I promised this overview of the KeePass program about a month ago and I apologize for the delay in completing it. The full overview with navigable headings follows my signature.
I'm writing an overview of how to use the basic features of the KeePass program to manage your passwords with your computer. I'm running Windows 7 with Fusion 2019 and using KeePass version 2.44, the most recent downloadable version, for purposes of this discussion. I will include navigable headings where appropriate and since I'm sending this post in html format, these headings should be maintained. This document was completed on February 15, 2020.
KeePass is an open source program available for free for maintaining a user's passwords. This discussion will be about running KeePass on a Windows computer but my understanding is that it will also run on Linux and Mac OS X. Note the spelling of the program which appears to be a combination of the words keep and an abbreviation of password and don't make the mistake I did thinking it's spelled like a key to unlock something. KeePass is basically a small database management system where the underlying records are your passwords. A database is really just a table or spreadsheet of information where each row represents a record and each column represents a field of data for that record. For password records, the main fields in KeePass are Title, User Name, and Password where Title is the item with the password such as NLS BARD account. Be aware that KeePass has two main versions and various build iterations of each, version 1.x and version 2.x. I recommend you use version 2.x as I believe it contains more accessibility and this discussion will be about it.
The main KeePass website can be found here:
The site contains a lot of helpful information and I'd recommend you explore it to gather what you need. I'd suggest you start by pressing Insert + F7 to generate a list of links and arrow through them to find your interests most quickly. You can go to the Downloads link from this list or use the following link to download the KeePass program:
KeePass has both fully installable and portable versions. As you arrow through the available downloads, you can pick whether you want the installer which will be an exe file or the Portable version which will be a zip file. As you know, Portable versions don't add anything to your registry and can be copied to a flash drive for portability after being unzipped.
Running KeePass the first time
I installed the fully installable version of KeePass a few years back when I started using it and I have no intention of uninstalling it for purposes of this overview. Be aware of that so if you experience something different from my explanation, the reason might relate to this. I will attempt to mirror a new installation by creating a new KeePass database file that will hopefully yield similar results to those who are installing it for the first time.
When I pressed Ctrl + n to create an new KeePass database file, I was prompted to save it with the name Database.kdbx in the same folder of my existing KeePass database. First time users of the program will probably get different results but I'd recommend that if you're a Dropbox user, that you save your KeePass database kdbx file in your Dropbox folder. This will make syncing it with a mobile device discussed later much easier. You should make note of this file name in order to make it easier to find in the future. After providing the database filename and location, you are in a dialog box to create your composite master key which is your master password to access your KeePass database. Choose a password that isn't easily cracked but that you can easily remember. This will be the only password you have to remember going forward because all the others will be housed in KeePass to recall as needed. Type in your master password and tab once where you'll land on a checkbox that is checked to hide the password value using asterisks. Tab again to reenter your master password. Tab once which takes you to a Show expert options checkbox which you should leave unchecked. Tab again which takes you to a Help button which you can tab past to the ok button which you should execute. You will be taken to a create new password database dialog box which is multi tabbed with tabs for General, Security, Compression, Recycle Bin, and Advanced. Each of these tabs contain settings for the password database but accept for the General tab discussed below, the defaults are fine and can be ignored. You will be located on the General tab when you first enter this dialog in the database name text box. I would recommend leaving this text box blank and referring to your KeePass database by its filename previously assigned. Tab again and you'll be taken to a database description text box that you can also leave blank. In my opinion, these last two items are for those who have more than one KeePass database file which I strongly discourage for purposes of this discussion. Tab again and you'll move to the default user name for new entries text box. This will be the assigned user name whenever you create a new entry in your KeePass database and I'd suggest typing your email address here. My experience has been that an email address is most commonly the user name for an account and this saves a step when creating a new password entry. Tab again and you'll move to the custom database color checkbox which you can leave unchecked. Tab until you hear ok and press enter. You are then prompted if you'd like to print a KeePass emergency sheet which will contain all the information needed to open your database. If desired, this should be printed and saved in a safe place or you can skip this step.
