MacMost Now 496: Safari AutoFill

The Safari AutoFill feature allows you to quickly fill in web forms using data stored in your Address Book contact and from information you have filled out in web forms before. You can see what information is stored by AutoFill in Safari preferences. You can find the passwords used by AutoFill in the OS X Keychain, and restrict access to those passwords.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode, let's learn about Safari's AutoFill feature. So the AutoFill feature in Safari is what fills in forms on web pages automatically based on how you've previously entered data. So for instance when you go to a page and you see your email address, your name automatically filled into a form, that's Safari using AutoFill. So you control this in Safari by going to Safari Preferences and then looking at the AutoFill tab, and there are three different categories, there's the stuff from your address book card, so your name, your email address, phone number, information like that can be used to fill in web forms. Also you got a specific list of usernames and passwords and you have information from other forms. So here's an example on how to add a form on the Apple website. See here that I've got some fields that could use AutoFill, my name and email address. Now, as soon as I start typing my name, it'll automatically fill in the rest of it. It recognizes that I'm typing something that's already there. In addition, I could have just simply hit the down arrow and it will give me the possibilities based on the information in AutoFill. Likewise, I could have also chosen Edit/AutoFill form or Shift, Command, A and it will find all the fields on the page that it thinks it can fill in and it will fill those in, in this case two different fields. So why does it only work sometimes? Sometimes you're at a webpage, it asks for an email address, and the information isn't automatically filled in. Well the reason for this is because every field on a form has a name or ID, for instance an email field may be called Email and AutoFill knows that if a field's called Email, it should try to put your email address in there. However the program that created that page may not have called that field Email, they may have called it Email1 or give it some sort of cryptic name, and in that case AutoFill doesn't know it's supposed to contain your email address, you might know it because of the label and the way the page is laid out but AutoFill can't tell. Here's another example of AutoFill at work. I go into Sign In at Yahoo here, and you can see it's automatically filled in my ID and my password, and the password is hidden there. The first time I went to fill this in and it asked me whether or not I wanted to save this information as the ID and password for AutoFill to use. Now if I go back to the preferences here and I take a look at what's under the Edit button for User names and passwords, I can see that there it's got login.yahoo.com and it's got my username there and if I want I can remove that, basically resetting the AutoFill for that page. Likewise I look under Other forms and I can see there are some other web pages here, for instance, the Weatherunderground page here is one of the entries and if I go to the page I can see right at the top it's going to ask for my zip code and sure enough if I were to use Edit/AutoFill form, you can see it fills in that information. So that's the information it was storing under Other forms. Now you may be thinking, is it really secure for important passwords to be stored in Safari's AutoFill? Well, you're right it isn't, and that's why they're not stored there. Passwords are not actually stored as part of AutoFill, they're stored as part of your Keychain. So when you run Keychain here, you can see that there is various Keychains on the left. Now the first one usually is your Login keychain. That's information you have available once you've entered your password and logged into your account. And under there, there are different categories, Password is one of them. If you look in there you'll find different passwords stored including the ones that you've stored for pages for AutoFill. So here's the Yahoo one for instance and I can double-click on that and it brings it up and it shows me the information here and I can even click here and enter my password to see the password that's stored. So this is really where it's stored and encrypted and you only have access to these passwords if you're logged into your account. Now you can further restrict access to a password in AutoFill using the Keychain. Go to Access Control for one of these and you can see that Safari is set to always have access to those. You can simply remove Safari from that list, and then it'll have to obey this rule up here which is Confirm before allowing access. So here you can see I've done that, I've removed Safari from this list here, I've made sure it says Confirm before allowing access, and also Ask for Keychain password. Now when I go to Yahoo and go to Sign In it'll come up and say that Safari wants to use this password here, I have to enter my Keychain password, click Allow, and it'll enter it in. So it's a little extra layer of security. If I said Always allow then it would change that preference and you wouldn't have to enter in the password next time you did this in Safari. Now a better solution if you're concerned about password security is to use a program like OnePassword which allows you to manage your passwords and store them in a little more secure way. So I hope you liked this look at using AutoFill in Safari. Till next time, this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 9 Responses to “MacMost Now 496: Safari AutoFill”

    John Forstall
    12/30/10 @ 12:18 pm

    Enjoyed the review of auto-fill, but the forced viewing of advertising was annoying. I’m aware it’s a function of YouTube, but you may want to consider another method of presenting videos. I’m also aware that this is just the beginning of venture capital cashing in on their investment in so called free networks.

      12/30/10 @ 12:21 pm

      MacMost is a free web site. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have bills to pay. Advertising is how we do that. The “commercials” are something new, and I’ll see after a test period if they are something we want to continue with.

        John Forstall
        12/31/10 @ 8:51 am

        Gary,
        I look forward to Thursdays when your MMN comes in. It is only the video ads that you have to watch if you want to see the video that offend. You are providing a great service here and should be compensated for it. Thank you.
        John

    brian
    12/30/10 @ 7:21 pm

    does autofill exist for firefox?

      12/30/10 @ 8:10 pm

      It will remember passwords, yes. But I’m not sure if it takes other info, like your contact info, and uses that in any way.

    Sandy
    5/23/12 @ 4:02 pm

    I didn’t understand how I can add IDs and passwords that Safari doesn’t ask me about. Can I store them in the keychain section manually. If so, how? Safari doesn’t ask about my storing my Yahoo email account info & I have 3 accounts I use daily. I bought an Apple Air Notebook a week ago; it seems to have a lot of glitches. The autofill problem is one of them.

      5/23/12 @ 4:34 pm

      It really depends on the web site. Web sites can block this functionality. Or, they can simply be build in a way that is confusing so the browser isn’t sure which fields to use.

    Martin Liss
    7/9/12 @ 10:21 am

    I’m using Safari 5.1.6 and whenever I start filling in a field (like ‘Name’) on this form, a small image representing my Address Book card appears which I have to select instead of my name auto-completeing as it does in your video. What am I doing wrong?

    Also would you know if it’s possible to autofill other fields like for example a credit card number?

Comments Closed.