In this article, we'll explain the tools Geth and Mist.

For a better understanding of the content that follows, please read:


What is Geth?

Geth is an implementation of an Ethereum node in the Go programming language.

In simpler terms, Geth is a program which serves as a node for the Ethereum blockchain, and via which a user can mine Ether and create software which runs on the EVM – the Ethereum Virtual Machine. This software can be things like crypto tokens, decentralized apps, and more.

You can download Geth here.

After startup, Geth will connect to the existing live blockchain or create its own, depending on provided settings. Left at the default values, Geth will connect to the live Ethereum blockchain (the Mainnet) which we use daily. Simply by running Geth, you're already participating in making the Ethereum network better and stronger. Geth also serves as a console for inputting certain commands and executing specific functions. For example, here's how to check an account's balance:

Geth check balance

Looks complicated, doesn't it?

Note: running Geth will initiate the download of the entire blockchain as described in this article about nodes. This can take days and use up to several hundred GB. Use of an external SSD USB drive is recommended – it will maintain longevity of your main hard drive and keep it clean.

To make Geth easier to use, we'll connect to it with Mist. You do not need to run Geth. Mist will run it for you invisibly.

What is Mist?

Mist is a program which connects to Geth in the background, and also serves as an interface for the wallet.

When Geth is running, it synchronizes with the public blockchain by downloading all its data. Mist is just a human-friendly interface for talking to Geth. In other words, Geth is both your node and your wallet, but instead of talking to it through obscure commands (i.e. web3.fromWei(eth.getBalance(eth.coinbase)) to get an account's balance), Mist will provide that same information in the UI without you even having to ask for it.

You can download Mist from this link. Download the version called Mist-installer, not the Ethereum-Wallet one.

The difference between Mist-installer and Ethereum-wallet is that Mist is, by itself, a web and Ethereum browser as well as a wallet interface. Ethereum-wallet has the browser functionality removed for safety, and only a single dapp installed – the wallet interface. Hence, they are the same, but the latter is limited in functionality.

The file you pick will depend on your operating system. OS X users will pick the .dmg file, Windows users will go for the .exe file, while Linux users will most often go with the .deb file.

After having downloaded it, run the installation process then run the app. If you're not sure where it got installed, just enter its name into your operating system's search bar:

Mist search

Mist – First Run

After running it for the first time, Mist checks whether or not it has the latest Geth installed on the same machine and then checks for contact with the Ethereum network.

Geth version check

Then, Mist looks for peers – nodes it can connect to so it can download blockchain data from them.

Geth peering

Having found them, Mist begins to download the extraordinary amount of required data.

Blockchain download

This can take days, depending on the speed of the computer and internet connection. It doesn't have to finish all at once – you can shut it down and come by later or leave it overnight. You can also Launch the app outright and wait for sync in the background while actually using the app.

After syncing is finished, Mist will ask which network to use: Main or Test. Pick any of them. Unless you made an address beforehand in Geth via the personal.newAccount command (you probably didn't and that's fine), it'll also ask you for a password. That password additionally secures your wallet, but don't forget it – it cannot be changed and it cannot be restored. Choose wisely. The JSON file that gets generated by this process is then encrypted with this password, and can be imported into various wallet tools like MetaMask, MyEtherWallet, etc. To get to the JSON file(s) (for backup purposes) go to File -> Backup -> Accounts and Mist will open the folder containing the JSON files of generated addresses (see below).

Mist – Addresses

After these initial steps have been completed, the main screen of the Mist app will appear. It'll only have the main address you just generated shown on the screen. That address is called a coinbase address (no, it has nothing to do with the popular exchange) and that's the address that gets credited with Ether when it's mined if you'll be mining it on this machine.

Mist main screen

To be able to safely play with Ether and Mist's functionality, we need to switch to the test network if you're not already connected to it. In the Develop menu, go to Network -> Ropsten.

Ropsten

For an explanation of testnets, please read this post. The gist of it is that there exist various public test networks for testing Ethereum software, but the Ether on those networks is worthless so there's no danger in doing reckless things and developing carelessly. Ropsten is one such network.

Feel free to use the Add Account feature to add more addresses. One Geth/Mist can sustain an infinite number of addresses. The picture below shows three generated addresses.

3 addresses

If we click any of them, we'll see some details.

Eth address detalji

The part next to the icon above the balance – the one starting with 0x90… is the address to which we can send Ether. But how do we get some? If you're connected to the Ropsten network, you can use their faucet site: http://faucet.ropsten.be:3001/

Enter this address into the first field on that site and request some Ether.

Ether sent

If your node is synced up, the new balance should show up immediately. If it doesn't, turn the app off and on again – it sometimes needs a reset to re-sync properly.

Sending and Receiving Ether

Sending is extremely simple. Open the Send interface in Mist, put the receiving address into “To” and select the sender under “From” (use the address you sent Ether to from the faucet.

Send 5 Ether

You can pick the sending speed at the bottom of the screen. Cheaper is slower. Press send to send Ether, and input the password you previously decided on when asked for it.

Mist password

In this example, we're sending 5 Eth from one address with 225 Eth to another with 0 Eth. The Ether should arrive almost instantly.

Sent 5 Ether

Contracts

The Contracts screen allows you to run smart contracts – creating new tokens or adding existing ones to the list of available tokens. When a new token is created on Ethereum, it's not immediately visible on blockchain explorers like Etherscan. First it has to be added to Watched contracts – this makes the app aware of it and lets you use it in transactions. Explorers will only recognize it once it's been sent around.

We'll cover the building of our own token in a followup post.

Conclusion

Geth and Mist are essential tools for every ambitious Ethereum network participant. If you'd like to try mining or developing Ethereum software (ICOs, tokens, dapps), or if you just want to control your own node and thus your own wallet's key, thereby signing your own transactions instead of relying on third party software, installing and getting to know Geth and Mist is definitely worth the trouble.


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