1Password Tips & Tricks

I’ve been using 1Password for almost a year now and I figured I’d share some of my strategies for using it to stay organized. My last in-depth thoughts about password management were still early in my adoption of 1Password and I did not yet have every nuance considered. So, with no further ado, a few hints on how to use 1Password from somebody who has 367 stored items:

  • Don’t use 1Password’s folders. Seriously! Everything that a folder does (grouping) can be better accomplished using the tag system. Think of a folder as an arbitrary grouping which you’re manually performing based upon some attribute of the items inside it. Instead of storing that information apart from the items, add a tag to the individual item to store that piece of data directly on it.
  • Use tags. More than you might initially find prudent. Related to my previous tip, I have tags that identify the address information of mine that the service has (Address/None, Address/All, Address/CityState, Address/Timezone, Address/ZipCode). I have tags for the credit cards they have on file (eg. Card1, Card2, BankAccount1). I even have tags for who introduced me to the service!
  • Use smart folders. 1Password’s smart folders basically let you construct your own super-fancy venn diagram to group your stored items into logical clusters. These work wonderfully in tandem with your overly-tagged approach. I have smart folders labeled “Shared Passwords” (a collection of things where multiple people know the passwords), “Review Account Information” (accounts which I may need to adjust), and one for each client I’ve done work for.
  • Create a tag named “Archive” and never delete any accounts. Now you can use 1Password to track every site you’ve ever given your information to. It seems like every few months there is yet another company for which I’ve signed up for an account with that has closed down. Simply tag it “Archive” and move on. Now, you might say that this is because I often have accounts with early-stage startups and I’d probably agree with you, but companies come and go and at some point it might happen to you.
  • Create a tag named “Typed” for passwords you have to be able to type. In addition to the passwords I require myself to learn (Dropbox, email, system password, 1Password master password) I also have typeable passwords for situations where 1Password can’t autofill, or where storing a password on your clipboard temporarily is tedious. This is a small list for me and is most common when I encounter modal login windows: iTunes, Battle.net, and Steam.
  • Use “Secure Notes” for data types that 1Password doesn’t know how to handle. Sometimes I’ll find myself using a service through OAuth (eg. Flickr) or I’ll want to store something like my insurance card information. Just because 1Password doesn’t have a template for that scenario doesn’t mean you can’t store the information. Write it out, tag it appropriately, and now you have your custom information stored!
  • Make sure every scrap of your information is included. If you’re using 1Password the way I am, as both a tool for password management and estate management, you need to include everything. Sure, your same Amazon password lets you sign in to both Amazon and the Amazon Payments sites, but you should save an entry in 1Password for the account as if it were two accounts. This is so your technology executor knows that your Amazon Payments account exists.

Already some of these approaches have saved me a tremendous amount of time and helped keep me organized. Just a few anecdotes from the last year where these practices have been helpful:

  • I recently had a credit card whose number was compromised. With a single click on the tag “CreditCard1” (tag name changed) I had a list of places online where I needed to update my information. This is most important for those annual billing things you might forget to change.
  • In October of last year I moved across the city. With 367 items stored in 1Password you really don’t want to go through and review more accounts than you have to. I created a Smart Folder which showed me items tagged with “Address/All” or “Address/ZipCode” since those were the only things that changed. Now I only had 165 items to review and update address information.
  • For much of this year I’ve been incrementally updating old passwords of mine. Not every account immediately had a generated password. I kept a smart folder which searched for my passwords that I used to reuse named “Change Password” until I’d gone through all of them.
  • 2011, like every year before it, and every year to come, was the year of the Internet startup death. My “Archive” tag reads like a “who’s who” of previous tech industry darlings.

Have any other clever approaches of your own? Let me know in the comments!

One thought on “1Password Tips & Tricks”

  1. Gusty sigh. No tags or smart folders in the Windows version yet. Add to that the fact that regular folders are still unsupported (in any useful way) by the iOS version, I’m organizationally sad. That said, I like your suggestions.

    Sorry, nothing constructive here. Just grumping. :-P

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