Review: Tap for Mac Allows You to Unlock Your Computer with Just Your Trackpad

2016-07-31

The best part about modern times and our devices is the fact that we’re not required to enter a long password anymore. Using just a simple four digit PIN or pattern, we can unlock our phones, tablets, and even laptops quicker than ever. And with the arrival of sensors like a fingerprint reader or iris scanner, it’s never been easier to stay conveniently secure.

Most of the time, we can actually thank operating systems for allowing us to perform such unlocking gestures as punching in a PIN or drawing a pattern on our screens. iOS allows you to enter four different numbers, while Android can actually allow you to do a number of things all via different apps and built-in functions. Even Microsoft has allowed users to enter a PIN rather a long password on Windows 10 regardless whether the device in question is something like a phone or a desktop computer, something I’m sure lots of users (including myself) find very convenient. However, there’s one device in question that you can’t perform any convenient unlocking gestures on natively without any additional device on hand, and that’s the Mac.

See, ever since the first version of Macintosh OS, you’ve had to enter a password either assigned directly to your computer or your Apple ID. This doesn’t exactly help when one needs to get into his or her computer quickly with no time to spare. Apple eventually saw that users were struggling with this inconvenience and decided to allow users to unlock their Macs with the help of the Touch ID sensor on the iPhone or a verification pop up on the Apple Watch. But since not everyone has one of those devices paired with their computers (like me), these particular users are still struggling with typing in a password too often which is likely not a short one thanks to recent hackings and cyber break-ins. But lucky for us, there’s actually alternative ways to unlock your Mac with the exception of them not being native. And one way is via Tap, a recently launched Kickstarter-funded project that aims to make typing in a password easier than ever before.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 7.09.34 PM

Tap logo

Tap gives users the ability to unlock their Mac using just their trackpad. This works by dividing your trackpad’s surface into different sections which, when tapped, act like a part of a password. You can also draw on the trackpad in straight lines which, if programmed a certain way, gives an “unlocking an iOS device”-type feel right on your Mac.

After starting up the application via a prior installation which took around 5-7 minutes to complete (for some odd reason), I was greeted with a full screen version of Tap which took me through the process of setting up the application and learning how to use it. The process is pretty straight forward, however since I was given an early version of the app, I ran into a lot of bugs right away that practically prevented me from finishing the setup experience. I hadn’t taken any screenshots of the actual setup as I didn’t feel the need to, however I did include the video Pabix (the developers behind Tap) made below.

While setting up the app, you’re asked to enter your current Mac password. This is because your trackpad gesture you choose to use to get into your Mac acts like a skin for your actual password. So rather typing in your long, full-of-numbers-and-letters password, you just draw something on your trackpad. And, surprise, this works well. Other than the bugs I experienced with the setup process, I haven’t run into too many issues with the program and have been overall satisfied with my experience so far. I’m able to ‘tap’ in my password without any issues and get right into my Mac like it was nothing.

Tap makes the experience even more secure by allowing you to use up to four fingers on your trackpad at once as a part of your password. I’ve been using a few of my fingers alongside a couple of different drag gestures to get into my Mac, and now it seems natural for me to do so. I haven’t found myself moving my hands up to my keyboard on my MacBook Pro to push in my password as often as I first thought (which is a really good thing), so by now Tap has become almost a staple on my Mac to use each and everyday.

You’re also able to change the passcode you program into Tap at any time alongside change th password of your Mac. And to remind you it’s running, Pabix has built in a menu bar item which allows you to turn off Tap, change it’s settings, or quite the app altogether.

LWScreenShot 2016-07-31 at 7.03.10 PM

Tap lock screen UI

Of course a simple way of entering a passcode shouldn’t be met without a simple UI, and Tap doesn’t disappoint in this area. As you can see from the image above, the UI on Tap’s lock screen is pretty beautiful. It’s nice and simple, reflects the look of iOS a bit, and gives users the option to clear anything they punched in via the Command key. Overall, I think I like this UI over the standard look Apple gives you by default in OS X (and macOS which is what I’m testing this software on).

Now look, even though I previously stated that I haven’t run into too many bugs, you have to remember that I’ve been using a preview release. I haven’t confirmed this, but I can say it’s very obvious that this must be true right from the get-go. Once in a while I’ll get a “failed to enter your Mac password” error message once my computer actually enters the desktop, while sometimes I need to wait a full 20 seconds before my laptop does anything with the passcode I just entered. However looking past that, my experience has been almost flawless. I’m looking forward to continuing to use Tap and to see what the final release of the software will bring, but I’m almost certain at least some of these bugs I’m experiencing will be completely ironed out.

According to Pabix, encryption is a key part of Tap to make your password and new trackpad-entered passcode as secure as possible without it ever leaking out. And I have to say, I believe them. I never once felt insecure about using this app even though not all the English is correct throughout the app and comes off a little sketchy for my liking. Nothing against them, of course, but I thought it’d be worth noting.

My final verdict on Tap is that I think I’d rather use their method of logging in over Apple’s. I’m not getting paid or something to talk good about them. These are my actual thoughts and feelings. I’m really glad an app like this exists as I’ve always wanted an alternate way to log into my Mac. And now that I have that, I’m really satisfied.

According to Tap’s Kickstarter page, Pabix says Tap will begin shipping to customers this month who’ve backed them on the crowd-funding website. By pledging just $4, you’ll be able to take advantage of this great alternative to entering your long and probably work-heavy password and instead just make a few ‘taps’ on your trackpad alongside a swipe or two.

I’ll have more on Taps in future posts when Pabix updates the program with notable new features and improvements.

If you wanna check out Tap yourself, head over to its official Kickstarter page here and official website here. And IFY, you need OS X 10.8 or later to use the app. Oh, and there’s also plans to bring the app to Windows, Linux, and even Android at some point.

Sweet.




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