Managing your various accounts, passwords, IDs and other sensitive data is a tricky situation. You want it to be both accessible and secure, two goals that are by nature at odds with each other.
Today we’re going to give you a sneak peek at Dashlane, an app that promises to simplify this process and help you manage and use your information while keeping it safe from prying eyes. It’s a tall order so let’s see if this app can make good on its promise.
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After you download Dashlane, there’s a multi-step setup process. It’s fairly quick and it’s all basic stuff: setting up browser extensions, choosing an email and password, etc. However, right off the bat, I spotted one thing that I wasn’t too crazy about:
At this point, Dashlane doesn’t support Safari. Hopefully this is just a beta thing and not something indicative of a long-term strategy. Whether you’re a Safari user or not, you have to admit that many Mac users are going to want to use the browser that comes built into their system. Update: Safari support will be live in a matter of days so this is likely a non-issue.
The next thing that caught my interest was the following window, which informs you that there is absolutely no way to recover your password if it is lost:
This seems harsh at first, but upon reflection it makes perfect sense. The app is built to keep your information completely safe so it doesn’t make too much sense to have an easy back door that thieves can exploit to get around the security.
I did some checking and other popular apps in this category like 1Password have the exact same policy, so any objections should be raised against this market in general and not necessarily Dashlane itself.
Managing Your Information
Once you’re done with the setup, you can dive in and start entering your information. The interface uses a very bright, mostly white theme with some subtle gradients added for a little texture. It’s not as customized as 1Password so if you’re not a fan of skeuomorphism then you might dig the simplicity here.
The window layout is exactly what you’d expect with your information being split up into various categories on the left and the selected category’s contents in the center.
There are five different categories for your information: Contact, IDs, Payment, Logins and Passwords, and Purchases. Security Dashboard is something else that we’ll look at later.
Entering your information using Dashlane is super quick and easy. Under each category, you’ll see a few little round “+” buttons. Just hit the button and a form pops out for you to fill in and save. The workflow here makes setting up lots of information a very quick process.
For Contacts, IDs and Payment, you can enter information in manually. For everything else, it’s simply collected automatically as you log into sites in your browser. I like that this information is automatically collected, but disabling manual input is an odd touch. I feel like I should have the choice to go either route for things like passwords.
Dashlane automatically helps you speed through purchases and even saves the information about that purchase (total spent, retailer name, etc.) back in the app.
The Security Dashboard is a really helpful feature that takes a look at all of the passwords that you’ve saved with Dashlane and gives you a basic analysis of their strength. It shows you a little bar that rates your password on a scale of 1-100% and then provides a simple written interpretation of the score such as “Safe” or “Very Unsafe.”
Once you’ve got some information entered it’s time to go to your browser and either put that information to good use or start collecting more by logging into your favorite sites.
Dashlane in the Browser
Once you have the Dashlane browser extensions installed, the little Dashlane mascot will start showing up in text and password fields.
Then when you click on a field, Dashlane pops up options to fill it right in place. This is a really nice implementation of password management that’s much more direct than other options like LastPass or 1Password. Having the options right there at the field makes for a much more seamless experience.
In cases where you’re filling out a long form full of personal information, you simply choose your preset identity and all the forms on the page are then filled out based on that information.
If you don’t have login information for a particular site yet, simply enter it manually and Dashlane will ask if you want to save it.
Dashlane is a local Mac app but you have the option to sync your information to the Dashlane servers so that you can quickly access it on other devices.
The developers handled this part with a lot of tact. Syncing is completely optional and even when you choose to sync you can specifically select what does and doesn’t get transferred. Plus to be as safe as possible, your financial information is never synced.
My Thoughts on Dashlane
Overall, Dashlane is a solid product with a lot of potential. Strictly speaking, it’s not a completely unique app as there are plenty of other apps out there that perform similar functions. However, Dashlane has some nice tricks up its sleeve that you don’t find elsewhere.
As a 1Password user myself, I missed the eye candy but appreciated the added functionality. As I mentioned above, the in-place pop up menus are very convenient, but where Dashlane really shines is with purchases. The ability to record purchases is a really nice touch that gives this app the unique buying proposition that it needs.
That being said, there are definitely some places where 1Password outperforms Dashlane as well. For instance, in 1Password I can create multiple identities, which is great if you share a computer with a spouse.
One Last Gripe: The Menu Bar App
My biggest complaint about this app is a little nerdy, but it’s a huge deal to me. Along with the app that sits in your dock, Dashlane comes with a menu bar helper that automatically appears when you open the app. Unfortunately, this has a major flaw:
From what I can tell, you can’t quit the thing. Here I’ve closed and logged out of the app, and yet the menu bar item remains. To shut it down, I actually had to go into Activity Monitor. I like to have full control over what is and isn’t running on my machine so I can’t handle a menu bar app with no option to quit.
Dashlane is one of those apps that solves a practical problem faced by just about everyone who uses a computer. If you don’t have some sort of password manager, I highly recommend that you get one. Dashlane has set itself up to be a major player in this area with a clear advantage in the area of online shopping.
The app is still in beta but in my experience it’s perfectly stable and void of any noticeable bugs. The major area that needs work before a release is Safari support. Like many other Safari users, I’m not willing to switch to Firefox just so I can use this app.
Safari support aside, Dashlane is off to a very strong start and I definitely recommend checking it out once you get the chance. It’s extremely easy to use and integrates flawlessly with your current web workflow.