The story so far. You'll probably be very familiar with the concept of a password manager - Lastpass springs to mind, a system for remembering the passwords you use on multiple web sites. But here I'm talking about a 'secure database'.
Sounds grand, but it just means a store for all sorts of private information. You know, all the info that you'd worry about if your phone ever got stolen - how much do you keep in plain text in various documents and contact records? In my case, it's:
- web site logins and passwords
- bank account details and security answers
- vehicle details and ID refs
- insurance and passport numbers/details
- credit card codes and numbers
- software registration codes
- hardware serial numbers and warranty information
So, yes, web sites are in the mix, but there's very much more than this. Almost 1000 entries in all, amassed over a decade in Handy Safe Pro, an application which started on Symbian, syncs to Windows PCs, and which has made tentative steps onto other platforms*. With this amount of information, you can see why I'm not keen to copy and paste individual fields and records into a new system, let alone re-type anything! Am I unusual in having this amount of 'secure' information? Quite possibly. But I'll bet that most people have some need for such a solution, even if they haven't got round to implementing it yet.
* though which now qualifies as 'abandonware', as the developers (Epocware) have stated that the product isn't being developed any further.
Now, my Symbian smartphone continues to largely work as advertised, so Handy Safe Pro (with the PC syncing) still fulfills its duty - entries can be modified on phone or PC and the changes get merged together. It's a wonderful system and it's no surprise that Handy Safe Pro is one of the biggest selling Symbian applications ever.
Yet, with Symbian in its latter days, the time has definitely come to plan ahead. In this case, with the arrival of the Nokia Lumia 1020 and Windows Phone, we at last have a counterpart on a modern platform to the Nokia 808, so the logical ecosystem to move my secure data into is Windows Phone 8.
Which is where my troubles started:
- Handy Safe is available for Windows Phone and, indeed, syncs successfully from the Handy Safe Desktop (on Windows), but it's horrifically buggy in that editing any entry causes the entire database to go up in smoke - all data gets erased from the phone's Handy Safe database. Rarely have I encountered such a serious bug, but with the developer's abandonment of the product there's no hope that this will be fixed. So I can use Handy Safe on Windows Phone, but only as a viewer, which is clearly not ideal.
- Safewallet is a well known secure database that supports a wide range of data fields and which imports XML data from Handy Safe. In fact, the import worked well into SafeWallet on Windows, which then syncs through the cloud to my Android phones. However, SBSH, the developers, seem to have abandoned the product now and the Windows Phone version is, again, still-born - it doesn't even work with the last versions of the product and so is no use whatsoever.
- Lastpass exists and works well on Windows Phone (see our Lastpass review), but it's extremely limited in terms of its data fields - it's a glorified web site password manager and the only extra field is for use in a 'secure note'. Using the likes of Keepass, I managed to import (most of) my XML data and offer it up to Lastpass's import routines. The entries were all 'there' but the data within them wasn't - all information in fields (e.g. 'credit card number' and 'PIN') was simply... missing.
- Keepass itself has a 'Handy Safe XML' import option, but this isn't foolproof and vital fields (e.g. "PIN" in card/bank accounts) were missed out. The one-way move through Dropbox or SkyDrive from a Windows Desktop to Windows Phone is also somewhat less than ideal.
- Keeper looked promising, with a full Windows Phone client, but the Mac and Windows versions both seem to be non-functional, with the set-up routines not working with Keeper's servers anymore. More abandonware? but the import facility is very limited, requiring plain text with huge amounts of manual rework.
- eWallet GO looked promising too, but the Windows desktop version doesn't import from Handy Safe, SafeWallet or XML and the generic CSV formatting required is so fiddly that it would be quicker to paste records in by hand.
A number of other 'secure databases' or 'password managers' exist for Windows Phone, but none have proper synchronisation facilities to a desktop or cloud instance which can import data from a previous system.
Asking around, it seems that many people rely on memory for their main passwords (or use Lastpass) and store 'confidential' reference information in plain text in Word documents or contact cards. Which is asking for trouble, of course.
So, over to the community - there has to be a solution to this. Many 'All About' readers were big Handy Safe fans and presumably you've either given up and copied and pasted your data into a whole new system, or actually found a way through this maze? If the latter, then I'd love you to share how you did it. What did you end up with on Windows Phone and what, if anything, got lost in the process?