Review: ProteMac KeyBag

Track all your keystrokes with KeyBag. (March 2nd, 2009)

MacNN Rating:


Product Manufacturer: ProteMac

Price: 49.95 US

The Good

  • Effectively captures keystrokes of any user in the background. Can export keystroke database.

The Bad

  • Terrible documentation and support. No warning function you need Growl before first use. No way to partially clear the keystroke database nor protect the database.

Don't you just hate it when your Mac crashes or there is a power glitch? Inevitably, you were in the middle of typing a long email or working on an important document, and of course, you hadn't saved in a while! A new program called KeyBag doesn't prevent crashes, but it may help you recover quickly from them. KeyBag automatically records almost everything you type, and saves it to a log file for later review and recovery. The program also allows you to record what others type on your computer while you are away, which may be useful for parents or employers. Programs like KeyBag are commonly known as keystroke loggers, and this Universal application works on Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) and Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard).

Track your keystrokes

The simple installation of KeyBag (version 1.3) requires an Administrator password. Once installed, it records all the keystrokes typed into the computer, except if you login to an encrypted website in which the password is protected. The program works in the background to record keystrokes from email conversations, chat sessions, websites, or documents. It also designates which keystrokes you enter into specific programs and how much time you spend in each application. This sorting feature is quite handy in case you remember that you were using Microsoft Word when the power went out and want to recapture data from that specific program.

If your goal is to monitor other users of your Mac, you can see what your child typed during a particular iChat session or what URLs your employee typed into Safari. Any keystrokes typed on the keyboard are recorded. However, because it captures keystrokes only, you can't monitor mouse activity, such as what links a user clicked in a web browser.

keybag screen

Applications List in KeyBag

In order to review the typed keystrokes on your Mac, you open the KeyBag application. The program is not password protected, meaning anyone that opens KeyBag can read all user keystrokes. When reviewing keystrokes, KeyBag allows you select the time period you wish to view and then export the data to common formats such as CSV, HTML, or plain text. This can be useful for documentation or backup purposes.

keybag screen

Export Dialog

While KeyBag allows you to clear the database, it doesn't allow you to selectively remove items from the database. KeyBag records all keyboard activity, so the database grew quite large during my testing, and there was no way to clear out information I didn't want.

keybag screen

Keystrokes Tracked

KeyBag also has a Warning preference that notifies the user "Don't type bad words" and "Don't do this again please"" when designated words are typed. Unfortunately, the first time I typed a warning word, KeyBag tried to install the Growl notification system, a popular third-party extension that notifies you of activity without leaving the application in which you are working.
keybag screen

KeyBag Warnings Preference

If Growl is necessary, it should have been installed with KeyBag or noted in the documentation. In fact, the documentation doesn't mention the warning preference or the Growl requirement. Since this program monitors keystrokes in the background, installation of additional software after the fact could alert the user that they are being monitored. When I uninstalled KeyBag, Growl remained on my Mac.

Documentation and Support

The sparse documentation provided with KeyBag is incomplete. As mentioned earlier, certain functions are not covered. Choosing Help from within KeyBag is similarly sparse; the program simply takes you to the KeyBag web page that only has a support forum and a technical support contact. There is no knowledge base or FAQ. Technical support was slow to respond and could not answer basic questions. Do not count on any support for this program.

Works Well But Rough Edges

KeyBag accurately records keystrokes entered on a Mac, and can be used for crash recovery as well as monitoring. However, the program has numerous rough edges including an incomplete installation process, lack of database protection, and poor technical support. These shortcomings aside, KeyBag is a solid Mac keystroke logger, which is useful to anyone needing this specialty type of program on a Mac. You can download a demo from the site, but it doesn't specify whether the demo is time-limited or keystroke limited.

by Dave Greenbaum


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