Fill Web forms quickly with Sxipper

A new Firefox extension offers a free, secure system for managing your personal information and Web site passwords.

Sxip Identity Corporation

Like most webware fans, I love to play with the cool features at sites such as Splice, Jumpcut, and the like, but most of these Web 2.0 ventures require registration, which in turn requires filling out forms and tracking passwords and log-ins. It's not only Web-based applications and community sites. I often get most frustrated when buying airline tickets or holiday gifts through new online vendors. Typing out my entire address and credit card information is fine a few times, but I have lots of relatives, and the 23rd form gets to be a bit tiring.

In the past, software solutions have filled the gap admirably. One excellent product is Siber System's RoboForm, which provides a robust platform for managing your personal information, all encrypted via AES, BlowFish, or 3DES. While RoboForm is a great program, the amount of information and passwords you can manage is limited for those of us cheapskates not willing to shell out $30 for the full version. The open-source application KeePass is great for securely storing passwords, but it doesn't fill out forms automatically.

Now, a new Firefox extension called Sxipper (pronounced "skipper") aims to improve on that browser's password-management features with a free, secure system for automatically adding your personal information and passwords to Web sites. On installation, Sxipper scours your address book and Firefox preferences for passwords and information you've already saved. It then walks you through a wizard that explains the privacy policy and end-license user agreement, lets you select your personal icon, and asks you to enter basic personal information for your profile.

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After a brief, optional demo from the Sxipper site, you're off and running. If you land on a Web form that's in the Sxipper system, a prompt with your icon will ask if you want to "Sxip this." You'll then be provided with a Sxip dialog that lets you specify which of your personal information you want to add to the form. On page with a log-in form, you can choose which account you'd like to use and then automatically log in. When you visit a form that isn't in the Sxipper database, you can add it to the program's "semantic map" for other users. That map will then be credited with your username. (Register for Splice with Sxip and you should see a "Sxipped by peterb" note at the top of the prompt.)

Though it's still in beta, one obvious problem with Sxipper arises when you've got a log-in page such as Digg's that forces you to complete a randomized CAPTCHA form. Unlike RoboForm, Sxipper currently has no option of adding your log-in and password to the form without automatically entering it, resulting in a CAPTCHA error. Another downside is you can't manually add maps to the system. The only way to add them is to set your Preferences to "Auto Prompt Map Creation," which will prompt you on every form that Sxipper doesn't recognize. The problem there is you might have HTML-based forms you use regularly for various purposes. You don't want to have to cancel the Sxipper prompt each time you visit those forms.

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Those are both easy issues to fix. Sxipper should add a option to its taskbar icon that lets you manually add a map and a selection to its autoprompt mapping feature that says "No, and don't ask me about this form again." Aside from small bugs and necessary improvements, most of the Sxipper preferences such as changing your map attribution and saving your personal data to a backup file are nonfunctional. In fact, some of the options don't even fit within the preferences pop-up window. You can see what the Sxipper team is up to next with its release notes for the latest version.

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About the author

Peter has been working at Download.com since 2003, when trialware was shareware and toolbars were those large metal rods for smashing car windows. Currently, he wrangles the reviews, videos, newsletter, blog, and special collections for Download.com, as well as managing the program data throughout the software directory.

 

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