Like many other geeks, I spend way too much time browsing the Internet. Firefox on my laptop has become sort of my little cave, where I have the plugins I want, bookmarks organized in pretty little folders and everything set up to run as smooth as Firefox can run (which frankly isn’t all that smooth). The problem is that when I’m using someone else’s computer or my own iPad I’m presented with a completely naked browser that doesn’t have any of my stuff, and the saying “there’s no place like home” suddenly gets a new meaning. The solution to this problem is simple and comes in form of two browser plugins turned mobile apps: Xmarks and Lastpass. Read on for a review of the iPad apps and links to apps for other platforms.
Lastpass and Xmarks were two different companies up until late this year when Xmarks was saved from bankruptcy by Lastpass. I’ve used both services for a while, and can attest to their usefulness. Xmarks is a bookmark syncing service, which basically syncs all your bookmarks from one device to another automatically. I literally have a few hundred bookmarks by now so being able to access those anywhere is crucial, especially since I stopped paying attention to URLs or even site names ages ago. Lastpass on the other hand is a password service, that not only syncs your passwords but also remembers them and lets you generate unique, secure passwords for each site you’re on and then have Lastpass remember then, leaving you to remember a single (hopefully secure) password that accesses Lastpass.
While Lastpass is available for pretty much any platform out there, they had to step away from the useful browser plugin method for some of the mobile apps. Safari on iOS for example doesn’t support browser plugins, so Lastpass had look for other ways of getting passwords and bookmarks onto the iPad. The result in case of Lastpass was Lastpass Tab, a tab based browser for the iPad with Lastpass built in. You sign in using you master password like you do on a computer and then you can browse the web and have Lastpass at your ready. It works great, and the tabbed browser itself is an upgrade from the Safari way of handling tabs. It also remembers your last used tabs. I would still have liked Safari to support a Lastpass plugin though as it is more integrated into the OS, but this solution does the job as well. One big gripe I have with it is lack of Xmarks integration, but I’m pretty sure this is just an update away since it’s not that long since Lastpass acquired Xmarks and they still have to get everything integrated. having Xmarks and Lastpass both integrated into the same browser on the iPad would be perfect and really bring my PC browser setup to the iPad.
Xmarks also has an iPad app now, released December 4. It also has a built in browser, but it’s much simpler than the Lastpass solution and doesn’t have tabs. Again it works (though it has some serious issues with detecting which way you hold the iPad), but having it all in one app would be far better. I would also like to be able to set the default folder to display, as I have all my bookmarks in Firefox on the bookmarks toolbar and this only shows as one of four folders in the default Xmarks view. If they could add Xmarks to Lastpass Tab and even fit the bookmarks toolbar in there, that would be even better.
As for pricing, both apps are free but require the premium version of the services to work. Lastpass is $12 a year and the same goes for Xmarks, though buying both as a combo pack will drop the total price to $20 for a year. Well worth the money if you ask me. You can find the apps in the app store, Xmarks and Lastpass.
Both services are also available for other platforms, including Android and Blackberry. Lastpass also supports WebOS, Windows Mobile and Symbian, and of course you can get both on a Windows based tablet just by using the browser plugins that don’t require the premium service.