The reality is a lot of the web's content is only available if you register on that website to access it. Add in the amount of on-line shopping I do and that's a lot of forms asking for my name, address, email address, etc.
Plus almost every site where you register lets you pick a password, which you need to come back in the future.
For a long time my solution for forms was a feature in the Google Toolbar that let you automatically fill in a form. It worked great for Internet Explorer and FireFox. Oddly, when I switched to Google Chrome that feature disappeared, go figure.
For passwords, I've tried a number of password managers over the years. Mostly I gave up on them because they didn't integrate well with my browsers or because they didn't account for the fact I often use up to 4 different computers during the day, so the passwords I might need were on a different computer. I liked the idea of the Pass2Go flash drive password manager, which stored the passwords on an encrypted flash drive, but it also made me nervous I'd lose the drive and not remember any of my passwords.
About a year ago I ran into LastPass (http:www.lastpass.com), which bills itself as the last password manager you'll ever need. I signed up because it had a Google Chrome extension, so I'd have password management while surfing. Then they added add-ins for FireFox and Internet Explorer.
What is nice about LastPass is it synchronizes my passwords between all my computers. So once I log into LastPass, it knows all the various passwords I have for all the various websites I have recorded. My understanding is LastPass does the encryption locally using your master password as a key and only stores the encrypted password information on their server. Thus LastPass never has access to your master password or your various passwords. Of course with the security comes a caveat. If you ever lose your master password your only option is to delete your account and start over, although a new feature allows you to store a local one time only recovery key on a selected, hopefully secure (e.g. your home) computer if you have the operating system version of LastPass installed on that computer.
You can set up LastPass on a site by site basis to do nothing, you have to click the LastPass icon to fill in your login information, automatically fill the login form but let you click login, or just automatically login. I have found some sites don't handle the full automatic login well, so the option is nice.
You can also use LastPass to automatically generate a strong password for each site you visit. Given the most common password is the word "password," having LastPass do better than that, or your wife's name, can improve the security of your accounts.
The other big feature of LastPass is I can set up identities which I can use to automatically fill in forms, restoring my Google Toolbar capability to Chrome. LastPass can even store my credit card information, making it possible to completely fill out a shopping cart checkout form with a single click. Like GoogleToolbar, LastPass uses the field names that are hidden in the HTML of forms to know what information to put where. So if the web programmer was lazy creating the form and just copy and paste one field to create addition fields without changing the underlying field name you may see the same information copied into several fields that don't match the visible labels. So automatic form filling isn't perfect, but it is a big productivity enhancement, especially if your typing skills are less than high speed.
LastPass isn't perfect. When it remembers your username/password combination it associates it with a URL. So if you record your username/password on a sign up page, then go to log in on a different page (the usual case), you might not have automatic login. While I'm sure there is some logic behind that design decision, I wish LastPass had an option that just assigns the username/password to the whole domain. Maybe it does and I haven't found that option setting.
LastPass also has a habit of creating more than one username/password for single site. I've seen it most often when I'm returning to a site I created before installing LastPass. I'll go to login, LastPass will record my username/password, and I get an invalid username or password message. So the next login attempt gets recorded to. While LastPass lets you manage your "vault," I wish it would show the username and password for each entry so I could decide which one to delete.
LastPass may not be perfect, but it certainly lets me be more productive while surfing the web.
Gregg Marshall, CPMR, CSP, is a speaker, author and consultant. He can be reached by e-mail at gmarshall[AT]repconnection.com, or visit his website at http://www.repconnection.com.