Adding entries to your new database
Adding a group
KeePass uses groups to categorize entries into its passwords database. Think of groups like folders in Outlook or like subfolders on a Windows computer for purposes of providing an organization structure to your files. Use of KeePass groups will make it much easier to access your passwords when you have hundreds of entries as I do. Also, the program developer has said putting all entries in one group will cause the program to work less efficiently when entries become numerous. The default groups KeePass contains when first launched are General, Windows, Network, Internet, Email, and Homebanking. These are shown on the left side of the KeePass screen indented below the database name to which they belong. In this discussion, remember that I named my KeePass kdbx file Database so the default groups just listed are shown below Database in my program. You can arrow up and down through these groups to pick the appropriate one to house your new password entry. If you do not want to use any of the default groups, arrow up to your database name, press shift + F10 to open a context menu, arrow down to Add group, and press enter. You will be placed in an add group dialog where you can type the group name desired, tab to pick an icon which you can ignore, tab to an expires checkbox which I recommend you leave unchecked, and tab until you hear ok and press enter. I suggest you leave the expires checkbox and date unchecked because I don't think you want your password groups to expire. Focus will be on the group you just created. You can have subgroups below groups so make sure focus is on the database name when creating a new group so you won't end up with numerous group levels unless that is what you prefer. My preference is to have only one level of groups so I'm clear where I am when arrowing up and down a sorted list. Be aware that groups are not automatically sorted. For this discussion, I added a new group named Finance which was placed as the last group in the group even though it's not the last alphabetically. To change the order of your groups, tab or shift + tab until you hear tree view and arrow up until focus is on your database name, Database in this example. Press shift + F10 to open the context menu, arrow down to Rearrange submenu and right arrow to open the submenu and down arrow to Sort direct subgroups and press enter. All the subgroups in your database will now be sorted alphabetically.
Adding a new password
You can add an new password entry to your KeePass database by pressing ctrl + i. Remember, whichever group has focus when you press this hotkey will contain the new entry. You can arrow up and down your groups to ensure the desired one has focus. This is important because KeePass does not provide a group entry field when adding a new record since it's automatically assigned based on the group with focus. For this example, I'm creating a new password in my Finance group. When pressing ctrl + I, a multi-tabbed dialog opens with the Entry tab containing focus and the Title text box containing the cursor. Type the title best suited for you to find this entry later. For this example, I'm using Bank online account. Tab once and you're prompted to pick an icon which you can ignore, tab again and you'll be in the user name text box which should already be populated with your email address. Use that email address if appropriate or type in a new user name and tab. A default password will be shown as asterisks and highlighted. You should type in the password you desire for this entry. Tab once where you'll land on a hide field using asterisks checkbox which is checked and which you can tab past. You will then be on the repeat password text box where the original default asterisked password is highlighted and must be retyped with your new password which matches the one previously entered. Tab once and you'll be on a generate a password button which you can use if you don't wish to use your own password. If you execute this generate a password button which I don't recommend, a context menu of choices will open that you can arrow through to select the desired option. Since I don't recommend using this, I'm not covering those options. Tab again and you'll be in a URL text box where you can enter the web URL associated with this account if desired. Tab again and you'll be in a Notes text box where you can store any notes related to this entry. Tab again and you'll be on an Expires checkbox which I don't recommend using. If you do check it, tab again and enter the desired date of expiration. Tab again and you'll be on a button to select one of the standard expire times. Tab again to ok and press enter to complete the entry. You will be on a two vertical pane screen not unlike a Windows Explorer screen where folders are listed on the left side and the files they contain are listed on the right side. In this case, your KeePass groups are listed on the left and the entries in the group with focus is listed on the right. The entry you just created contains focus. If you shift tab, Fusion announces tree view and moves focus to the password's host group, Finance in this example, and the group name will be spoken. Tab back and list view will be spoken and the name of the entry with focus with some of its details will be spoken. Pressing enter while n the passwords list view will open an edit box for the entry with focus. The Entry tab previously discussed will contain focus. While the Entry tab contains most of what you need to manage password entries, i.e., titles, user names, and passwords, I'm going to discuss one other tab in this multi-tabbed entry edit dialog. Press ctrl + tab to move to the Advanced tab. When you tab once, you'll be placed in a string fields list. String fields are great for creating your own custom fields. For example, in my Bank online account entry, I want to track the account's fed routing number and the account number so I will set up two custom string fields to do so. Tab once out of string fields list box and you'll be on an add button where you press enter. You will land in a name text box where edit is spoken. Type the name for this custom field and for my example, I'll type FedRoute. If you've previously set up string fields for this database, a list of previous field names will be presented when you start typing characters. This doesn't apply here so I'll tab once after entering the name and be placed in the value text box. A fed routing code is a 9-digit number so I'll type in 123456789 for purposes of this example. Tab once where you'll land on an enable in memory protection checkbox which you can ignore. Tab again to the ok button and press enter. Focus should again be on the Add button which I will execute in order to add another custom string field. I'm back in the Name text box for this custom string field where I'll type AcctNum. I'll tab once to the value text box and type 456789. I'll tab to the ok button and press enter to complete the addition of this second custom string field and its value. I'll then tab to the ok button and press enter to complete the entry of this custom string field. Focus moves to a File attachments list view which is blank because I have none. Tab once to move to an Attach button if you'd like to attach a file to this entry. Tab again to the Ok button and press enter to complete the edit of this password entry. Focus returns to the list view with the last edited entry containing focus.
Exiting the database
More than one way exists to exit your KeePass database. I like to leave mine running to make access easier and I'll discuss the settings to control this later. For now, press alt + spacebar and arrow down to minimize and press enter. You will be placed on an option to save database changes before locking the workspace since we've just modified our database. Press enter to save it. KeePass remembers which group contained focus when the database was last saved and that group will have focus the next time you open KeePass.
