I’ve never been a big fan of desktop wallets. I always thought that I was too mobile for them to be of any real use to me. I don’t see the appeal of being tied to a location. Even my laptop is relegated to a tool for writing. Nearly everything I do is on a mobile. So, what would it take for me to tie my bitcoin to a stationary location? The insane amount of power, versatility, security, and ability to run my Bitcoin experience like a bank should do it. Welcome to Electrum.
Electrum is one of the oldest bitcoin wallets, having been around since 2011. It’s also one of the most popular. It’s actively being developed for multiple platforms and has an active community. It’s light, clean, safe, and versatile.
Although I said it’s being developed on multiple platforms, I’m going to start with the desktop version. I’m specifically using Linux, but it also runs on WIndows and OS X. I will touch on the Android version later.
You can choose to install the easy way, as pictured above. Or you can build from source. The binaries are signed and you can check them. It’s more secure if you want to dig through the source code and then compile it on your own, but I’m not that paranoid.
Just a note, I’m not implying that paranoia is a bad thing. Downloading, verifying the download, and building from source is the most secure way to install. The fact that the option is there is a good thing, in my opinion.
After that it was as easy as finding it in the application menu. As I didn’t have an Electrum install yet, it started up with an install wizard. I chose to create a new wallet and left it at standard for now.
The installer then provided me with the ever important wallet seed. This, as you know by now, is your backup. As the warning says, never give this out to anyone, enter it into a website, send it to a printer, or compromise it in any way. Seriously, this is no joke.
I was then allowed to select a server or let Electrum choose one at random. As the instructions say, in most cases you’re going to want Electrum to choose one on its own. However, if you know of a server you trust, say one you run, you may want your Electrum wallet to use that one. For now, I chose to let Electrum pick a server at random.
In Transactions you can select a transaction fee ratio manually or allow the server to recommend. I hate stuck transactions, so I let the server worry about that. Further down, you can also choose to set your transaction fees manually. You can tell Electrum whether to use change addresses, even multiple change addresses, on transactions. This can increase security and privacy in some cases. You can choose to have it show you the transaction details before it finalizes it. You can also choose how Electrum chooses which funds to use in a transaction. Priority chooses the oldest coin first. Privacy goes through an entire selection process.
In Appearance you can choose your language. You can also select one of several denominations for your display. Electrum defaults to mBTC, but I much prefer the full BTC with decimals. There is a place to choose an online block explorer as well. If you want to use your computer’s webcam you can select it here.
There is a tab to add contacts with names and a Bitcoin address. I’m not a big fan of this feature, as I’m sure most of you know by now. I do not advocate reusing addresses for a multitude of reasons. I could, however, see using this feature if invoiced in some manner. Say, if you know you’re going to have to make repeated payments to a loan or something and the terms of the loan dictate all payments must be made to the same address over the life of the loan.
In that last screenshot you can see that I’m connected to an Electrum server. You can see that it identifies itself and has links for donations. You too can run an Electrum server. I may, in the future, set one up. If I do I will create a tutorial on it at that time.
In the meantime, I’d like to cover the Electrum Android wallet and how you can use it in combination with your Electrum desktop wallet.
Just a brief touch on watch-only because most people wouldn’t think to use it. But there’s a very important business use for this tech. You could have a business in which you have an Electrum install on an office computer in the back and a watch-only install on Point-Of-Sale devices like tablets or smartphones. These POS devices could display addresses and receive funds, but not be used to send. Or you could have an Electrum install on your home computer and use watch-only on your phone. This would allow you to pull up addresses and get paid to them while being able to verify that the funds make it to where they’re supposed to be. This would also make it so that, if you’re in some way being coerced to return the funds, it would be impossible. A watch-only wallet can display and verify. It cannot send.
To use watch-only you need a master public key.
If you don’t want to use the Android wallet as a watch only, you could use it as either a stand-alone, meaning you create a whole new seed.
Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you could create them all on the same device. When you create a new wallet, both on the Desktop and on Android, you get the same options of what type of wallet you want to install as the first time. Which means you can have standalone wallet on your desktop for security, a standalone wallet on your mobile for mobility, a watch-only wallet on your mobile to which to receive and to monitor the standalone wallet on your desktop.
Combine this with Electrum’s ability to work with Ledger, Trezor, and KeepKey hardware wallets and you have the ability to create any type of wallet you need to cover any circumstance you can think of.
So, you see, the versatility of Electrum is impressive. It’s also very clean and intuitive. I’m not certain I would recommend it to new users in the way I do Copay, but that’s simply because Copay runs on more devices. I absolutely recommend Electrum to advanced users, however. The possibilities are are too numerous to count. Give it a try and find out for yourself.