Fri 03 Oct
All of my passwords and user data have been stored in a home-brewed FileMaker Pro database for years, but recently worries about poor security finally started getting to me. So I downloaded and registered Alco Bloom’s Web Confidential, which bills itself as “the most powerful password manager on the Macintosh.” Normally when I write a post like this, it’s with the intent of praising the entrepreneurial spirit of the lone shareware author, and I had assumed that I would become a Web Confidential fan more or less immediately. The software has been highly praised in Mac circles for years as an indispensable, highly secure tool for managing the bewildering array of security permissions with which Web surfers must contend.
What I’m finding, though, is that this software is indispensable only in that there’s very little other competition for it. After using it for a few hours, I came away very disappointed. It’s not so much that Web Confidential doesn’t do what it advertises, because it does. If you’re looking for a simple, reliable method of storing and retrieving the passwords you need in order to access online bank accounts, software registration keys, paid content sites, etc., it will do the job. But it does so with pathetic inelegance.
Well, ‘pathetic’ is too harsh a term for it, but the software’s user interface has the rough edges and programmer’s mentality of the average, clunky Windows shareware program. It’s so reminscent of that school of software quality that I’m truly shocked that it has gained so much popularity among Mac afficionados. For example, the passwords that you enter can be assigned categories — Web sites, FTP sites, software keys, etc. — but the method for changing a password’s categorization is either non-existent, very difficult, or completely inscrutable.
This software has none of the attention to detail or interactive smoothness that so much of the Mac OS X software I’ve been using lately — like Path Finder and Hog Bay Notebook — possesses. I might be tempted to write this down to the fact that it’s been ported over from the Mac OS 9 world, but that’s a terrible excuse. Not only have other Mac OS 9 applications like DragThing made it over to X with great finesse, but I can’t imagine that Web Confidential is particularly impressive on that platform either.