Support license keys in KeePassX

KeePassX is a password manager, an application that will create, store and make readily accessible strong passwords for your various accounts. I have over a hundred logins to various websites that I host or for services I use, and I don’t worry over much about them being hacked because all the passwords look like this: gZL~T%@Pj\u)o5]Wk:u[4"tQ_

I sleep better at night.

I’ve used KeePassX to manage my login credentials for years now. An update in the last year really added a layer of polish that made it a delight to use. A feature that I really like is setting a global and group-based auto-copy pattern. In the older version this had to be set per login, so I copied this weird stanza in the notes section of each entry.


That allowed me to select a login field on a webpage, switch over to KeePassX and select the login, and then copy (ctrl+v) the login; it would then switch to the login field, copy the username, tab to the password and copy that, and then press enter, which is how most login forms work.

It was great functionality, but kinda tiresome to add to each entry. As I mentioned, the update made that a global feature that could be overridden individually or by group. No more remembering to add it to each login, but also additional flexibility that we will get to in a moment.

I’ll show you my motley collection of groups, but don’t judge! I end up using the search function most of the time anyhow.

KeePassX example

The two groups that get used the most are “WordPress Sites” and “WordPress Services”. Sites is for individual sites, most of which I host. Services are for the couple dozen plugins, themes or services for WordPress that I maintain. Most of the time I don’t need to log in unless a credit card expires or I am upgrading or canceling a support license. But sometimes I need to get a license key to turn on updates to software directly from the vendor. I’ve tried keeping a kanban board for those, or a text file on my computer, but I refer to them so infrequently I forget where they live. And so I look for that login info…

Oh yeah, a place to keep sensitive information!

Today I was about to log into such a site when I realized that I had a centralized place to keep something like a license key! And KeePassX has a specific feature that made it even more useful for my purposes: group-specific settings.

KeePassX group settings

For the “License keys” group I set a different auto-type sequence, simply {PASSWORD}. Most WordPress support licenses are single text fields that validate against their server, so this override makes it so I can find the key in KeePassX and copy it to the field without trouble.

It seems like a simple trick, but when I need a key and can’t find it I lose tens of minutes, which is a bummer, but more importantly I expend a lot of mental energy context switching and losing momentum for the task at hand. This is a very helpful feature in my password manager, and I am sure you could find other uses to make your online experiences more convenient while staying secure. ^_^


Clef is interesting, but I can’t find any source for it, so it is dead in the water. Unfortunate, because I think that is a good direction to go for passwords. And it is so simple, too: they could release their software and host it for 90% of the people who use it, until Google bought them (which would probably bump it up to 99% because of scale [for a few years, until Google tires of it and sunsets it]).

Where do the passwords live?

I use Basecamp, off and on. I normally use it really intensely for about 6 months, while working on a project, and then it just sits there. I like Basecamp as a product, but it is a closed, hosted software as a service, and that really bothers me in the downtime, since at that point I am just paying them to store a project archive for me.

As it happens, I’ve largely mitigated all the features of Basecamp:

  • Messaging – Turns out that none of my clients appreciate the ability to search through the message archive, and since I am normally looped into every message, I don’t miss anything.
  • Documentation – When I can, I use a wiki to document development stuff. This works for some projects, and not others; for those we defer to email.
  • Files – I use ownCloud, and my clients normally just email me files of a certain size. Annoying, and could use a different way.

There is one thing that I haven’t figured out, where Basecamp excels: passwords. Because I normally work alone, and even when I am heading a team I handle all the accounts and infrastructure myself, I am the only person with all the passwords. I create a document called Credentials in each project, and put all the login and passwords there.

The idea is that if one of my clients needs to, they can check that to get access. I used to warn against them doing that without talking to me, but I decided that it was a better plan to just make sure I always have offsite backups and let my emergency rates reinforce how dangerous playing with those accounts can be.

If I didn’t do this, the only place the passwords would live would be on a sticky note on someone’s monitor, or even worse, a text file on a laptop (in my case that is fine, since I use multiple forms of encryption, but I doubt this is common…).

Ideally I would have a secure website that I could dump this stuff on, that I could share with folks who need it. I don’t use private wikae, and while I think everyone should have an ownCloud account somewhere, that is not the fact of the matter.

Ideally I would host some lightweight project management software, but that is really an oxymorom; it ie either impossible, or humans have no quite figured out the right formula. So, where do I keep the passwords?