Userful Desktop™: Free Trial

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Copyright © 2007-2016 Userful Corporation. All rights reserved.
(Updated 2016.02.24)


By now you have a rough idea of what Userful Desktop is, either from our site or a webinar you have attended. Welcome to the next step, getting to know Userful Desktop, and making it work for you.

This page is intended to introduce you to Userful Desktop by guiding you through setting up your own free trial of the solution, using hardware you already have on-hand. By the end of this tutorial you will have:

  • Created a Userful Manager account
  • Installed and registered Userful Desktop
  • Performed basic modifications to the system, customizing it to your needs

Userful Desktop is powerful in its features and abilities in a public computing environment, yet simple to manage and maintain.

Userful Manager

Userful Manager is the cloud-based management tool for Userful Desktop. It is used to create, alter, and maintain all content, settings, and policies in Userful Desktop.

Before you begin, you need to create an account in Userful Manager. If you have never used Userful Manager before, you are actually creating two accounts in the same step - one for yourself and one for your organization.

Head to Userful Manager and click the "Register for your FREE Trial" link, or click here, and complete the form.

Once your registration is complete, congratulations! Before we dive too deeply into Userful Manager, let's move to the next step.

Download and Installation

The OS install screen

Userful Desktop is its own complete Linux-based Operating System, or OS. It installs from a disc in the same manner as Windows or other Linux distributions, though the process is greatly simplified.

Before we proceed, you need to find a computer or two that you:

  1. Are willing to completely erase and will be able to recover easily if necessary
  2. Will be compatible with Userful Desktop

How do you pick a compatible computer? If you have a conventional desktop PC purchased any time around 2008 or later, it 'should' work. But see the FAQ below for details.

Next you will need to download a copy of Userful Desktop. The software itself is freely available for anyone to download and use. Here is the download page.

You will be directed to a large .ISO file download. An .ISO file is a virtual copy of a DVD disc. It needs to be burned to a blank DVD in order to create an install disc. There are all sorts of free .ISO burning tools out there that can do this.

Once you have the disc burned and ready, place it in the optical drive of the computer you have allocated for this trial, and reboot the machine. It should boot from the disc and offer to start the installation. If not, read our page on changing your boot device so that it does.

WARNING: Point of no return. Proceeding beyond this point will cause to you lose ALL DATA stored on the computer you are about to install Userful on. Please ensure you have a solution in place for restoring the original software if necessary.

Choose your desired language and partitioning scheme, if you do not want to erase the entire hard drive. Hard drive partitioning is its own beast entirely though, so unless you know what you're doing, it's usually easier to have Userful Desktop erase everything.

The install itself will take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. If it gets to the end and seems to "stick" for a few minutes, don't worry, it's still working.

Once finished, the computer will eject the DVD and ask you to reboot. Remove the disc and let it restart, then it's time to move to the next step.

Registration and Configuration

Initial Configuration Screen

On first boot, you will see a screen similar to the one on the right. You will only see this once per computer, but a quick explanation is in order:

  • Network: Configure your network settings here. If Userful Desktop detected your network interface, you're probably set. Userful Desktop will use DHCP to connect by default, and if that is good enough for you, then move on, otherwise configure your static IP settings in the "Properties" screen.
  • Network Proxy: If Userful traffic is to be routed through a network proxy, enter it here. If you aren't sure what this is or if you need it or not, leave it alone.
  • Apply Configuration: Now we're getting into the good stuff! The system should contact Userful Manager and ask for your login. Remember the account you created a few steps ago? Whip out that username and password and punch it in, and register the computer to your account. Leave everything as the defaults for now (though you can change the name of the computer if you want) and complete the process.
  • Date and Time: You can configure date/time settings here but this is overridden by Userful Manager, so it can be ignored for now.
  • Printers: Use this to... configure your printers! The easiest way to do it is to first add a printer, then highlight "Network Printers" in the box that comes up, then enter the IP address of the printer in question into the box and allow the system to try installing it itself. It's pretty good at it, but not always perfect. If you don't get a printer configured during this step, it's not the end of the world, just contact us (below) and we will be happy to assist.
  • Enable System: If you're ready to go, click away! Please note that you MUST at minimum complete the "Apply Configuration" step before enabling the system in order for Userful Desktop to function correctly!


Initial Configuration Screen

You now have a fully functional Userful Desktop public computer! Congratulations!

But we're not done yet! Like any other system, it needs some tweaking in order to serve your needs. Fortunately, the hard part is over! For this step, you don't even have to be in front of your new Userful computer.

Let's go back to Userful Manager and log in. From the home page, go to "Solutions Expert".

WOAH! There's a lot of stuff to play with here! You can read the Userful Manager Guide here, but for now let's focus on some basics.

