The Keychain

The information explosion of the computer age may translate into bargains, power, and efficiency but, as noted, it carries with it a colossal annoyance: the proliferation of passwords we have to memorize. Shared folders on the network, websites, FTP sites—each requires another password.

Apple has done the world a mighty favor with its Keychain feature. (It’s an earlier, not-Internet-based version of the iCloud Keychain described on Saved Passwords: The iCloud Keychain.) Whenever you log into OS X and type in your password, you’ve typed the master code that tells the computer, “It’s really me. I’m at my computer now.” From that moment on, the Mac automatically fills in every password blank you encounter, whether it’s a website in Safari, a shared disk on your network, a wireless network, an encrypted disk image, or an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program like Transmit or Cyberduck. With only a few exceptions, you can safely forget all your passwords except your login password.

All kinds of programs and services know about the Keychain and offer to store your passwords there. For example:

  • In Safari, whenever you type your name and password for a certain web page and then click OK, a dialog box asks: “Would you like to save this password?” (See Figure 11-16, top.)


    This offer is valid only if, in Safari→Preferences→AutoFill tab, “User names and passwords” is turned on. If not, the “Would you like to save this password?” message never appears.

    Note, too, that some websites ...

Get OS X El Capitan: The Missing Manual now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.