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What’s the Best Open-Source Password Manager?



Passwords on sticky notes.
Vitalii Vodolazskyi / Shutterstock.com

Bitwarden and KeePass are two excellent password managers that stand out from the crowd by being completely open source and almost completely free (Bitwarden has an optional paid plan.). However, there are some important differences. Here̵

7;s how to choose between them.

Using Bitwarden vs KeePass

The most notable difference between Bitwarden and KeePass is the interface. However, both interfaces are a lot less slick than those of commercial password managers such as LastPass and 1Password.

KeePass takes this to the limit with a desktop application interface straight out of the 90s. That’s no big surprise, as it has been around since 2003.

KeePass' main screen

KeePass is a much more classic desktop application for “advanced users”. For example, the menus are quite jargon-filled compared to modern paid password managers.

This application runs on Windows, Linux and Mac, although it is written in .NET and the non-Windows clients work through the Mono framework.

A KeePass menu

Bitwarden, on the other hand, offers a more modern, streamlined user experience to match a program launched in 2016.

While it’s not as sleek as, say, LastPass, it’s a lot simpler and a lot more thoughtful than KeePass in this regard. It just looks better and is much more intuitive to use. It also works on Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as Android and iPhone.

Bitwarden's main screen

The differences between KeePass and Bitwarden are, of course, more than profound. In addition to being easier on the eyes, Bitwarden is also easier to use thanks to the web browser auto-completion and built-in auto sync.

Autocomplete is the very handy option to have your password manager automatically fill in the username and password fields on any website you want to access. It’s what elevates password managers from merely useful to time-saving: not only do you not have to remember passwords, you don’t have to type them out.

Automatic synchronization (short for “synchronization”) is when you can use the same program on different devices (such as your laptop and smartphone) and have the information automatically exchanged between them. For example, every account you create on your laptop can be filled in automatically on your smartphone. Bitwarden does this automatically (and also with credit card and ID numbers), while KeePass takes care of transferring the file manually with your passwords.

Add new items to Bitwarden

Autofill and sync are some of the most useful features a password manager can have, and it’s hard to recommend a program that doesn’t have one, let alone both. However, KeePass has an asset in store in the form of its plugins.

KeePass plugins

While Bitwarden is a program released by a company, much of the functionality of KeePass outside of the base software is provided by the community through plugins. These are extensions of the program that add a specific function to KeePass or even run on Android devices, iPhones and iPads.

The KeePass community is extremely active and offers all kinds of plugins, including plugins that can add auto-complete and auto-sync, so you could just add that functionality that way. In most cases adding a plugin is quite easy on KeePass: you can download and extract the file in the KeePass directory and then add the plugin from the menu in the main KeePass client, although for some plugins ins may require additional steps.

However, the question is whether adding plugins is something you actually want to do in the first place. Since password managers are supposed to be programs that make life easier, it may not seem intuitive to some to add a slew of extra steps to add some functionality that other software, such as Bitwarden, out of the box. has built in.

That said, KeePass’ plugins are very useful for tech enthusiasts who like to tinker with programs. For example, when you use the right plugins you can completely change the look of KeePass or add features that many of its competitors don’t, such as automatic backup or advanced scripting.

Basically, the difference between KeePass and Bitwarden when it comes to usability is that Bitwarden is easier to use. But overall, KeePass gives you a lot more flexibility to use as the developers intended, but at the expense of making it more difficult to use.

As such, KeePass can be a great choice for people who already know their way around a computer, while Bitwarden is probably a better option for those looking for a more consumer-friendly solution.

Bitwarden vs KeePass Security

So far we have discussed the main differences between Bitwarden and KeePass. Now let’s examine some important similarities between the two. Whatever you choose, your passwords and any personal data you have uploaded are safe. Bitwarden stores your passwords in the cloud, but encrypts them on your computer using the “military grade” AES-256 encryption, which means they are unreadable by anyone looking at them on the server. The company is also regularly audited by third-party security companies to ensure that customer data is safe.

KeePass uses the same encryption key, but stores all passwords on your computer, which means you have to make sure that no one comes close who shouldn’t have access. But even if someone gains access, KeePass also encrypts your passwords. It uses AES-256 by default, but you can also choose from other options, such as ChaCha20.

Additionally, both programs are completely open source, meaning anyone can check their code on GitHub to see if there are any issues with them. Bitwarden also allows people to report any bugs or security flaws they find and receive a bounty.

As with all password managers, the only real weakness is your master password, which is the password you use to access the program. In the case of KeePass and Bitwarden, this particular problem is unknown to them. This means that if you lose your master password, it will be lost forever. At the same time, it also means that no one can find out what it is unless you give it to them.

Are KeePass and Bitwarden free?

The good thing about both programs is that they are completely free, although you can donate to the people behind KeePass if you want to support them. Bitwarden’s free plan is a fully featured password manager and as such you never have to pay for it, although it does provide some advanced features for paying customers.

Bitwarden offers a Premium account for $ 10 per year, and offers more options when it comes to integrating two-factor authentication solutions (such as YubiKey or U2F Key) and vault status reports, which analyze the security of your passwords. The family / organization plan is $ 40 per year and you can share the account with up to six users. This means that anyone can share certain secure data – this is useful for Netflix family accounts or the company’s VPN.

It comes down to

When choosing between Bitwarden and KeePass, your choice will likely ultimately come down to what you want from a password manager. If you want something flexible that gives you a lot of freedom to tailor it to your tastes and needs, then KeePass is the better choice.

However, if you want something you can get going without much hassle, Bitwarden is better.

In either case, you don’t have to spend a penny and your passwords are safe.




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