We here at Rocket Yard love to hear from our readers – especially when they have a hack, trick, or unique way of addressing their needs. All the better when it comes to non-traditional methods of accomplishing everyday tasks!
In this post, Rocket Yard reader, Jay Turner, shares his unique password management technique. It’s completely free, very simple, quite secure, and most importantly, it works well for him! He hopes there is something that someone else can take away, and we do too. Thanks, Jay!
— by Jay Turner —
Your Mac has all the necessary apps to make a secure, free password manager – one that’s easy to use and maintain. Being able to “copy and paste” and “cut and paste” was all I needed to build my own secure password manager.
I have tried several password manager apps and found them lacking in several areas. They don’t work the same way for each site. One used multiple copy and paste efforts just to work, and another was hacked – it could happen again!
I also see no need to give a third party my password and all of my login information when it isn’t necessary. That is why I made my own password manager. It is under my control, on my computer, and uses my master password – with nothing shared.
Maybe you will find this helpful too!
What You Need to Make Your Own Secure Password Manager
The three main ingredients are:
- Pages. If you use Pages, this password manager for Mac is a snap.
- A unique way of handling your usernames and passwords. This is the trick that makes it work.
- An app for Mac called Quitter to log me out if I forget.
Mac Pages can password protect a document. I use this as the start of my password manager. Apple makes it possible to secure a Pages document by encrypting the file. This gives me even more protection, making my data as secure as my computer. No company or service is needed for my protection or storage, making my data as safe as my password.
Why I Don’t Use Keychain as a Password Manager
I never store my passwords in Apple’s Keychain. I searched on “how to recover a password from Keychain” and found many articles telling me how to do it. I feel that a recoverable password is not secure enough for me, or for you, and thus not recommended.
A similar search for the recovery of a Pages password found this comment from Apple Support:
“Important: There’s no way to recover your password if you forget it. Be sure to choose a password you won’t forget, or write the password down in a safe place.”
How To Password Protect a Pages Document
In a Pages document, when you select “File > Set Password…” it brings up a location where you enter your password and a hint. It’s not required, but I always add a hint and suggest you do too, as it is a useful way to help you remember. This is the one password you don’t want to forget!
Once I set up my document password and add the hint, my password document is protected and ready for use.
Why I Use Pages as a Password Manager
I use Pages because it is a full-featured word processor. I find it an easy-to-use application and, while not needed for this task, has excellent page layout capabilities. I like the new Apple San Francisco font as it is clear, clean, and without the extra squiggles. I puff up the font size to 12 and above too.
I split my Pages document (in my mind) into 3 columns:
- On the left-hand side, I put a name
- On the right-hand side, I put the login URL. (I use a little extra time on the URL to find the one that takes me directly to the login page.)
- The middle column is for “USERNAMEpassword.” Yes, combine the two as this is the trick for efficient use. It is not obvious until you try it, but having USERNAMEpassword together makes it possible to get all the logon information at once without going back to the password manager again and again.
Using Chase Bank as an example, the left side would say “Chase,” the USERNAMEpassword is in the center (email@example.comOregonTrail99), and the URL on the right is Chase.com.
I make the username portion bold, emphasizing the split between the username and password when I need it. Starting the password with a capital letter helps me too, when it is time for me to “cut and paste.”
This is an example of what it would look like:
How to Use the Password Manager
Click on the URL and enter the site.
Paste firstname.lastname@example.orgOregonTrail99, where the site asks for username.
Cut out the password, OregonTrail99, leaving the correct username, email@example.com, in place.
Next, paste the password, OregonTrail99, into the password location, and enter the site.
In short, that’s all it takes!
Add Additional Info as Needed
To make the information more useful to me, I include all of the things in the password manager about the site that may be needed to log in. I don’t write down the security questions, but I do make a note of the answers. Sometimes I need account numbers, so I add that too. If something is needed for logon, this is where I keep it.
I added a couple of other entries to illustrate how my overall document looks:
I have about 150 entries, and they all work as described. Some sites use two pages for entry. Some sites require changes after logon like allowing 3rd party cookies. I have 5 sites that logon perfectly; however, they don’t work with Safari. My notes remind me to logon using Firefox. I put all the information needed into my password manager, but logon is always is “copy and paste,” “cut and paste.”
For my use, I have a dozen sites that I use all the time. I group these together and put them first in my document. Following that, in alphabetical order, are all the rest.
The purpose of this password manager document is to make it easy to use and not cluttered with extra facts.
I have another password-protected document where I put all the rest of the site information, like account numbers, credit card numbers, and phone numbers. When I log in, I don’t want to stumble over unnecessary items. Just the facts! Only was is needed!
Storing Your Password Document
To make this password manager more effective, I have mine stored in the cloud. That way, all of my computers have access to this password logon information. While I trust cloud sites and use them, I make sure all of my files are encrypted before going to the cloud. (I trust but not 100%)
Because I am the only one with the master password to my password document, I know my content is safe. I use Time Machine too, giving me dual backups.
Use Quitter for Added Security
After using this password manager for several days, I discovered a problem. If I forget to close the password manager document, it is left open on my computer for anyone to see. When I click on a URL to login, Pages is pushed behind and not visible. While the password manager file was hidden and forgotten, it was still there – and unlocked.
I found a way to fix this problem. Marco has a free app they call Quitter. It works as advertised and automatically closes Pages after a set time, and in doing so, automatically closes out my password manager document.
As long as I am using the password manager, the document stays open. But with inactivity, Quitter closes the Pages document after the set time delay. I have mine set for 7 minutes, which is long enough for me to enter one site for quick answers, and still find the Pages password manager open for a second entry.
Quitter lives in the Menu Bar as a big “Q,” and clicking on the Q brings up the setup menu. The menu for “Edit > Rules…” is shown, and changes to the time for inactivity are made there.
FYI, Quitter closes Pages! Not just your password manager document, but every Pages document. It monitors Pages’ inactivity, and when it hits the limit, Pages closes. It would be nice to have an app that only closed one document, but I haven’t found one. Quitter has a “disable” setting to use if expect to have Pages open and inactive for a long time.
Using Pages as a free password manager is easy, and secure. Try a couple of your own web sites and make your own USERNAMEpassword for testing. “Copy and Paste” — “Cut and Paste,” it couldn’t be easier! Add a few more names, and you will soon have a complete password manager. It works great for me, so maybe it can be helpful for you too!