Apple Should Totally Bring Its Windows Password Manager to the Mac

Anything would be better than what we have now

Key Takeaways

  • Apple has built a Password Manager app for Windows. 
  • The next macOS will have a Passwords preference pane. 
  • iOS 15 and Monterey bring autofill for one-time codes.
Someone typing on a laptop.

Brandy Kennedy / Unsplash

Why does Apple make a password-manager app for Windows, but not for the Mac, iPad, or iPhone?

The latest update to Apple’s iCloud for Windows adds a password manager, which lets you access your iCloud keychain on your Windows computer. Back at the start of the year, Apple also made its iCloud password manager available as an extension for the Chrome browser. And yet, on the Mac and iOS, you have to dig deep into the settings apps or into Safari’s preferences to access your passwords. Isn’t this all a bit of a mess?

"The current password-manager app does the bare minimum and won't do anything extra to convince a user to switch from an app more robust like 1Password. However, if Apple made a proper app, it might compete with 1Password or Nordpass, especially with Apple's software accessibility features," Katherine Brown, founder of remote-monitoring security service Spyic, told Lifewire via email. 

Windows First?

Apple’s password situation is currently a bit of a mess, but that’s because it’s in transition. Currently, you have to access your password settings in the Keychain Access app on the Mac and in the Passwords section of the Settings app on iOS. 

Screenshot of iCloud Passwords for Windows.

Apple

The Windows app has appeared first, but in the next version of macOS, Monterey, the password settings will get their own panel inside System Preferences. It’s not a standalone app, but it makes sense to put it in there, along with all that other settings-y stuff. 

This is all the more annoying because, in iOS 15, Apple has really improved iCloud Keychain, making it capable of replacing apps and services like 1Password, for most users. 

The Next Step

Apple has slowly added excellent password manager features to the Mac and iOS. When you sign up for a new service in Safari, it will prompt you to use a newly generated, secure passphrase that will be way better than the name of your dog or your name plus your birth year (you know who you are). It’ll save this password, sync it to all your other devices, and offer to autofill it whenever you need to sign in. 

iCloud Keychain also works inside apps, so you can fill your Netflix password in the Netflix app, as well as the website. 

In iOS 15 and macOS Monterey, the password manager will also autofill two-factor authentication codes. You know when you sign in, and the site/app/service asks you for your one-time code in addition to your username and password? That’s a one-time passcode, or OTP, or 2FA passcode.

"Passkeys in iCloud Keychain is my favorite new password feature in iOS 15 and macOS Monterey," says Brown. "This upgrade allows a user to log in to an app or website using Face ID, Touch ID, or a security key. The login credentials are then synced across your Apple devices using iCloud."

Previously, you’d have to use another app in tandem with the built-in iCloud Keychain, like Authy or Google’s password app, or just stick with 1Password or Nordpass for everything. Now, it’s all in one spot. And because it is built-in and gets special Apple privileges, it will automatically fill out the 2FA field. And as Brown says, perhaps the best part is that you can trigger it all with a Touch ID or Face ID. 

One Small Step

It’s only a small step from here to a fully featured password-manager app. Standalone apps like 1Password offer nice extras like secure notes (for keeping copies of passports and other private documents) and family sharing, which lets you share those notes or logins that are not necessarily private—your cable TV billing site, for example. Shared access means that you only have to update a changed password in one place, and everybody always has the latest version. 

Apple already has a fairly robust concept of family sharing. You can share apps, subscriptions, iCloud storage, and more. Shared passwords would be a great addition, as would shared notes. 

Screenshot of iCloud Passwords for Chrome.

Apple

All of this could be done in the current mishmash of preference panels, but pulling it together into a proper app would go a long way to making power users trust it as much as they do their third-party, standalone password managers. An app could have robust import and export options, saved searches, a way to scan paper documents, and perhaps a way to clip secure notes straight into the app.

But most of all, the current solution is too hidden and too hideous. An app could bring a much-needed fresh coat of pixels to what seems like a UI afterthought. 

"Bringing the UI out of the Stone Age would be a nice start," tech journalist Andrea Nepori told Lifewire via Twitter. We couldn’t agree more.

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