KeePassX: Free Password Manager for Linux and Mac OS XBy Veronica Henry
Passwords have become an unpleasant, unwieldy side-effect of surfing the Internet. You’ve got countless login names and passwords for work and home. Banking, credit card management, social networking and email all conspire to create a soon difficult to manage social identity.
Some resort to using the same login credentials across multiple websites – a definite security faux-pas. But the motivation is clear. Forget your password and you have to go through the process of establishing and having to remember a new one.
So what’s are we to do?
Fear not, there is a technical solution to this technical problem. After I made the transition to Linux, I discovered an open source free utility called KeePassX. KeePassX allows you to store all your passwords in one database. Access is restricted by one primary password and the contents of the database are encrypted.
Instead of having to remember a myriad of passwords, with KeePassX you only have to remember one.
If like me, you’re running Ubuntu Linux, you can install the software with this command:
sudo apt-get install keepassx
Instructions for Mac, and other Linux distros are available here. You can find the KeePassX launcher under Applications, then Accessories.
The first thing you’re going to need to do is to create a new database: File, New Database or click on the new database icon on the navigation menu. While this utility is fairly intuitive, you can access the KeePassX handbook from the Help menu for a quick introduction. Appearance and other settings can be modified from the Extras, Settings, menu item.
Entries and Grouping
KeePassX doesn’t just store passwords. In each database entry, you can store usernames, passwords, urls, attachments and notes. Entries can also be grouped by function. For example, if you visit a lot of technical websites, you might have a group called “Tech”. For banking and other financial entries, you might create another group called “Finance”. And you the integrated search function will allow you to quickly locate an entry.
One of the features I use most is the password generator. Having trouble coming up with a password that is both memorable and secure? This feature will generate a password, based on your requirements for length, special characters, etc. You can access this feature either from the menu: Extras, Password Generator, or when you create a new database entry.
Because the database is always encrypted (AES or Twofish), you won’t have to worry about prying eyes accessing your information. Your data is protected with either a master password or key file. This is particularly useful for those of you that need to use this utility on a USB thumb drive. KeePassX is OSI (Open Source Initiative) certified, so it can be installed and executed from any location.
There is another feature of KeePassX that you might find useful. As long as the application is running, you can use the Ctrl+V autotype function to automatically insert your username and password into a website. Simple click on the username field on the web page and either hit Ctrl + V, or right click on the entry and select “Perform Autotype”. A word of caution, though this works on my system, some have had trouble with this feature.
Additionally, the database will always hide your username and password, but if you need to quickly glance at them, you can toggle visibility by clicking on the ‘eye’ icon next to the entry.
Finally, if for some reason, you need to export a copy of your passwords database, you can export to a text file.
The reality is that the number of passwords we’re required to remember will only increase. The best way to ensure that you not only have a secure password, but also don’t have to worry about remembering them is to use a password management utility like KeePassX.
There are other tools in this space. Most notably, LastPass, which can be easily integrated into Firefox and Chrome. If there is another utility that you use, feel free to include your suggestion in the comments.
About the Author
Veronica Henry is a writer, web developer and tech guru. Her 20 year IT career came to an end when her inner writer and entrepreneur inexplicably besieged her to give it all up. She is a self-proclaimed girl-geek and linux convert, who has held MCSE, GSEC and PMP certifications. In her dreams, she is a international best-selling sci-fi and fantasy author, but in the meantime, she now spends her days writing, managing her websites and wrecking havoc on her Ubuntu laptop.
Author's Website: http://www.veronicawrites.com
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