KeePass has a number of option settings that can be accessed from the Tools, Options menu. I mainly use the default settings but will describe a couple of suggested settings that I use. With KeePass open, press the alt key to activate the topline menu and right arrow to Tools. When Tools is spoken, down arrow once to open the Tools submenu and up arrow once to land on Options and press enter. A multi-tabbed Options dialog will open with tabs for Security, Policy, Interface, Integration, and Advanced. Security has focus and I'm going to turn off one of its default settings. Tab once and Lock workspace after KeePass inactivity will be spoken which means you are in the list of Security options which you can down arrow through. I then down arrow to the Use 'Clipboard Viewer Ignore' clipboard format checkbox which I make sure is unchecked. I'm the only person using my computer and I use a clipboard manager program named Ditto which allows me to browse previous items copied to my clipboard. I find this especially helpful for browsing items copied from my KeePass database but if this option is left checked, KeePass won't allow Ditto to do this. You may be happy with the default setting not to allow this which is a more secure setting. Next, press ctrl + tab to move to the Integration tab. Tab once and you'll be in a system wide hotkeys section in the global auto-type text box which I don't use. Tab again and you're on the Global auto-type - password only text box which I have set to none. Tab again and you're on the Auto-type selected entry which I have set to none. Tab once more and you're in the Show KeePass window hotkey box. I have this set to ctrl + alt + shift + k so that when I press this combination, a KeePass window will open prompting me for my master password. KeePass always remembers the last kdbx file on exiting the program. While this hotkey text box has focus, press the key combination you want to set here. Continue to tab until you hear Run KeePass at Windows startup checkbox and make sure it is checked. I think it is a good idea to have KeePass running at all times to make accessing your stored passwords easier when using your computer. Tab until you hear ok and press enter to complete setting your options.
How you open KeePass could vary depending on your option settings. I have KeePass set to run automatically at Windows startup so I'm presented with a KeePass login window at system start where I provide my password. I have my options set to lock KeePass whenever I minimize it so that the master password is required in order to review the passwords in its database. I can open a new KeePass window by pressing ctrl + alt + shift + k which I described earlier in the options section. To open KeePass, you might need to execute a desktop icon on your system depending on how you installed KeePass and your option settings.
When you open KeePass, you should be asked for your master password. After that is typed and accepted, your database will open and focus will be in a search box where you can type the title keyword to locate an existing entry. After typing the search term and pressing enter, the list of entries matching will be presented in the list view. You can tab once to access the tree view of groups and tab again to reach the list view of entries which match. You can then arrow up and down the list until you find the one you want.
Accessing the passwords in the list view
When focus is on the password entry you want, you can press ctrl + c to copy its password to the clipboard. You can easily paste it to another computer program or website by pressing ctrl + v when on a text box seeking a password. Also, when focus is on an entry in the KeePass list view, you can press ctrl + b to copy that entry's user name to the clipboard. Finally, you can press shift + F10 on the entry with focus and a context menu will open which you can arrow up and down through to select an item of choice. If you set up custom string fields for this entry, one of the context menu choices is the copy field submenu and when you right arrow on it, you will be provided a list of the custom string fields set up and pressing enter on the custom field name will copy its value to the clipboard. This is very handy especially if you use a clipboard manager such as Ditto that allows you to peruse your clipboard entries for selection and pasting.
KeePass on your mobile device
With the explosion of mobile devices for accessing content, having access to your KeePass database on such devices is critical. This discussion will focus on iOS since I use an iPhone but the main issue for both iOS and Android is that you will have to know the name of your KeePass kdbx file on your computer and make it available to your mobile device whether you are running iOS or Android. This is why I recommended earlier that you save your KeePass kdbx file in a Dropbox folder on your computer which makes it much easier to share with a mobile device.
I have used two different iOS apps for accessing my KeePass database on my iPhone. The first was Mini KeePass which unfortunately is no longer available and the second is KeePass Touch which is free with ads or is 99 cents without ads. KeePass Touch is much better in my opinion because it can be synced with the same kdbx database used by your computer using Dropbox. With KeePass Touch, when you sign into the app after turning on Touch ID, you have access to all your passwords without providing the master password manually. When you navigate to your password field, you can double tap on the screen to copy it to the clipboard for easy pasting to another app. KeePass Touch also has a search feature at the top of its main screen for locating specific entries by keyword. iOS has other apps that work with KeePass databases but I'm unfamiliar with their accessibility or cost. I suggest you search the App Store for KeePass and see what comes up if KeePass Touch doesn't interest you.
I have only very limited experience with Android but I did install the KeePass Droid app which was free on a Moto X4 phone. I did nothing more than install the app so can't offer any instructions on its use.
Dropbox download link for this overview
For those wishing to download this overview to your device in html format, you can use the following Dropbox link: