A new RoboForm

Mark Gibbs is rather fond of some tools that make his life easier and, in particular, he has fallen in love with a utility. How weird is that?

There are some utilities that you install and love for a while, then they just fade from view over a month or two and you find you only need them once in a blue moon (which is, FYI, an "extra" full moon that occurs on average about every 2.7154 years. Approximately.)

On the other hand, there are tools that you install and find they make your life so much easier and/or much more efficient you can't imagine how you lived without them. For me, one such tool has been Siber Systems RoboForm.

I last reviewed RoboForm in my Network World Web Applications Alert newsletter last November. On the remote chance you don't subscribe to my newsletter (if you don't, come on people, you really need to get with it by going here and looking for it under "software") allow me to summarize what RoboForm does.

RoboForm is a Windows utility that integrates with Internet Explorer 7+, Firefox 3.5+, and AOL/MSN (no Chrome support yet) to provide an intelligent Web form-filling and password management service with the ability to automatically log you in.

RoboForm can capture form data as you enter it. So, for example, it can capture new registrations with account names and passwords (part of what Siber Systems calls a "passcard") and also provide "identities" or sets of personal information that allow you, with a single click, to fill in the common fields on forms such as "first name", "last name", "address" and so on, according to whatever persona fits the bill.

RoboForm can also generate random passwords and optionally store all login data in encrypted storage. Oh, and RoboForm can also capture and store all of your browser bookmarks.

Siber Systems also offers a portable version, RoboForm2Go, that can be run from a USB drive so all login data is available on any Windows machine you might care to use.

Another way to make RoboForm work on multiple machines is to use the tool's backup function and copy the login data from one machine to another (this works but it is an inelegant solution), or use Siber Systems' GoodSync (which I reviewed a short while ago in this column).

Siber System's has also just announced a free enhancement to the inter-machine RoboForm synchronization problem. This service, RoboForm Online, provides private encrypted online storage as a central archive of your sent and received RoboForm data.

This service, in turn, means that any of your PCs with RoboForm installed can share a pool of synchronized passcards as long as they know the account name and password of the online account. To say this is incredibly useful is an understatement.

My only problem with this system is that the synchronization utility, GoodSync, is such a powerful tool that it is intrinsically rather technical and therefore not suitable for naive users.

For example, if one machine is uploading RoboForm data when another is trying to synchronize (or vice versa) with the online archive, then GoodSync on one of the PCs will stop with an error. It would be far better to use a back off and retry algorithm than needlessly involve the user.

That said, I really do love this system. In fact I love it so much I'll give Siber Systems RoboForm a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

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