The idea of running server-side apps is nothing new, but it’s not really a concept that is readily associated with everyday applications such as OpenOffice. There are various online apps available – like Google Docs – but Spoon.net gives you access to a wider range of familiar titles that can be run in the cloud.
Spoon.net differs from other similar services that allow you to work with apps online. Here, rather than working with apps that have been re-written or specially designed for cloud usage, you are able to choose from programs you know and love – everything from web browsers and image editors to media players and games.
The service is not entirely cloud-based; it is not possible to run all of these apps in your web browser. Instead you will need to download a copy of the Spoon.net console which you can grab free of charge from www.spoon.net.
To download the software you will need to provide your name and email address and choose a password. These serve as the details for your Spoon.net account which can be used to access the same apps on different machines.
Online App Library
Once you log into your account you can access the app through a system tray icon. This works much like Start menu in pre-8 versions of Windows and all of the available apps are neatly categorized so they are easy to find.
As you use apps, they are added to your list of recently accessed programs so you don’t have to click through endless menus to launch them again. There is also a search option that lets you track down apps you may want to use – just start typing and results will be displayed on the fly.
Apps can take a little while to load, but this is largely dependent on the speed of your internet connection. Remember, these are full applications, not cut-down versions that have been specially designed for ‘streaming’ in this way. Should you use an app more than once, you will find that it has been buffered at that subsequent launches are noticeably faster.
The Silver Lining
The fact that these are full apps means that not only are you not missing out on any features, but also that you are able to interact with cloud apps in exactly the same way as those you have installed on your PC. This means that you can Alt-Tab your way between apps, resize and move windows – basically anything you may want to do with a program.
Visit your account on the web and you have another way in which to browse through the list of online titles. In many respects this is actually an easier way to look through the collection, particularly if you want to read descriptions and compare different apps. However, there is another, arguably more interesting side to things.
Play in the Sandbox
The ability to set up sandboxed machines with Spoon.net provides many possibilities. This is an option that can only be accessed through the website, not through the console software, and you will find it by clicking the ‘Fork a sandbox’ link.
There are a number of pre-configured sandboxes for you to work with – remote access tools, web browser, email utilities and many more – and using these is a great way to try out software without having to consider security.
So what could you use Spoon for? The apps are updated on a frequently so it gives you a great way to try out new releases without having to worry about the potential side-effects they could have on your system. Being able to work with older versions of a web browser is something that might come in handy from time to time.
The fact that your cloud-based system is essentially sandboxed means that you are free to do things that you might not ordinarily consider safe on your mission-critical PC.
Of course, the free version of Spoon doesn’t let you play with the big guns. If you want to be able to work with the likes of Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite, you will have to part with some cash for a Spoon Studio license.
You can use an isolated browser to visit some of those sites that you might not trust, and web developers can check to see how their sites look in different browsers – including mobile versions – without having to access countless platforms or install numerous programs. There is also the fact that it’s just pretty cool.
Mark Wilson is a software fiend and a fan of the new, shiny and intriguing. Never afraid to get his hands dirty with some full-scale geekery, he’s always trying out the latest apps, hacks and tweaks. He can be found on Twitter and Google+.
- Published 01/30/13