First off, click "Location", then "Default Location", and enter your organization's details, most importantly time zone, and then hours of operation on the next screen. This will ensure Userful Desktop keeps accurate time and logs all patrons off at the correct time of day. Click "Save" when done, then go back to "Solutions Expert", either with your browser back buttons or the word near the top of the page.

Next, let's to into "Session Profiles". The profiles already in here are just templates, modify, add new ones, or delete as you see fit. The first thing you probably want to do is set your preferred homepage for your browsers. Click "Save" When done, back to Solutions Expert again!

Last step! Before you are finished, click "Computers". You will see the computer(s) that you registered here listed. Before the changes you just made actually take effect, you need to "Apply Configuration" to each machine.

Once that's done, either go back to the Userful computer and hit "Ctrl+Alt+U" or wait up to 4 hours for the machine to update all by itself.


Q: What kind of PCs are compatible with Userful Desktop?

Userful Desktop has two hard requirements:

  • 64-bit processor
  • 2GB of RAM for decent single-seat performance, 4GB is recommended

A DVD drive for installation is required, though a temporary USB optical drive can be used. Installing Userful Desktop from a flash drive is not supported at this time.

Any conventional major-name-brand desktop PC should be compatible. This can include more compact machines such as small form factor desktops and "mini" PCs such as the Intel NUC.

Userful Desktop is not tested or certified for:

  • Laptops
  • All-in-ones (though it does have some touch screen support)
  • Apple computers
  • Chrome OS devices
  • Tablet PCs

Q: Do I need a Userful server to run Userful Desktop on my computers?

No. Any computer running Userful Desktop, be it a single desktop PC or a zero client server installed in the network closet, is a fully self-contained system and needs no external support beyond an internet connection.

Q: What's the difference between Userful Desktop on a zero client server and on a desktop PC?

Surprisingly little! The major difference is that using it on a desktop puts all the computing power right in front of the user. A zero client setup hides it in the back, out of harm's way, and saves on energy costs. Otherwise, from a functional point of view, there is no practical difference between running Userful Desktop on stand-alone PCs versus zero clients, other than increased support needs due to all the extra hardware.

Regardless of which path you take, the software all comes from the same disc.

Q: Do I need a zero client to get the most out of the trial?

If you have a computer capable of controlling a zero client, you most likely have a computer capable of running Userful Desktop as a public workstation. Having a zero client changes essentially nothing about the functionality of the solution, other than giving you an idea of what a zero client looks like. Even for network testing, you would need more than one or two clients to truly test the capacity of your network, and there are purpose-built tools that can do that job much more effectively.

However if you would still like to obtain a zero client for testing or demonstration purposes, contact or call 1-866-873-9126.

Q: What printers are compatible with Userful Desktop?"

Most printers from the following manufacturers work well on Userful Desktop, and we will be happy to assist you with their configuration:

  • HP
  • Ricoh
  • Konica Minolta
  • Samsung

The following printer brands mostly work with Userful, but setup and maintenance should be discussed ahead of the trial:

  • Canon
  • Dell
  • Xerox
  • Brother

Brands that have limited functionality, frequently have issues, or are untested altogether include:

  • Sharp
  • Toshiba
  • Oce
  • Apple
  • Kyocera

We can make no guarantees about our ability to integrate successfully with these brands.

Q: What print release vendors do you work with?

Userful partners directly with OCS and CMS to provide fully automated print release solutions. We are also compatible with ITC release systems.

At this time, integration with Pharos or Envisionware print release systems is not supported. Generally speaking, we do not integrate with print release systems that are designed to function as part of another public computing solution.

Q: What sort of filtering do you offer?

Userful Desktop comes with its own built-in content filter. It uses a combination of black- and while-listing and dynamic detection to filter internet content. It all happens locally on the computer, no extra infrastructure is needed.

If you prefer to use another network-based filtering solution, Userful Desktop has no problems working with that.

Q: Can we sign up for a training session?

Full user and administrator training is part of a Userful Desktop package. If you are interested in pursuing a serious trial of Userful Desktop, speak to your sales representative about a staff training session.

Q: Do you have any more documentation or videos?

Full Userful Desktop documentation is available at

Videos are on their way!

Q: Something went wrong with the install, I don't have a desktop or some other error occurred.

Please collect as much information as you can about the computer you are using - such as CPU, graphics card, memory, etc. and contact Userful as per below.

Contact Information

If you have initiated the free trial of Userful Desktop through a Userful Sales representative, you are more than welcome to submit any questions, comments, or requests for assistance directly to the Activations Manager. You will have the relevant contact information from your Sales representative.

If you have initiated the free trial of your own accord, please first consult the rest of our Userful Desktop documentation thoroughly. If your question is still not answered and you are interested in pursuing Userful Desktop as a solution for your library, please contact or call 1-866-873-9126.