App of the Week: LastPass

We aren't sure LastPass goes quite this far, but it's worth a shot.
We aren't sure LastPass goes quite this far, but it's worth a shot.

App: LastPass Platforms: All Smart Phones Web site: Cost: Free (no app), $12 annually for app and subscription

One of the more necessary and frustrating requirements for being on the internet is managing your information, most importantly, the passwords for the dozens of different websites that require that kind of information. We're probably a little more nerdy than the rest of you when it comes to protecting our logins and by that we mean "password" and "1234" are not among our choices.

If you are still using your birthday, anniversary or the name of your dog for your password, it might be time for you to make some changes, especially if you use the same password for every website you visit. In case you hadn't thought about it, your Facebook profile is not quite as important as the login for your online banking, so you might want to mix it up.

Fortunately for you (and the rest of us), there is LastPass. Billing itself as "the last password you'll have to remember," the website and accompanying app (premium only) store user names and passwords for any site that uses them and sets one master password to rule them all.

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Don't worry, Gandalf, if you need to retrieve the master password, it can be reset and there is always the helpful password hint, if done correctly, that can save you in a moment of panic.

The app is just an ancillary addition to the website, which is really what drives everything. In fact, the app is only available to premium subscribers, but at a buck a month, it's worth it. Not only is the app available, but a number of additional features like ability to use thumb drives as verification and priority support make that twelve bones fairly economical.

LastPass installs itself in any browser and automatically asks if you want to store a website when you visit one with a user name and password option. A simple form one click away lists all relevant information about the website, an on-off button for displaying the password in case you want to see, options for auto login and a pulldown menu to assign the website to a group. All the fields are editable making it easy to change any information.

The groups are a simple way to keep passwords organized. We have social networking sites as one group, for example, for Twitter, Facebook, etc. Unfortunately, the form doesn't provide a way to create a group on the fly. That has to be done through the LastPass "vault," which can be reached using an icon that shows up on your browser toolbar, but it would be nice if that option were available when you were adding a new site.

LastPass doesn't have the most beautiful user interface ever created. Utilitarian is more like it. Having experienced many user interfaces over the years, it is pretty obvious that this is most likely a developer-heavy company that favors functionality over usability, which is fine, but don't look for an elegant, standards-friendly UI here because you won't find it.

One of the more convenient features of LastPass is the form auto-fill function which will fill forms with all sorts of information including names, addresses, phone numbers and credit card numbers. Many browsers have this capability as well, but none handle it as seamlessly and securely. LastPass allows users to create multiple profiles that can be assigned to virtually any form. Credit card information is stored separately for greater security.

Speaking of security, LastPass claims stringent security methods and every review we've read would seem to indicate those claims are accurate. They better be given all the information they are storing.

That security extends to all of their features including sharing passwords with others (you still send critical passwords via email, don't you?) and protection from key loggers (this is not a show on the Discovery Channel we're talking about). Most importantly, they offer complete restoration of lost passwords and user information.

Frankly, we never want to go back to the shredded and worn piece of paper in our drawer as a source of all our online passwords and, with LastPass, thankfully, we don't have to.

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