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Looking for a new password manager: Part 3: Dashlane

May 3, 2022

In Part 1 of this series of posts, I told you what I was looking for in a password manager, and documented some of the failings of the first one I tested—1Password. I haven’t ruled out 1Password yet as it does have a Windows app, and that’s what I’m used to. I’m a bit wary of web-based apps only. In Part 2 I tested LastPass, and despite it being web-based only, I haven’t ruled it out entirely yet either as it has some compelling customisation features.

My next test was Dashlane (limit of 50 passwords for the free version). As for the others, I didn’t download the Android app for it (I’m only doing initial testing so far), but I did install the browser extension as it was required. My first tests were to see how easy the interface was to use (very), whether I could import my Passwords Plus (PP) data (no), what sort of template/categories it used (limited and not customisable), whether I could customise fields/field labels to suit my data (not at all) etc.

Here are the results of my testing (no particular priority order):

  • No separate Windows app. As for LastPass, this might be a showstopper* for me. The browser app (I use Chrome) was easy to use and navigate.
  • I tried to import my exported Password plus (PP) CSV file that contains ~500 records, but wouldn’t import as it said it was incompatible and ‘contained formatting errors’. It also wouldn’t import the converted 1Password 1PIF file I had successfully imported into LastPass but couldn’t import into 1Password. All records would have to be entered manually, not a task I relish. There didn’t seem to be any paths for importing data from other password managers, but I only investigated these two.
  • As part of my testing, I exported the few records I added for testing purposes. There are two export options—one to a DASH file for reimport into Dashlane, and one for CSV. I chose CSV export, and a ZIP file was created that contained about 5 or so CSV files, one for each type of record. NONE of the CSV files contained any of the notes I’d added. Notes are critical for me.
  • Record types: As for most password managers, Dashlane has several broad types of records you can create, some with subtypes. I could see no options to create new types or subtypes, new categories (for those where categories was an option), or to add new fields to an existing record. This is a major requirement of mine, and the lack of this functionality eliminates Dashlane from contention. For anyone still considering Dashlane, I’ve added the notes I took when checking out the record types and ease of data entry:
    • Passwords: Has categories (Business, Email, Entertainment, Finance, Games, News, Other, Shopping, Social Media, Sports, Tech, Travel, Utilities), but no option to add new categories. Has a Notes field, but no option to add other fields, such as the date you set up the password. The Notes field is minuscule in the display, only about 25 characters width (see screenshot below), so if you have extensive notes (as I do), it resizes the length to adapt, but you can’t resize the width for easier reading and navigation.
    • IDs:
      • ID card: Year fields for the issue and expiry dates are in ascending chronological order starting from 1922 and going to 2122, so you’ve got a LONG way to scroll to get to anything recent. You can’t type in the field either, only scroll. And there’s no calendar date picker either. When I did enter a year (I didn’t have day and month information), it added the CURRENT day and month automatically, and I can’t change that to just a year with no day or month. Also, the day and month were in Month/Day order, which is not the date format I’m familiar with. There is no option or setting that I could find to change that.
      • Social Security Number is not called that in Australia, yet Australia was the default country when I tried to add one of these. We call it something else, but you can’t change the label from Social Security Number to Centrelink Number, for example. Again, no Notes field or other fields for adding further details about this info such as when you applied, when it was approved, URL/email/phone number for contacting them etc.
      • Tax number, drivers license, and passport: No Notes field, and for passport, no field for country of citizenship or place of birth or gender identity, which is part of a standard passport.
    • Payments:
      • Debit and credit cards: There is a Notes field available when adding debit/credit card details, and a seemingly useless option to pick a colour of the credit card from a drop-down list. I have no idea why that would be needed, nor what you would do if your credit card’s colour isn’t one of the 9 colours listed?
      • Bank account: There is NO Notes field for bank account details, which means you can’t store all info about your bank details in one place (e.g. I might want to keep a record of previous passwords used, or the phone number of the bank if calling from overseas). This means you have to have ANOTHER record for the bank under Secure Notes—you can’t keep all that information together. Interestingly, the empty bank form defaulted to ‘Australia’ as my country, but the field labels (which CANNOT be changed) do not reflect those used by the Australian banking system, so there was a BIC/SWIFT code field and an IBAN field, but no field for BSB or Account Number. Even if these are equivalents, the average Australian would have no clue about BIC/SWIFT and IBAN numbers. Again, there is no option to add notes or add fields.
    • Personal information:
      • Email: You can only add very basic information—the email address, the type of email (Personal or Business only), and you can name the email (by default, Email 1). You have to add separate entries for each email address and cannot add notes such as when you set up the email or where you use it (e.g. you may have some email addresses that you use as ‘throwaways’ on websites you’re not sure of).
      • Same for phone number information etc. Separate records for each phone number.
      • One nice thing for the address subtype is that if you change the country, the relevant states for that country get populated in the State field (by default it opens with US/Alabama, but change it to Australia and you get the Australian states and territories listed. Address also has a ‘Phone’ field with a drop-down where the ONLY option is ‘Other’—there’s no facility to add a phone number of any type to an address.
      • The display of all these is with large icons for each record and I couldn’t see any way to list them with smaller (or no) icons to fit far more on the visible page.
    • Secure Notes has some categories: Databases, Finance, Legal documents, Membership, Other, Application passwords, Personal, Server, Software licenses, WiFi passwords, Work related, but I couldn’t find any way to add a new category. Categories appear to be just like a tag—they don’t do anything, such as offer a template of relevant fields for entering the type of data. But they do display as a (sortable?) column on the page that shows a list of all Secure Notes. A Secure Note seems to just be a notepad for everything else. There are NO fields and no opportunity for adding fields (e.g. date field, password field, email field etc.). You can change categories for any entered record at any time, and colour code the secure note according to how you work. Colour codes are NOT associated with type of category, so you could have one colour for Person A’s info and another for Person B’s info in the same category of ‘Personal’. Again, the display has largish icons for each note, so for my potentially 500 records, there’s a LOT of scrolling to go through the list (yes, there’s a search facility but I didn’t check if words within the notes were searchable—I have assumed they are).

