Nano Desktop Wallet Beta Review


We were fortunate to be invited by Nano core team to try the new Nano desktop wallet for Mac OS X, currently in beta.

The beta is a preliminary technology preview of the future of Nano’s desktop wallet, with a complete overhaul of the UI pending. Although a light wallet for desktop may come in the future, the current Nano desktop wallet beta still runs a full node behind the scenes. The good news however, is the initial block lattice download that previously took hours or days in RaiBlocks wallet version 9.0.0, now requires 30 minutes or less on a broadband Internet connection. This is based on bootstrapping enhancements that allow the client to download larger chunks of the block lattice at a time, and select closer peers.

As mentioned above, a brand new interface is also in the works, which will represent a complete visual refresh of the wallet. We’ll do a follow up review once the new build is out, but we can already tell from the screenshots that it’s looking quite slick. Visual appeal will be an important part of getting new users acquainted with Nano.

For this review, we tested beta 2 sent out to invitees at February 17, 2018 2:32am EST.

If you would like to try the beta yourself, sign up for an invitation for Windows, Mac or Linux with your email address. Invites will be sent out in batches as the devs become ready to onboard more users for testing. We expect the pre-release software to change rapidly as users send in bug reports and suggestions to Devin Alexander Torres (@devinus), who is heading up the development efforts for the desktop wallet.

Downloading the Nano Block Lattice

Getting started with the desktop wallet was easy as mounting the disk image (.dmg file) and dragging the Nano Desktop app to the Applications folder on our Mac. Immediately after launching the app, it began to download a copy of the block lattice from the Internet. The download commenced at 12:15pm and it was complete in an impressive 21 minutes, by 12:36pm on a connection with a 25Mbps download speed.

Initializing the Nano Wallet

After that, we were greeted by a welcome screen where we could “Create New Wallet” or “Import [an existing] Wallet.” For testing, we chose to create a new wallet. The new setup process is driven by a user-friendly wizard, that walks the user through backing up their mnemonic seed (private key), and setting a password to unlock their wallet.

Backing Up the Nano Mnemonic Seed

This is a marked improvement over the legacy wallet, which generated a new wallet upon first startup, and left the user to their own devices to backup the seed manually from the Accounts view. Also, instead of a seed phrase made up of 64 hexadecimal characters, there is now a mnemonic phrase made up of 24 dictionary words, which is less error-prone to write down on a paper wallet. The raw seed is still available under “Copy Raw Seed”, but the mnemonic phrase serves the same purpose.

Creating a Nano Wallet Password

Next, the user is prompted to set a password to protect his or her wallet from unauthorized access. This password is not required to import the wallet to a new machine; the mnemonic phrase or raw seed alone can do that. However, it is used for day-to-day access to the desktop wallet. We would suggest adding a “Confirm Password” field to avoid locking the user out of their own wallet, in case of any typos.

Once complete, the Nano wallet is ready for use. You may view the network status of the wallet by hovering over the connectivity bars in the top of the window. If the application is fully synced with network connectivity to other Nano peers, it should show a series of green bars.

Managing Multiple Nano Accounts

Initially, you will have one account address beginning with “xrb_” in your account list. There’s no limit to the number of accounts (i.e. addresses) you can generate by clicking on the “Create Account” button, all backed up by the same seed you recorded during the setup wizard. The team will likely update the addresses to begin with “nano_” instead of “xrb_”, and change the units to be denoted in NANO instead of XRB for final release.

We also encountered a bug, where the new account addresses show up blank after returning to the overview once a new account is created. The newly created accounts appear correctly in the list after logging out then back into the wallet, but this should be corrected in a future release.

Sending and Receiving Nano

For testing, we used, maintained by community member @MrCryptoBeard, to receive a small amount of Nano to one of our addresses. Given this is pre-release software, the core team doesn’t recommend storing any amount of Nano one isn’t willing to lose, which makes the small sum provided by the faucet ideal for our purposes.

Receiving Nano

The funds first appeared in our “Pending” balance, then after 20-30 seconds once the Proof of Work (PoW) is done calculating for the receiving block, it appeared in our finalized balance, denoted by “Balance” available for use. There are additional enhancements which can be added to pre-calculate the PoW based on the previous hash, to make funds appear to be received almost instantly in a future build.

Although you can highlight the receive address to copy it, from a UI/UX perspective, we would suggest adding a “clipboard” button so users can copy the address with a single click. This would also reduce the likelihood users mistakenly forget to copy the first or last few characters. 

Sending Nano

Sending Nano is also very easy with the new wallet. Simply click on the Send tab in the navigation bar, or select the address you wish to send from, then click the “Send” link. You can also select the address you wish to take the balance from using the “Source Account” dropdown menu.

Possible usability suggestions to this pane:

  • Adding a camera option for the user to scan a destination account’s QR code using their webcam
  • Showing the Nano balance beside each of the addresses in the “source account” dropdown
  • Including a shortcut so users can send the “Max” amount of funds available from that address

History Pane

The individual history of each account, including all send and receive transactions can be viewed as a chronological list.

Settings Pane

The Settings pane currently allows the user to view their wallet ID and change their password. Probably an option to “change representative” will be added here in a later release, and maybe other features like manually broadcasting a block, so this is more of a placeholder than anything.

First Impressions on the Nano Desktop Wallet Beta for Mac

We spent some time sending balances between each our addresses, and back to the Nano faucet without a hitch. It was impressive how well the core functionality worked in this early release, so we’re optimistic that the final product will be even better. Hopefully Devin, and the rest of the developers working on the wallet will consider our suggestions and fix the minor bug we noticed. Overall, this beta reflects the excellent work we can always count on from the Nano team.

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