This is a good time to be a software junkie. Even the lowliest newbie will be finding a ‘back to school tool’ under his digital pillow soon. Why? Because a number of my ‘Must Have’ utilities are about to spawn new versions. These aren’t ‘new because we say so’ kind of things, these are ‘WOW! New!’ versions. Here, I’ll detail the changes that have happened to RoboForm.

AI RoboForm, usually just mentioned as RoboForm, is regarded as one of the premiere password managers. Lately, it’s been morphing into something a little different. And wonderful. I’ve been using the beta version for some time, but now the full version 6 is available. RoboForm 6.0 still does everything the old versions did, but in a new way and it includes things that have been ‘stick-ons’ in the recent 5.x levels of the software.

Gone is the old horde of toolbar buttons (at least as a default) and it no longer defaults to auto-filling online forms. I can see the frowns from here, but trust me, you won’t miss that feature. As of now, anyway, all the old features are available as options, but I urge you to give the new way of doing things a trial before you kill it.

Instead of auto-fill, you’re now presented with a full toolbar. Default inclusions are an Options button (to take you to the old options menus), a Search box, one Passcard box, any number of identity dialogue buttons, a button leading you to the old ‘Fill Form’ function, and a hide button.

The Search box is worthy of note, because it’s not quite what you might think. It can be used to search for a particular Passcard, but it also auto-searches based on partial words typed in. If that doesn’t turn up any matches, it offers to search Google, AltaVista, Yahoo!, and MSN and ask for the word or phrase typed in. It will also offer to turn it into www.’word’.com and take you to that site. At that point, you can either left-click a choice or hit one of the F-keys from 5 to 9 to activate that search.

The Passcard button and Identity buttons are worthy of note. They replace the auto-fill function with expanded usefulness and style. The Passcard button shows much more than the old dialogue box did. Hover your mouse pointer over it and you’re presented with a dropdown mini-menu that has Fill Forms, Fill & Submit, Edit, and All buttons, plus more that I’ll explain in a minute. Those first four are familiar to existing RoboForm users as the buttons that used to show up (mostly) at the bottom of the auto-fill popup box. What is very new is that there are other things in the mini-menu box – a list of every Passcard that references the site you’re at, a button to make whichever item you’ve got selected by mouse the default item for that page of the site, and a little checkbox that tells RoboForm to fill empty fields only at that location.

If you have a long list of Passcards that fit that web form, you can pick which card is picked as the default choice to use for form filling and you can tell the program to fill only empty fields or to overwrite anything the website puts up. Clicking the Edit or All buttons functions the same as it did with 5.6.x versions, you just access them differently.

The Identity buttons function much like the Passcard button, except that the only choices in the list in the center of the mini-menu are for Home or Work info for that identity. You can configure how many of them are on the toolbar through the option menus. Each one shows one identity in your list of identities, starting with the first and going down the list. Identities have always had Custom fields, but they’ve been given new power and organization.

And speaking of toolbars, RoboForm now has a mini-toolbar that may be applied to those annoying miniature browser boxes that sometimes pop up without any real toolbars on them. It carries the same functionality as the standard toolbar.

One of the last items I’m going to mention is that the program will now import the address books from Outlook, Outlook Express, or other programs and turn them into a Contacts list in RoboForm that can be used to fill forms. And, in fact, ALL Passcards, identities, Contacts, and even your IE Favorites can now be organized into folders in RoboForm. There are still a few rough spots in the user interface. There are some places where your actions aren’t intuitive enough. These will likely disappear with time, as the software advances beyond the point zero level.

There are more differences and enhancements, but I stand in danger of recreating the entire manual here, so I’ll simply refer you to www.RoboForm.com and let you get your own copy.

Something else new that I feel is worth mentioning is RoboForm’s ‘Portable License.’ For the cost of one registration of $29.95 and an additional second license of $9.95, you get to install and use the software on any computer you come across AS A LICENSED USER. That means you get to install it to something like a Flash drive and carry the software around with you, including all your password and info files. When you get to a new computer that you want to use, you install the software onto the new system and start using it without worries about it being activated on the system (at least as I understand it). This represents a HUGE savings over the average shareware multiple-copy prices. If only the rest of the software authors would be this thoughtful!