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Using a password manager such as KeePass is something everyone should do, really. Managing your passwords is not just for geeks, and using one or two passwords for everything is just asking for trouble. But KeePass is a bit technical and may seem intimidating for people new to password management.
Besides, we have many different tidbits in our life that need to be saved and/or memorized, not just passwords: What about credit card numbers and their PINs, bank codes, passport numbers (especially when travelling abroad), and all those other things?
Enter Pocket [No Longer Available], a free information “wallet” for Android, and one of the most recent entries in our Best of Android page. Pocket can be used for managing passwords, but also other information. It has built-in Dropbox sync, and a lovely cross-platform desktop client. And it’s entirely free, too.
When you first launch Pocket, it doesn’t just drop you into a “new database” screen. Instead, it shows a nice, long explanation about why you should even care about protecting your personal data.
Once you understand why using Pocket is a good idea, it’s time to pick a database, or a “pocket:”
I am using Pocket for the first time, so I elected to create a new pocket. Obviously, I would need to pick a password for my database:
Note that Pocket doesn’t try to get you to pick a passphrase, but just a simple password. Again – I get the feeling the application is trying hard not to go over new users’ heads, and make it easy to get started with password management. One can only hope users don’t go for obvious passwords like “asdfg.”
Once you have a password for your database, and before you even create the first entry, Pocket makes sure you’re backed up to Dropbox:
I picked Existing Dropbox Account, and Pocket had me enter my username and password right in the app (without launching a browser as most apps do). And… that was it:
To begin using my new pocket, I had to enter my password:
And now comes a part I really liked: Pocked comes pre-populated with lots and lots of categories of personal information that people might want to keep in the app. It’s not just for passwords – in fact, I would say passwords aren’t even the main focus for Pocket. Sure, you can use it to manage passwords, but it is not aimed at people who have thousands of them. Instead, it lets you store information in the following categories by default:
What’s cool is that every category can have its own template, with its own custom named fields. Take the Credit Cards category for example:
I get a field for every important detail I need to remember about my credit card. One drawback is that fields do not have any input validation, and there are no field types (except for password fields). This means that you can write anything you want in the Issue Date, and you need to do it with a regular keyboard rather than a date picker. This is one area that could be improved.
Tim Clark, Pocket’s creator, obviously took care in creating the categories, picking their icons, and thinking up relevant fields. Here’s one for inoculations:
Definitely interesting. Still, if the fields Tim picked aren’t right for you, you can always edit them right in the app:
So far, so good, but we haven’t seen any passwords yet – just credit card numbers and inoculation information. Well, here’s a password right here:
Pretty simple stuff: You get username and password fields, as well as a space for notes. One important note is that while Pocket features sensible categories, you cannot have sub-categories. This means if you need to manage hundreds of passwords in a complex hierarchy, Pocket is definitely not for you. But if you’re just starting out with password management, Pocket is great. In fact, it can even help you come up with a password:
The generator is simple and won’t let you set templates for generating pronounceable passwords and such, but it is very usable.
Pocket On The Desktop
Tim Clark offers a desktop Pocket companion, which can be used for editing Pocket files using Dropbox. The desktop version is as stylish as the Android one:
And this is what a single entry looks like:
Again – nothing too fancy, but definitely usable. I think making the interface beautiful is actually important to get people to start using it.
Pocket is aimed at a specific audience (new users), and does a great job catering to it. If you are a hard-core nerd, this may not be your password management tool of choice. But if you show it to your non-techie friends and family, who still save their PIN numbers as contacts in their phonebook, they might just fall in love. Beautifully executed.