Bitwarden and Proton Pass are two excellent open-source password managers.
While Bitwarden has established itself as a solid option for more than six years now, Proton Pass is a newer entry.
What should you pick? An existing trustworthy password manager or a newer option built by Proton, known for its privacy-focused products.
I have been using Bitwarden, and Proton Pass with their premium features. Primarily I utilize Bitwarden, but I have been experimenting with Proton Pass since its launch.
So, here, I shall share my user experience insights and other pointers that you need to know when selecting one as your password manager.
Use-Case and App Availability
When it comes to a password manager, the app availability and your use-case play an important role.
You have to ask yourself questions like:
- Where do I need the password manager? (Desktop/Mobile/Web Browser)
- What are the extra features that it offers?
- Do I stick to a single service for multiple utilities?
I shall highlight the features in the later part of this article.
But before that, you need to decide where you want to use the password manager and if you would like to keep the password manager service separate.
Proton Pass is only available as a browser extension and for mobile platforms (at the time of writing).
You can get the extension for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Brave, Edge, and other Chrome-based web browsers. Additionally, you can choose to install it on your Android or iOS device.
✅ If you do not need a desktop app for your password manager and want to continue using all the services by Proton, Proton Pass is a suitable choice.
On the contrary, Bitwarden is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux as a desktop app.
In addition, you can get the add-on for Google Chrome, Firefox, Vivaldi, Opera, Edge, Tor, and DuckDuckGo for Mac.
For mobile platforms, it is available for iPhone, Apple Watch, and Android phones. You can also install it from F-Droid for Android.
Not just limited to all these, you can use it as a web app or through a command-line interface.
✅ Bitwarden should be the perfect pick if you require the password manager available across multiple platforms without any compromise.
Bitwarden's user experience can be described as straightforward and non-intrusive.
You can see how the browser add-on looks like:
Sure, the user interface has improved over the years, but it always sticks to its roots, i.e., simplicity over a beautified UI.
It does not get in your way and provides a familiar user experience at all times.
You can tweak the theme among dark, light, solarized and nord presets.
Whether you are on the desktop app, mobile app or the browser extension, you get the same convenience.
Proton Pass stands out with its layout, and provides an expanded overlook at your credentials every time you access the extension.
Some users could prefer the modern approach to the UI. So, it is up to your personal preferences.
I like Bitwarden's traditional approach.
You can get started using both the services for free.
Bitwarden and Proton Pass can be used to store unlimited logins with no restrictions to the number of devices on its free plan.
If you need features like emergency access, family access, secure storage, secure storage, 2FA authenticator, and hide-my-email aliases, you need a premium subscription.
Bitwarden starts just at 10 USD per year, with its family plan (six accounts) at 40 USD per year. Incredibly affordable for the masses.
Proton Pass is on the expensive side at 47.88 Euro per year for its plus plan.
However, if you utilize all other Proton services, and opt for a Proton Unlimited subscription, you can get premium perks for Proton Pass, Mail, VPN, Drive, and Calendar.
Both the password managers are quite competent. So, you can expect the essentials with each of them.
Here are the things that are common between them:
- Password generator
- Secure notes
- Card and login credentials
- Mobile apps for convenient access to credentials
Now let me highlight the things that make each of the services stand out as per my experience:
One of the key offerings of Bitwarden is its "Send" feature. You can send a file (up to 500 MB) or a piece of text/note to anyone via a secure link, which keeps things end-to-end encrypted. This option is accessible on desktop app, extension, and the web vault.
You can keep the link protected by adding a passphrase known only to the receiver. More customization options are also available, like setting an expiry timer to it or the ability to destroy the link once the file has been downloaded.
I would not call it as a way to securely send files. But it is more suitable to send private documents (similar to email attachments) and text files.
Next, Bitwarden offers a family plan where you can share a single subscription with six accounts. There's no such offering with Proton Pass.
Another important feature that I'd like to emphasize: emergency access.
With every credential going into the password manager, it is the one place where all your access secrets lie. To make it convenient for a trusted friend or family member to access your passwords when something happens to you, you can set up emergency access.
Of course, before giving the authorized user access to your account, you can choose to set a duration to be able to confirm or deny it. If you take no action, the access will be granted to your trusted user.
Not to forget: the password generator includes history for both the services. Bitwarden retains history for a longer time, but Proton Pass keeps only one day of history.
Other feature differences include:
- Ability to export in .CSV
- Ability to tweak the autofill behavior
- Access to web vault
- Desktop apps
- Identity info
I have never had any significant issues with Bitwarden for all the features listed.
The only problem I noticed: sometimes on my Android phone, the autofill does not show up along the keyboard app as a suggestion. Of course, this depends on the customized Android experience provided by various smartphone manufacturers. So, it may or may not be a Bitwarden-specific issue.
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If we compare both in terms of "number of features", Bitwarden gets the edge.
However, Proton Pass ticks all the essentials you need in a password manager and goes beyond as a privacy-focused tool.
Proton Pass supports generating email aliases, all thanks to having SimpleLogin's expertise.
If you are curious: SimpleLogin is one of the most popular tools to protect your email address.
So, with that being integrated with Proton Pass service, it gets convenient to quickly create an email alias, and save the login at the same time. The email you signed up with for Proton Pass will be the real email address.
I wish if they provided an option to set new target email addresses, this would make the extra premium for Proton Pass worth it.
Additionally, if you are someone who utilizes some or all Proton services, it should be a good user experience with Proton Pass. You do not have to switch or sign up for a different platform.
With Proton Pass, you also get the essentials to import/export, control certain security measures, and tweak the password manager's behavior.
So, Proton Pass can be an all-in-one solution for Proton users.
And, yes, Proton Pass hasn't been around for a long time now for me to notice any issues with its mobile app. So far, so good.
What Should You Pick?
Considering you know what's common between them, it comes to your personal user experience taste, budget (if opting for premium), and the feature-set.
For my use-case, I do not see Proton Pass replacing Bitwarden anytime soon.
However, if I decide to take a Proton Unlimited subscription or get involved with Proton's offerings more than ever, I might ditch Bitwarden.
💬 What do you think? Do you think Proton Pass is worth the extra premium, or better with Proton's bundled subscription? Is Bitwarden your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments down below.