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Apart from the odd security snafuLastPass has served well on my Windows desktop and laptop computers. Sadly, I need to part company with what has otherwise been a great password manager because it is appalling on the Apple iPad.

LastPass good on Windows PCs

One of the best ways to stay safe online is by using a different strong, hard-to-remember, difficult-to-crack password on each site. The phrase “hard-to-remember” offers a clue why people often fail to do this.

LastPass gets around the problem by generating random, impossible-to-guess passwords at the drop of a hat, then remembering them all in a single database protected by a single master password.

Passwords auto-fill when you open web pages with the software installed, so you get an immediate productivity boost from moving directly to the important information.

Seamless password security, up to a point

Because LastPass stores your passwords online, you can get at them from anywhere. Moving from my desktop to a laptop is seamless.

It works well on a Windows PC. I’ve been a happy user for over a year and was considering moving from the free version to the US$1 a month premium version so I could use the same database from my Android phone. At that price it is a snip.

LastPass horrible on iPad

Password managers are pointless if they don’t work seamlessly across all your gadgets. There is an iPad application, but the iOS Safari browser doesn’t allow plug-ins. Instead, the iPad app installs a separate browser which in theory gives you the same auto-fill experience you see on a desktop computer.

This sounds good. It isn’t. The LastPass browser doesn’t integrate with the iPad operating system. So hitting a link from email, Twitter or any other application opens Safari rather than the LastPass browser. You need to manually cut and paste links between browsers to open pages this way – that’s just not acceptable.

Worse, the browser is clunky-looking and, in my experience, prone to crashing without warning. LastPass has a lot of work to do if it wants to be taken seriously as an iPad password manager.

iPad typewriter

As Robin Williams’ book title says: The Mac is not a typewriter. On the other hand, Apple’s iPad might be.

My iPad links to an Apple Wireless Keyboard and runs iA Writer. This combination gives me the closest thing I’ve seen in 25 years of computing to an old-school manual typewriter.

For a journalist that’s a good thing.

Typewriter easy

Apple didn’t design the iPad with word processing in mind.

On its own the iPad is a poor writing tool. Although the larger on-screen keyboard makes for better typing than using a smartphone.

Yet here I am tapping away and loving the experience more than I have done since my last typewriter ribbon dried up back in the 1980s.

Have I taken leave of my senses?

Let me count the ways I love you

Three things make the iPad typewriter-like:

1. Radical simplicity.

The iPad, Apple’s Wireless Keyboard and iA Writer make for simple and distraction free writing.

There’s no mouse. That’s great because lifting hands off the keyboard to point and click is the number one cause of pain for old-school touch typists working on PCs.

Until you stop writing, the keyboard controls everything.

At the same time, the crisp serif text on a plain screen is the nearest thing to a type on a sheet of paper. Wonderful.

2. Text editor

iA Writer is a text editor. Not a word processor.

There’s nothing dancing on my screen. No pop-ups, no incoming email. At least not the way I’ve set things up.

It is just me and my words. The only word processor-like feature is the iPad’s built-in spell checker, which mainly stays out-of-the-way.

Best of all, iA Writer doesn’t do page layout. I don’t care how my words look because I can’t tinker. That’s one less thing to worry about.

This all adds up to fast, productive writing.

3. Quick on the draw

Typewriters don’t need to warm-up, to boot or load applications. Nor does the iPad.

My normal morning practice is to make a cup of tea while waiting for the PC to be ready for writing. The iPad is ready in seconds.

I can get my thoughts down while they are still fresh. The first 100 words or so are nailed on the iPad before I’d get started on the PC.

The best computer bits are still there

While my iPad writing combination kills the bad stuff about word processing, it keeps the best feature: The ability to go back over copy and make corrections. This was always a pain when using a typewriter.

And I send my writing to just about anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds. Try doing that with a real typewriter.

Other plus points

My iPad and keyboard are a lot easier to carry than my ageing and neglected portable typewriter – and easier than my laptop.

The battery life is long. I can work a whole day without needing to find a power point.

iA Writer uses DropBox. This means my work is available to me on any computer anywhere in the world.

IDC Research reports Apple overtook Acer and Dell in a single quarter to become the second best-selling PC brand in Australian and New Zealand. Hewlett-Packard remains top.

Jumping a single place would have been an achievement, climbing two spots is outstanding.

Apple’s rise comes at a time the overall PC market is weak. Ironically, the main reason PC sales are soft because devices like Apple’s iPad and iPhone are eating into their sales.

IDC says one reason for Apple’s success is its retail store expansion. This is interesting because we don’t have a single Apple store in New Zealand while Australia has 13.

I understand there was, or may still be, a gentleman’s agreement between Renaissance, the erstwhile exclusive New Zealand Apple distributor and Apple saying the company will not open an own-brand store here until some future date.

That day can’t come too soon. I know of friends who fly to Sydney expressly to visit an Apple store. I see this as a measure of the unsatisfactory New Zealand Apple retail experience.

There have been Apple products in my house since a few weeks after the first 128K Macintosh went on sale. We bought two Apple products this year, two last year and have plans to buy at least two more next year.

Apple makes outstanding equipment. Now I’m ready for some outstanding retail customer service. Let’s hope we get a store soon.

typewriter

For most of the 1980s and 1990s an Apple Macintosh was my home computer. I chose a Mac mainly because of its elegance and its ability to produce beautiful print documents. At the time Windows and IBM PC computers were still in the dark ages.

Early Macs had another advantage. They came with solid keyboards able to take a pounding.

I certainly gave mine a pounding. Like most journalists in those days I learnt touch-typing on manual typewriters – hammering out words on slips of paper.

But the Mac obeys a different rules to a typewriter.

I needed a guidebook to get the most from my new tool and found Robin Williams’ excellent The Mac is not a Typewriter (ISBN: 0938151312).

The explained how to use the computer to make great-looking documents. Some tips, like not typing two spaces after a sentence, were obvious. Others were less so.

The book has dated. Parts of its content are no longer important. And some of its lessons are now second-nature to experienced computer typists. But you’ll still get value from reading the book – if you can find a copy – because while we may not print as many documents as we did in the 1990s, we still create documents. And making them look good is just as important.

For example, there’s a section explaining why, most of the time, you shouldn’t use justified text. It is harder to read and large blocks of white space – known in the business as rivers – appear. They are ugly and distracting, yet you see them everywhere in PDFs and on websites.