a clear, polite and understandable manner.

How to Choose a Master Password

AgileBits explains that, “When you run 1Password for the first time, you create a Master Password that is used to encrypt your data. No one will be able to view your passwords or other confidential information without knowing the password.”

Think of 1Password as a safe with a combination lock. When the safe door is closed, what's inside it can’t be seen or accessed. Likewise, users can not see nor access your confidential information within 1Password's encrypted data. If you know the combination to the safe though, you would be able to open it and view what is inside it. The master password allows you to decrypt the 1Password data and view the information stored within.

The master password is will protect your data and as such it is important to choose the strongest password that you can remember. In the AgileBits blog, they explain that in the case of a master password, the best thing you can do is set a strong one when you begin and never change it. This allows you to protect your data well without risking forgetting the master password when it is changed.

Note: Common passwords such as 123456 as well as password combinations such as NAME & NAME DIGITS (e.g. Jasmine&Noel4 (my pet’s names)) are not strong enough to protect the type of information held within 1Password.

AgileBits suggests a password creation system, or a way to create a strong password, that is not easily guessable by a password cracking program. In this, they give six important pieces of advice:

  1. Use spaces to make things easier for you
  2. Don’t tell the truth
  3. Don’t make sense
  4. Avoid predictable phrases
  5. Avoid secrets or things that are personally meaningful
  6. Obvious punctuation is obvious

It is important to remember that while you are working to try to achieve a perfect password, you will never reach perfection. It is most important for you to be comfortable with your master password and should not make using a password manager a chore.

1Password Preferences

1Password 4 Lock Screen1Password 4 Lock Screen1Password 4 Lock Screen

On opening 1Password 4, you'll be greeted with the either a welcome message, if you are a first time 1Password user, or you will be presented with the lock screen if you have used 1Password in the past. If you are a new user, now is the time to set your strong master password which will protect your data. If you are a returning 1Password user, 1Password 4 should have found your data and allow you to unlock it with your existing master password.

Once you have created, or accessed, your password database, you can set your preferences. Select 1Password 4 from the top menu bar, then Preferences or click Cmd+,. In the new modal window, you will be presented with the General options tab. In this tab, you can set Keyboard shortcuts to quickly access 1Password mini, a menu bar version of 1Password, as well as set the ability to use rich icons allowing you to see at a glance what your login item pairs with. I highly recommend using rich icons as they make browsing your data much easier.

1Password  4 Rich vs. Non Rich Icons1Password  4 Rich vs. Non Rich Icons1Password  4 Rich vs. Non Rich Icons
Left: Non-rich icon. Right: Rich icon

In the Security tab, you can change your master password, adjust how long 1Password stays unlocked for, and set how long a password should remain on your clipboard before being cleared.

Tip: After changing your master password, or setting it for the first time, it is recommended that you decrease the length of time that 1Password remains unlocked. By shortening how long 1Password stays unlocked, the number of times the master password must be entered is increased, helping you to learn the new master password. Once you are comfortable with your password, you can set the delay to a more convenient length of time.

In the Browser tab, you can install the necessary Browser Extensions to allow 1Password to complete online forms. You can also set preferences for how this works, such as whether forms auto submit, whether form completion is animated, and setting domains that you want to prevent 1Password asking to save new logins.

In the Sync tab, you cab select your preferred syncing method. By default, 1Password uses iCloud sync, though you have the option to also use Dropbox if you prefer having more control over your data. To change the service with which 1Password syncs, click the Disable Sync button and decide whether you would like to delete the existing data in iCloud. From here, you can choose to sync via iCloud, Dropbox, or a folder of your choice.

Lastly are the Backup and Advanced tabs. I won’t be discussing the Advanced tab today, as that goes beyond the scope of this tutorial. In the Backup tab, you can create new backups in addition to restoring a previous backup.

The 1Password Interface

1Password 41Password 41Password 4

With our preferences set, unlock 1Password by entering the master password on the lock screen. You will be presented with a three column window. The first, leftmost column is the categories panel. In this panel, you can see you Favorites, different Categories that 1Password supports, Lists and Tags to help you organize your entries, and a handy Password History area where you can view previous passwords generated by 1Password.

The center column is the items panel, where you can see all of the items in your selected Category, List, or Tag. If you have rich icons enabled, you will see on the left a small image preview for most sites, similar to the icons that appear next to bookmarks in a web browser. By default, this is sorted alphabetically by title.

The rightmost column is the details panel, which shows all of the information related to the currently selected item. For a login, this may include the username, password, password strength, website address, and any notes that you have included. At the top, under the title, you can also set the current item as a favorite, for quick access in the left menu or share the entry via Email or Message.

Tip: Adding notes to your login items is a great way to remember additional details related to that login including answers to security questions, PIN numbers, etc.

Above the three panels, you will find a +, Search Bar, Options menu and lock icon. The + icon located to the right side, directly above the leftmost column is the create entry option. When you click this, a drop down menu will appear allowing you to select the category that your new entry best fits into.

