Password vaults are supposed to make things easier. What do you do when they don’t?
You don’t have to remember those passwords.
This happens to me occasionally, and I, too, find it frustrating. Fortunately, there are several workarounds that don’t require you to remember anything other than your password vault’s master password.
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Password autofill won't work?
Sometimes website design prevents password vaults from automatically filling information in to all forms. There are several workarounds that allow you to initiate the auto-fill or copy/paste the information manually. Start by clicking on any vault-related icon in the fields in question or right-clicking in the field to expose any vault-specific menu items.
The idea with password vaults is that you visit a website requiring a sign in, and the password vault software — usually a browser extension — notices, looks up that site in the database of sites you’ve saved in the past, and automatically fills in the information for you. All you have to do is notice the fields were magically filled in and click OK. Sometimes you don’t even need to do that; some vaults even click OK for you.
The problem is there’s no standard sign-in form. What looks to you and me as pretty standard “User name:” and “Password:” boxes you need to fill in can be designed by the web developer in a wide variety of ways under the hood. In order to work, your password vault needs to figure out all the under-the-hood stuff so it enters the right information in the right place.
Sometimes it just can’t figure it out. That’s not really the vault’s fault; it’s the fault of the website using convoluted, non-standard implementations.
Some websites even do it on purpose. In a misguided effort to be more secure, they attempt to prevent password vaults (or any automation) from being used at all.
Fortunately, where there’s a will, there’s almost always a workaround.
The examples I’ll use here are all from LastPass, but the concepts should apply to most password vaults that normally auto-fill for you. Different password managers may be stymied by different websites and may expose the features I’m showing you in different ways, but the concepts should be the same.
I occasionally encounter this problem when signing in to Google/Gmail, so I’ll use that as my example. Again, the concepts should be similar to what you’d encounter on any website on which your password vault isn’t auto-filling.
Option 1: the LastPass icon in the entry form
When you have the LastPass extension enabled, you should see a small icon in the right-most spot on a username or password field. (The small digit indicates how many passwords you’ve saved that relate to that website.)
You’ll note that LastPass has not automatically filled anything in.
The icon is a tiny version of the LastPass icon. The number shows the number of matches LastPass thinks it has applying to the current site.
Click on the icon.
LastPass presents a drop-down list of the information it has. In this case, there’s only one entry, but if I had more Gmail accounts saved, I could choose which one to use from the list.
Clicking the entry in the dropdown list will often automatically fill the field.
Option 2: The LastPass icon and the clipboard
If clicking on the entry doesn’t work, there’s another step.
You may have noticed as your mouse moved over the item that an icon appeared within the item.
That icon looks suspiciously like a clipboard icon because that’s the feature it’s exposing. Click on it and you’ll get the sub-menu shown above. Click on Copy username or Copy password to copy either of those entries into the clipboard. Then click back in the user name or password field, and paste1 the item in. You might need to do this twice: once for the username and once for the password.
Note: LastPass will empty the clipboard several seconds after it places something there to prevent passwords from being left in potentially visible places. If you take awhile to get around to pasting and it pastes nothing, try again with less delay.
Option 3: The right-click menu
Sometimes the LastPass icon at the end of the username or password field isn’t present or is obscured by something else. For example, sometimes a password field will include an eye icon that will cause the password you’re typing to become visible so you can see what you’re entering. If it’s in the same place as the LastPass icon, it makes it difficult to click on the correct one.
Instead, right-click in the username or password field. Windows will display a menu.
In that menu, click on LastPass to display a list of matches LastPass thinks might apply to the current site. Click on the entry you want, and you’ll get another sub-menu with options.
- Fill: Have LastPass automatically fill the entry for you if it can.
- Edit: Open the entry in LastPass so you can edit, make changes, or just view its contents.
- Copy username: Copy the username to the clipboard for you to paste into the sign-in field.
- Copy password: Copy the password to the clipboard for you to paste into the sign-in field.
Option 4: The browser bar icon
Sometimes the LastPass icon at the end of the username or password field isn’t present or obscured, and right-click doesn’t work for some reason.
Click on the LastPass icon in the browser’s menu or toolbar.
The resulting drop-down menu will include several items. Of interest here is that it will contain a list of matches LastPass thinks may apply to the current site. Hover over the item you want to expose several icons.
Highlighted above is the Fill icon. Click on that, and LastPass will attempt to fill in the currently displayed sign-in fields. Next to that is a dropdown allowing you to copy either the username or password to the clipboard. Finally, the pencil icon allows you to view or edit the selected entry.
Option 5: The edit form
What if nothing I’ve describe so far works?
Don’t give up hope. There’s one more workaround to try.
Open your LastPass vault (either using the “Open My Vault” option shown when clicking the LastPass browser icon or visiting the LastPass website and signing in).
Scroll to locate the entry you want to. Hover over the item, and you’ll see a wrench icon.
Click on the wrench to bring up the LastPass edit entry form.
Click on the eye icon to expose the site password. You can now select, copy, and paste the username or password as you like.
This is the approach I use when I need to sign in to an account in an application that doesn’t interact directly with LastPass (like when configuring an email program).
A word about mobile
Everything I’ve described above often works on mobile. Given the different levels of permissions required and the security that both IOS and Android is attempting to implement, the individual steps may seem somewhat more convoluted and subject to frequent change.
Most often I open up my vault on my phone and copy/paste entries into whatever app or website I’m trying to sign in to. This is essentially the mobile version of option 5, above.
The most important thing to do here is not give up. If your password vault can’t, doesn’t, or won’t automatically fill in the sign in fields for you, look for and take advantage of the workarounds I’ve listed above. This allows you to continue to use your password vault and benefit from the improved security it enables.
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Footnotes & References
1: Some sign-in pages disable right-click, which is one way to access Paste. If that fails to work, click in the field and see if typing CTRL+V or SHIFT+Insert will paste.