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Chapura TurboPasswords 3.0 review
Posted on 6-Jul-2004 19:19 by James Shiell. | Tags Filed under: Reviews.


The good people at Chapura, better known for PocketMirror, have recently added a new piece of software to their line-up: 125306 TurboPasswords. Given the presence and quality of eWallet and SplashID, you might well think this market is saturated. However, they've bought a new feature to the table – integration with Internet Explorer – and they're promoting it for all it's worth. And is it worth it? Read on.

Upon starting up the application you're asked to set a password. This is a fantastic improvement over eWallet, which has all sorts of problems with setting an initial password and keeping it in sync with the desktop (restoring eWallet after a hard reset on the Palm is quite a mission, and possibly the product's greatest fault). Unfortunately, they only offer an on-screen keypad for password entry, both on the desktop and the Palm. This is useless for anyone using alpha-numeric passwords, and I'd love to see an on-screen keyboard option like that in SplashMoney.

Chapura TurboPasswords login
The TurboPasswords desktop login keypad

The desktop application is cleanly designed, with an Office 2003 look and feel, and takes the Palm paradigm of categories rather than using a Windows tree structure. I prefer a tree myself, as it gives one click access to any category, however it does mean it matches the Palm application. And the application continues in its simplicity – there is a conspicuous lack of settings and unnecessary features. It is fantastic to find such a well designed interface, but they have left out one very handy feature – the ability to mask passwords. Unlike eWallet, everything is password protected – there's no concept of a public category. Unfortunately, because there's no password masking, anyone standing behind you can see your password. It's quite an omission for password storage software.

Chapura TurboPasswords desktop
The TurboPasswords desktop application

This brings me to account entry. Each account has seven text fields, a type, a category and a notes field. The types are just templates, such as ‘Credit Card', ‘Insurance' or ‘Website'. You can also create your own. However, unlike eWallet, where you get icons and a variable number of fields, in TurboPassword changing type will merely re-label the seven fields in the account. The extra fields don't disappear either – you can enter text in them as you please. This is lovely from a consistency perspective, but limits the adaptability of any type. Also, because each field is a text field, there's no data validation – e.g. you can't have validated date or numbers fields. It also goes some way to explaining why you can't mask passwords – there's no concept of a password field, it's just another text field.

Chapura TurboPasswords Edit Account dialog
The TurboPasswords edit dialog

But it doesn't end there. Fire up Internet Explorer and you get a new toolbar with 2 icons. And I'm sorry to say that the first thing that struck me was how ugly the icons are – they appear to be low-res and do not match the Windows XP icons, especially when you're on a webpage with no login fields (you get the world's ugliest red cross through the icon). It's a shame that this makes such an impression, as they're actually quite useful and functional. Using the ‘website' type the application matches URLs to records, and will pre-fill the fields for you. Should there not be an exact match (e.g. the record uses http://orcon.net.nz/ and I access http://orcon.net.nz/webmail) then you are offered a choice. And should it not pre-fill automatically, you can use the pre-fill button to give it the hint.

This is great. I love being able to keep my data in one place. But there's a catch – it's Internet Explorer only, and I like to use a browser without quite so many security holes. And given the recent deluge of suggestions that people switch from IE (from such people as SANS and Slate (which is owned by Microsoft)) it seems I'm not the only one. So I can only hope they'll be releasing a plug-in for FireFox at some point. However, for those who do use IE, it's a lovely feature and works as advertised.

Chapura TurboPasswords Internet Explorer
The TurboPasswords icons added to the Internet Explorer Toolbar

The Palm application is fairly straightforward, and a fairly good match for the desktop application. The only difference appears to be that you can't edit types on the Palm – you'll need to use the desktop. But there's a big problem for users with a Palm T3 or other device with a dynamic input area – TurboPasswords ignores it. This is really unacceptable from a developer of Chapura's pedigree and is a great disappointment, especially given the extra screen real estate is invaluable for people with a lot of passwords. Also, as mentioned previously, the lack of an on-screen keyboard is quite vexing when entering your password. The final annoyance is that it won't resume after the device powers off. Most applications will just ask for password confirmation again, but TurboPasswords exits.

Chapura TurboPasswords Palm OS login
The TurboPasswords login

Chapura TurboPasswords Palm OS list
The TurboPasswords list view

Chapura TurboPasswords Palm OS view
The TurboPasswords record view

Chapura TurboPasswords Internet Explorer
The TurboPasswords edit view

In summary, this product is nicely designed, straightforward, but marred by a few issues which could do with resolution. In short, it's a typical version 1.0. It's just a shame they've decided it should be version 3.0, and may suffer from the expectations that accompany that.



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