Ever since I first found out that you could run virtualized applications on the internet, I’ve been fascinated by the possibilities it offered. Sure, cloud-based apps themselves are great, but I have used Windows for 20 years now and always find it a bit more reassuring to run a Windows program.
Spoon’s pitch instantly attracted me: running virtualized versions of popular Windows software on any PC. Yes, unfortunately, it’s Windows-only for now, although the developers say other platforms will be supported soon.
There are so many reasons to instantly want to try out an app like Spoon.
The Case For Spoon
I have two different desktop machines – one personal and one at the office – as well as a netbook for on-the-go productivity. I have my favourite programs installed on each of these: LibreOffice, IrfanView, Chrome, Firefox, Notepad++, VLC and several others. And while I’ve primed these apps to my liking on both the netbook and personal desktop, there isn’t admin access on the office PC to customize it how I want the apps.
Spoon made that so much simpler. Most of my favourite programs were available so all I had to do was install Spoon on my personal PC, set up the programs the way I wanted them, and then install Spoon on my office PC. Voila! The apps launched with my favourite settings intact. Man, I love the cloud.
There are other scenarios too. For one, all of these are virtualized apps, which means they don’t have to be installed on your PC. Not only does this keep the Windows registry clean and the system running smooth, but you also don’t have to bother with the hassle of reinstalling the apps in the future – Spoon maps apps to your login and remembers your settings.
And then there is the added benefit of making programs that are no longer compatible with your new Windows 8 system work fine through this virtualized version!
But does it really work like advertised?
The first step is to download and install the ‘Spoon Console’ onto your PC. You will also need to sign up for Spoon.net and key in those details into your console. And that’s the setup taken care of.
The Spoon Console sits quietly at the bottom-right of your screen, above the clock and the system tray. It’s a slender search bar to quickly type and launch any app, but clicking it or hitting the Alt+Win hotkey will open up a Start Menu-like console.
In here, you can see your most recently used Spoon programs, as well as a few recommendations. The user can also browse around through all the applications available, which are neatly sorted into five main categories – Productivity, Tools, Social, Media, Games – with sub-categories for each. Of course, searching for an app you already know you want is easier.
Apps come with a small description, along with options for the version number you want to run. The version number feature isn’t available for all the apps, but most popular ones support this.
Find the app you want and click it for Spoon to start buffering the program. Depending on the app and the speed of your internet connection, the time taken to buffer on the first run can vary. But after that, it’s smooth sailing and launches instantly whenever you open it.
For the most part, Spoon worked exactly like it says it does. Given how often I change machines and format drives to reinstall Windows, this service is going to be a huge help since I don’t have to bother with reinstalling and reconfiguring all my programs each time.
While Spoon claims to let you run any app perfectly regardless of your Windows system, that hasn’t been my experience with it. Chrome, for example, gave me an error message instantly saying that it wasn’t compatible with the 64-bit Windows 8 I’m running.
The syncing also works extremely well, although there were a few minor glitches. Like I said, Chrome didn’t work on my Win 8 64-bit desktop, but Firefox did. I also installed Firefox on the 32-bit Windows 7 running on my office PC, where I customized it according to my profile. When I came back to my Win 8 desktop and clicked Firefox, it took all the settings, but not the theme for some reason.
Like I mentioned before, the Spoon Console has neatly categorised items to help you quickly find any app you want. But personally, I preferred browsing the apps on the Spoon.net website.
As you can see, the list of supported apps is quite exhaustive, but currently restricted to free programs. In fact, the list is quite similar to what you’ll find in most Portable App websites.
With the web interface, I actually ended up discovering a few new apps that I probably wouldn’t have tried otherwise, sticking with my old favourites. This is largely due to the ‘Related Applications’ list you get when you click any app’s page to read its description. It’s a really nice feature and especially so when you are looking for games.
Running any app from the web interface is also a breeze, since each comes with a large Run button. Of course, all this does is send a signal to your Spoon Console to start buffering the app, but it’s nice that I didn’t have to retype the name into the Console. It’s a small thing that makes a difference to the user experience.
Spoon currently comes in three lots, with a basic free version allowing 1GB of storage, and two paid models for higher storage.
There’s nothing to dislike about Spoon right now. Sure, it has some glitches and currently lacks paid apps like Microsoft Office, and that alone might be reason enough for some to not go in for Spoon.
What you do get on the other hand is a full suite of virtual apps that run smoothly, quickly and always remain in sync wherever you are using it from.