To the right of the + button is a universal search bar which allows you to search all of your categories and lists or drill down to search specific areas. By default, anything you type will search all items within 1Password. On the left of the search term is a magnifying glass with a down arrow. By clicking this, and selecting Show Search Options, you can choose more specific search criteria. This search drop down also lets you quickly identify recently used items, recently changed items, weak logins, and items with attachments.

It's Not Just for Passwords

1Password has the ability to store a multitude of information allowing you to have the information you need with you at all times. Because of the importance of some information that can be stored, such as social security numbers, driver license information, and passport information, it’s important to remember not to share your master password with anyone unless you have complete trust in them. The more people that know your master password, the less secure your information is.

Website Logins

1Password Logins Dialgoue1Password Logins Dialgoue1Password Logins Dialgoue

1Password is best known for it’s ability to save website logins. There are two ways to add new login information to 1Password. The first, is via the 1Password application. The second way to add a new login item is via the browser. After logging in to a new website that you have stored in 1Password, you will be prompted to add the new login via a slide out bar below the URL.

To add a new login item from the 1Password application, click the + button to the left of the search bar above the three columns, then click the Login item from the drop down menu. In the details panel, you will be presented with a new, blank login item. At the top, and highlighted by default, you will have the title which starts as simply, “Login.” Below this, you the username, password and website fields.

When you click on the password field, a password generator will pop up allowing you to select the length of the password you would like to use and showing you a strength meter above it. If you click Show Password Recipe, you then can change the criteria for the password such as the number of digits and symbols it includes as well as whether characters can repeat and whether ambiguous characters are allowed.

In the website field, you would enter the domain where the login is located, so that 1Password knows where to use it. You then have the ability to set a label or tags for organization or add notes or attachments to the login item as well as set auto submit options.

Tip: If a login fails on a particular website when auto submit is enabled, try disabling it. Some websites will give you an error about either the username or password with auto submit enabled if they use javascript for validation during the login process.

Secure Notes

1Password 4 Secure Notes Dialogue1Password 4 Secure Notes Dialogue1Password 4 Secure Notes Dialogue

Secure Notes in 1Password allow you to safely store information that may not fit well in any other category or that you want to protect from prying eyes. Secure Notes is a great place to store information that is useful but not often used such as Two-Factor Authentication recovery keys, insurance policy numbers, Vehicle Identification Numbers or title information, or any important information.

Credit Cards

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By storing credit card information, you can quickly fill out web forms with the information as well as keep information handy in case of an emergency. 1Password has the ability to store not only the basic card information, but also the issuing bank, the phone number to contact them should the card be stolen (local and international), the card PIN number, credit limit and more.

Tip: When adding credit card information to 1Password, take the time to find the phone number associated with the card. If your card is ever stolen, this number will allow you to quickly call in that the card was stolen without adding the stress of trying to find where to call.


1Password Identities Dialgoue1Password Identities Dialgoue1Password Identities Dialgoue

Identities are a way to store the important information about you or another person and can be used in a similar way to Credit Cards to quickly fill in forms. Identities allow you to store all of the information about an individual normal details such as name and birth date to internet details such as instant messenger usernames and forum signatures.

Software Licenses

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Gone are the days where the best place to store software licenses is in jewel cases throughout your house. Many companies have gone to digital distribution methods, making it harder than ever to keep track of the license key. 1Password solves this by storing not only the license key, but the other information that may be important such as who the software was licensed to, the registered email, the download page for the software, the order number, purchase date, and more making customer service inquiries or reinstallation a breeze.

If the software is installed on your machine, and you have the exact name of the application, 1Password will take the application icon and put it next to the item making it easy to locate the piece of software from the list.


1Password Database Dialgoue1Password Database Dialgoue1Password Database Dialgoue

For developers, databases can quickly become difficult to manage as you try to remember each and every bit of information. 1Password includes the ability to relevant database information from type of database to connection options.

Email Accounts

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Email Addresses in 1Password allow you to include all the information commonly used to setup email clients for desktop or mobile devices. While this information won’t be used often by many, taking the time to store this information makes setting up a new phone, tablet, or desktop computer to use your email account quick and painless.


1Password Memberships Dialgoue1Password Memberships Dialgoue1Password Memberships Dialgoue

Memberships allow you to store the different associations or clubs that you may be apart of and include the group, website, membership ID and more. For travelers, this is where you would save frequent flyer card information.

Drivers License

1Password Driver License Dialgoue1Password Driver License Dialgoue1Password Driver License Dialgoue

While Driver License information is not something you will need often, including this information in your database is important should you lose your license or need to report it as stolen.

Wireless Routers

1Password Wireless Routers Dialgoue1Password Wireless Routers Dialgoue1Password Wireless Routers Dialgoue

Including your wireless router information in 1Password can make sharing this information with guests or changing a setting when setting up a new device a snap. This lets you include information such as base station name (the name of the router itself) as well as the network name (sometimes referred to as an SSID). If you have a guest network on your router, you may decide it’s best to create a separate Wireless Router item or add the guest network information under Notes.

