Benefits and Limitations of Apple's AutoFill System

Minimalist AutoFill is built on Apple's AutoFill system which provides significant security and privacy benefits over third-party browser extensions. Unfortunately this system is also quite limiting, preventing us from customizing behavior, adding new features, or fixing bugs. In other words, we can either take it or leave it.

How third-party browser extensions work and why we don't like them

Before exploring the benefits of Apple's AutoFill system, it's helpful to understand how third-party browser extensions provide similar functionality.

In order to fill usernames and passwords into any website, third-party browser extensions first need permission to read and alter every webpage you visit, and also see all your browsing history.

Browser warning that extension can read and alter every webpage you visit, and also see all your browsing history

These permissions are needed for the extension to scan each webpage you visit, looking for anything that resembles a login or sign-in form, present custom auto-fill controls above detected forms, and ultimately copy usernames and passwords into the form once selected.

We understand why developers go this route, however we really don't want to see your browser content or browsing history. That's why we've opted to use Apple's AutoFill system rather than create this kind of browser extension.

How Apple's AutoFill system works and why we like it

Apple's AutoFill system on the other hand allows Minimalist to be completely different.

Minimalist cannot see anything that happens in your web browser. Instead Minimalist tells Apple's AutoFill system which logins you have, you select a login, and Minimalist provides the password. It's simple, secure, and completely private.

Furthermore, Apple's AutoFill system is already built-in to iPhone, iPad, and Mac. There is nothing more to install and no permissions to grant. Just download Minimalist and start auto-filling passwords.

Commonly requested improvements we wish we could make

We receive a lot of requests related to Minimalist AutoFill. Almost all of them are for improvements we wish we could make but are unable to without completely abandoning Apple's AutoFill system.

Here are just a few examples:

When will Apple's AutoFill system be updated to allow for such improvements?

Apple has not yet announced any plans to update the AutoFill system to allow for the kinds of improvements listed above. However that doesn't mean they won't. Apple is always looking for ways to improve their products and give us a better experience, we just need to let them know how!

Please submit feedback to Apple at asking them to:

  • Update the AutoFill system to allow third party password managers to... (add your specific request here)

In the mean time, we will continue to watch for announcements regarding Apple's AutoFill system and update Minimalist to take advantage of new features as they become available.

AutoFill alternatives we're currently exploring

As much as we love the security and privacy of Apple's AutoFill system over third-party browser extensions, the limitations it imposes have forced us to start exploring alternative solutions.

Here are a just a few:

  • Full-featured extensions for each browser:
    • This will be a lot of work and future maintenance. It will also distract us from improving the main Minimalist app experience. This is not our favorite option.
  • Mac Menu Bar App:
    • This may be a reasonable alternative for many people because it’s always available via the status bar (or global keyboard shortcut) and can support drag and drop into any text field. Dragging usernames and passwords would be slightly more effort than a proper AutoFill solution, but it would work 100% of the time which tends not to be the case with AutoFill solutions, including Apple’s AutoFill.
  • Some combination of the Mac Menu Bar App solution and a light-weight browser extension to enable true AutoFill with a fraction of the work and future maintenance for us:
    • We're currently leaning towards this one.
  • Waiting for browsers to support Apple’s AutoFill system:
    • Not likely to happen, but you never know!
  • Simply deciding to focus our efforts on Apple platforms, including Safari, and not supporting alternatives:
    • We really don’t want to do this, but we’d be lying if we said it hadn't crossed our minds.

Have a preference or another idea? Feel free to reach out at

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