About a week ago I came across a product called Presto while I was browsing the interweb. The first thing that caught my attention about Presto was its claim that you could “start your computer in seconds — like magic.” “This thing just has to be awesome,” I thought to myself. I mean, who doesn’t like magical operating systems that allow your computer to boot in mere fractions of a minute, providing you with practically instant access to an array of commonly used applications? That may sound sarcastic — well, I did mean to write it that way — but in truth, Presto is everything it claims to be.
I received an email from Presto yesterday informing me that the beta version of the product was available as a free download until April 13th, so I set off to download it and see what kind of trouble I could get myself into. It was a mere 400-and-something megabytes to download, a little bit less than your typical Linux LiveCD download — not bad at all. The installer was pleasantly painless and installs Presto by default into your Program Files directory, also adding info to the Windows bootloader that allows you to boot into Presto. Once the installation is finished you simply reboot and choose Presto at startup rather than Windows. On my machine (AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+, 4GB RAM, Barracuda AC-1 sound card, NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT graphics card) it took Presto a mere 13 seconds to fully load once I chose it from the boot menu. Now that is impressive, but could it deliver the functionality it promised?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer is… once you boot into Presto you are greeted with a delightfully bright user interface with a dock/panel on the left side and plenty of screen real-estate for all of your applications on the right. On the panel you’ll see various icons for applications like Firefox, an IM client (Pidgin), Skype, File Manager and one icon that takes you to the Presto Application Store (more on that later). Toward the bottom of the panel are the Window List and Shutdown icons, followed by the system tray (i.e. sound, network, etc.) and finally the clock. In addition to the applications listed on the panel, Presto comes with OpenOffice.org 3, Adobe Reader 8 and RealPlayer pre-installed also. If you need a fast-booting OS with instant access to instant messaging, web browsing, and document editing, Presto is for you.
One of my favorite features so far is the Presto Application Store. When you launch this, it brings you to the Presto App Store web site providing you with a slew of applications available for easy installation, as well as a list of recommended web sites and web applications for you to check out. Want to listen to music with Last.fm? No problem, install it in a few easy clicks from the app store. Need Picasa or The GIMP for some creative work? You got it. Xandros Incorporated certainly had simplicity and functionality in mind when developing Presto, and it seems to have worked out very well.
I am writing this blog post in Firefox running on Presto, listening to music with Last.fm and chatting with people using Pidgin. It took me less than a minute to install and even less time to boot into. For those of you who play many games or need specialized software not available in the Linux world, Presto probably isn’t for you. For those of you who just want your computer to turn on in a decent amount of time so you can check your email or browse the web, Presto is perfect. I can only imagine how wonderful it would be for you netbook owners who are tired of wait times.
I have to say that I am very pleased with this beta version of Presto. It is a product that promises fast boot times and great functionality, and it certainly delivers on that. If you are at all curious, I recommend you give it a whirl before April 13th while its still free.