Social Security Number

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Tip: Having the ability to store social security numbers can be a helpful feature if you need to store the information of a parent, child or spouse.

Bank Account

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Tip: By storing bank account information in 1Password, you can easily share account numbers for transfers, have routing numbers if setting up a new direct deposit, or keep track of a new PIN number.


1Password Passport Dialgoue1Password Passport Dialgoue1Password Passport Dialgoue

Frequent travelers can store passport information in 1Password allowing them to purchase international flight tickets any place they have access to 1Password.

Outdoor Licenses, Reward Programs, and Server Information

Last but not least, 1Password can store the above mentioned items. Outdoor licenses, with an attachment photo of the license itself can be helpful if you accidentally forget to bring it with you, server information for when you are away from your primary machine and need to make an emergency fix, or your reward program information so that you can reduce the number of cards you carry in your wallet.

Organizing Your Information

1Password offers many different ways to organize your information so that you can access it quickly when you need it. The three most common ways to organize the information are through the use of Tags, Lists and Folders.


Tags can be added to items in each category. In the Categories panel, you can view a list of all the tags in use, and all of the items found in each tag group. Tags may not seem powerful on their own, but when combined with 1Password’s search abilities to create lists, you can have a new level of power at your disposal.


Lists allow you to save searches for later use. Lists can be a great if you use the same company for different things, such as if you own two houses and use separate accounts. To take advantage of lists, click the magnifying glass in the search bar, and click Show Search Options.

In the drop down options, you can set criteria for your search. For example, if you would like a utilities list for your home in Virginia, you could have two tags, one for Virginia and one for Utility. In the search options, on the first line you could specify you would like to search All Items. On the second line, you can select whether you would like All, Any or None of the criteria to be matched. For our example, we would like all of the criteria to be matched. On the last line, you then begin to set the actual criteria. On the far right, of this, you’ll see a + button in a circle. This allows you to add additional criteria to your search. For our example, we would want to select Tag from the first drop down, contains from the second drop down and then the tags we are searching for.

1Password Search Criteria1Password Search Criteria1Password Search Criteria

Once you are satisfied with your search criteria, and you would like to save it. In the top right of the search options, on the first line, you can click Save. This will add the search to your Categories panel under Lists and allow you to name it.


Lastly, if you would prefer to manually create groups of information, such as when you have information from a variety of categories or tags, you may find it best to use a folder. Too create a new folder, click File and then select New Folder from the menu. This will create a new folder for you to name.

Tip: Folders are organized alphabetically, but do offer the ability to contain subfolders. To make a folder a subfolder of another, drag and drop the folder onto the desired parent folder to make the first a subfolder.

The Trash

1Password realizes that we all make mistakes and the trash is a great example of how they have tried to protect users. When you delete an item from a category, it goes to the trash and is not permanently deleted. If you are sure that you would like to delete the items within the trash, you can right-click on the Trash line in the Categories panel, and select Empty Trash from the menu.

Note: Emptying the trash permanently removes those items. Once they have been removed from the trash, they cannot be recovered.

Browser Extensions

1Password’s browser extensions make using a password manager much more convenient by giving you a way to autofill the information for the items you have created into forms throughout the internet.

To install the browser extensions, click 1Password 4 in menu bar, and select Install Browser Extensions…. A web page will pop up giving you the option to download the most recent version of the 1Password browser extension for the Safari 5.1+, Google Chrome, Firefox 21+, and Opera 15+. AgileBits then will show you the respective installation instructions for that browser.

With the browser extension installed, use the hotkey you set in the preferences to automatically fill in login data (by default, this is set to Cmd + /. If you would like manually view your data, or fill in other information such as credit card information or identities, click the key icon for the browser extension, and navigate to the respective item. By using the fly out menus, you can either click the item you want to have filled, or copy a single piece of information from an item.

1Password Browser Extension Menu1Password Browser Extension Menu1Password Browser Extension Menu

Tip: By clicking on a login item within the browser extension, it will open a new browser window or tab and open the website specified in the login item. It will then fill in the username and password, and auto submit the login if enabled.

1Password Mini

1Password Mini

New to 1Password 4 is 1Password Mini, a menubar version of 1Password in which you can generate new passwords on the fly, quickly access your favorites, or search for the item you are looking for.

Tip: When using the Password Generator within 1Password Mini, by default, when you copy the generated password, 1Password will save it in the Password History section. The title will be whatever the application in focus was at the time the password was copied.

Similar to the browser extensions, clicking login items within 1Password Mini will open a new browser window in fill in the information from that item allowing you to quickly open pages and get to the information you need.


1Password is a digital identity manager that specializes in password management. In this tutorial I have explained the reason password managers are so important, explained the 1Password interface, and shown you how to take advantage of the different features available within 1Password such as the browser extensions and password generator.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this training article on 1Password. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or if you want to share how you use 1Password in your life.

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