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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

1Password 8 for Mac: An upgrade, after all

Last summer 1Password maker AgileBits made the wrong kind of news, when it announced that it was killing its traditional Mac app and replacing it with a new one built with Electron, a development system based on web technologies, on top of a cross-platform code base.

As I wrote back in August:

I think it’s fair to say that most users don’t care about the tools that a developer uses to write the apps we use. But using a system like Electron does have consequences: Electron apps have a reputation for being slow, eating up a lot of system memory, and—perhaps most offensively—failing to behave like proper, “native” apps on whatever platform they operate. Just as there are good and bad Catalyst apps, there are good and bad Electron apps.

It’s been nine months, and 1Password 8 for Mac arrived this week. Since local vaults are no longer supported, it won’t please users who don’t want to use 1Password’s cloud-based password vault system. However, as someone who has been happily subscribed to 1Password and using its cloud vaults with a family plan for a few years now, that wasn’t an issue for me.

The real question is, has AgileBits wrecked its Mac version, or does the new one measure up? Now that it’s out of beta, it’s time to judge.

My judgment is: It’s a good app. In redesigning 1Password, AgileBits has made it feel lighter and more modern. It feels more like a modern Mac app than the old version did. I switched to 1Password 8 when I switched to using a Mac Studio as my primary Mac, so maybe it’s the Apple silicon (specifically the M1 Max) talking, but the app just feels fast. They even went to the trouble of adding a proper Preferences window rather than a fake preferences window that floats inside the existing app window.

1Password’s Quick Access window provides instant access to login information.

But my favorite changes to 1Password come on the integration side. The 1Password Safari extension eliminates a lot of friction when it comes to auto-filling passwords on websites. When it fails, I’ve trained myself to use 1Password’s new Quick Access window, which I can summon with a keystroke and use to quickly choose the right password and fill it or copy it to the clipboard to be pasted into the right field.

Most impressively, 1Password’s Autofill feature now uses macOS Accessibility functionality to autofill logins in apps and in macOS system password prompts. Never again will I need to do a dance back and forth between apps in order to log in to Adobe Creative Suite or Microsoft Office or any other app on my Mac that requires a periodic login. All my passwords are in 1Password; it shouldn’t matter if I’m in a web browser or in an app.

There are still a few places I wish 1Password would extend Autofill. I’m frequently on a remote server and am asked to re-enter my password in order to run a command under sudo privileges. I’d like to be able to use Autofill to type that password directly, but when I try, it mistakenly asks me if I want to update my system password. I can work around this problem by copying the password to the clipboard and then pasting it in, but why take extra steps?

As a recent user of Apple silicon on the desktop, I’m also happy to finally be able to use Touch ID to unlock 1Password, albeit via a Touch ID keyboard velcroed to the underside of my desk. Authenticating 1Password via my Apple Watch was too finicky—I’d frequently do it too soon or too late and mess everything up. Touch ID is much more reliable.

Finally, I’m impressed by 1Password’s new support for SSH keys, which I use to connect to remote servers for command-line sessions or file transfers without the need of a password. That said, I found that 1Password was a bit too intrusive—I was being asked to validate every time I connected to a server in Panic’s Transmit FTP app, for example. I’d like some more granular controls and the ability to have one Touch ID authentication be enough for a lot longer.

Is 1Password for everyone? No. Apple’s built-in password vault is good and getting better. I prefer 1Password for its additional features, most importantly the ability to have shared vaults with members of my family. But as far as being afraid that AgileBits was going to degrade the Mac experience so much that I’d have no choice but to give up on 1Password and find something else to use on the Mac… that’s a non-issue. 1Password 8 doesn’t feel like a downgrade—it feels like an upgrade. As it should.

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