After I finished testing, I deleted my Dashlane account as it is not at all suitable for my purposes. In addition to adding ~500 records manually, I’d have to add many twice, with a separate Secure Note record required to capture all the information that isn’t able to be stored with the main details—that just doesn’t seem efficient to me and would mean I’d have to look in two places to get all the details. But not being able to create templates, customise categories, add fields etc. is also a deal breaker for me.

My final test will be of mSecure, the one PP recommends as a good substitute.

Note: One of the early commenters on this series of posts recommended Roboform Everywhere. I looked at their website and some reviews and comparison articles, as well as YouTube videos on how to use it, but I could see it wouldn’t suit me so I haven’t tested it.

* Note: ‘Showstopper’ is a common term in the software industry and refers to a bug that prevents the system from working, or a piece of functionality that doesn’t work as it should and prevents the user from going further, either because the function is broken or because it is deemed essential *for that user*.

6 comments

  1. […] now given up on testing 1Password any further and will test LastPass and Dashlane next, followed by mSecure. The results of that testing will be in other parts of this series of […]


  2. […] next test will be of Dashlane and then mSecure, the one PP recommends as a good […]


  3. To be honest, I think you should really be looking for 2 different apps. A password manager and a secure note app. Your requirements for the notes and being able to have templates is going to rule out most of the password managers – as that’s just not a common use case for them to develop.
    Something like Joplin – which you can create your own templates for might be the best option


  4. Thanks Simon. But that’s just downgrading from what I’ve been using successfully for the past 15 years. My PP program/app does it all, and so to have to look for info in 2 different places seems a big step backwards. That said, I’ve never come across Joplin before, so will investigate.

    –Rhonda


  5. Thanks for taking a look at Roboform. For what now seems like decades, it’s been a reliable and truly useful product for our computers & phones at home, as well as for the computers in my law office. I’m sorry to hear it can’t meet your needs.

    If you get a chance, I’d really like to learn more about what it lacks, in case those may be capabilities I haven’t known I’ve been missing out on.

    Thanks.


  6. […] The official blog of CyberText Consulting – technical communication specialists « Looking for a new password manager: Part 3: Dashlane […]



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