Core Concepts

PRESTO is a web application for managing a group and signing up people for events. It makes it easy to:


A group is the PRESTO term for an organization that uses PRESTO to help manage its people and events. The people who manage a PRESTO group are called administrators. The administrators and other people of a group are called its users.

A user accesses her group by visiting Self-Signup Home (i.e. and then logging in. This means entering the email address and password stored for her within the group's people database. A group's people database is essentially the online version of its contact list. People get into this database by being registered.


An event is the overall thing being planned at any give time — such as a meeting, a book sale, a conference, or a theatre season. When you specify the dates of an event, you can include Setup and Takedown days if desired (i.e. the days to get the event site ready and the days to cleanup the site afterwards).

When you create an event from scratch, an empty signup schedule named Volunteer Signup is automatically created. You then use Make Signup Schedule to build its schedule items and set its properties (e.g. use Do Setup Action->Update Props to rename it if Volunteer Signup does not match your situation).

Schedule Items and Activities

Schedule items are what people can signup for at an event. A schedule item identifies an activity, when the activity is, and how many people are needed then. Depending on the kind of event, an activity might actually be a task, a seminar, a job title, a tennis court, a questionnaire, and so on.

You can create a schedule item's activity as part of creating the item. But you can also associate a schedule item with an already-defined activity. This is because you may want to offer the same activity at different times (e.g. maybe you have a morning and evening session with similar activities in each).

There are two broad categories of activities. Planning activities are things like questionnaires and long-term jobs (e.g. running a publicity campaign), and their schedule items only specify a date. On-site activities are short term time commitments (e.g. a work item, seminar, or court reservation). So their schedule items also specify a start and end time.

You create and edit schedule items on Make Signup Schedule. Similarly you use the Manage Activities page to edit activities in bulk. You can also modify one schedule item or activity at a time on See/Do Signups. To modify 1 schedule item, click on its When Info (i.e. date of planning item, start/end time of on-site item). To modify 1 activity, click on its name (note: this works on Make Signup Schedule as well).


Choosing to do an activity is called a signup. Depending on the sort of activity, the person might actually be reserving, volunteering, requesting, filling out, and so on.

An admin signup occurs when an administrator or agent does a signup on behalf of some user. A self-signup occurs when a person signs up herself. You allow self-signups by setting an event's web stage to Published. This makes its name and signup schedule(s) visible on Self-Signup Home.

Please note that one signs up for an activity, but one registers in the people database. To reiterate, an activity is something a person is doing, and a registration is who one is.

Signup Schedules

A signup schedule is a named collection of schedule items. It is entirely up to you what schedule items you create. For example, you might choose to describe and schedule on-site activities only, and handle planning activities informally "outside of" PRESTO.

An actual schedule contains schedule items, as well as having a view, and is built using the Make Signup Schedule page. You can also create view-only schedules. Except when the distinction is germane, both are simply referred to as schedules.

A schedule view is how a schedule is presented (e.g. list or grid), and which schedule items are displayed (e.g. only items that are not yet full). Users select the schedule they want to view by clicking on its name on Self-Signup Home. On a signup page or Make Signup Schedule, someone can change which view is displayed by using the dropdown menu in the page's title line.

You display a temporary schedule view by clicking on a icon and filling out the Display View box. If desired, you can then save this view for later use:

Audit Trail

The audit trail is a log of all the actions your group does. The info for one action is called an audit trail entry.

The ways the audit trail gets viewed:

The Name Says It All:

People, Reports, Email, Signups, Templates, Online.

People Database

The people database is the online version of your contact list. You can search the people database and view the matches. You can also send an announcement to the people who match a search, or generate a report about them.

People get entered into the database in one of two ways — collectively via Import People or individually by you or them filling out a registration form. You can customize the Registration form of your group.

Only people in the database can login to your group's PRESTO website. A person can change her contact info or password. She can also reestablish a password if she forgets her old one.

Report Generation

You can design, display, and print reports. Report columns can contain any signup info and registration info in your database, including your group's custom fields. Additionally, a column can be computed info. For example, if a signup form included an Hours_Worked field and an Hourly_Wage field, you could include a report column that contained Hours_Worked*Hourly_Wage.

When you design a report using Make/Output Report, you can also specify:

There are 3 factory-installed reports you can use or customize as desired: sign-in sheets, address labels, and name-badge labels.

Email Automation


You can create and send announcements using the Email Announcement page. It will email the message to each recipient whose email address is in your people database, and will notify you which people only have phone numbers.

Automatic Confirmations and Notifications

When a signup action occurs, you can have a confirmation message automatically sent. For example, the default confirmation message for a signup is: "Thank you for signing up. We have you down for: ... If you have any questions, please reply to this message or call ..."

You can customize the message that is used for each type of signup action. For an admin-signup, you can also choose to edit the message before it is sent out.

Signup Schedules and Forms

PRESTO makes it easy to signup people to participate at an event.

Building a Signup Schedule

Item-specific features:

Schedule-wide features:

Building a Signup Form

For many events, you do not need to design a signup form. You can just use the default signup form, which includes only the OK button. When you do create a signup form, you can put any number of fields into it, and even multiple fields on a row if desired.

For each field, you:

You can also provide help and/or in-line explanatory text for individual fields or the form as a whole.

Using Schedules

Viewing Schedules

Templates: Creating a New Thing from an Old Thing

You can use an existing event as a template:

You can also:

Online Access, Sharing, and Control

Benefits of a Web Application

Because PRESTO is a web application, people do not have to install any software to use PRESTO. Just tell a web browser your PRESTO home page and you are ready to go. Similarly PRESTO is completely portable. You can use it from any kind of system, including a smart phone.

Because your group's data is online, you can access it from any computer you have access to, even if you are just borrowing one. This also means you and everyone else share access to the same up-to-date data. Finally we take care of backing up your data for you.

You can use your browser's interoperability features (e.g. to print or save search results), and you can take advantage of links:

The PRESTO User Forum

The forum enables people to participate in multi-person discussions in their group or across the entire PRESTO community. Using the forum is much like using email. The main difference is that a forum makes it easy to keep track of multiple large discussions at the same time.

The forum is also a searchable resource. You can get answers to PRESTO support questions and other issues of common interest. In particular, the PRESTO team:

Application Interoperability

PRESTO makes it easy to interoperate with other applications:

Access Control

As noted above, you can control who can register, who can signup for which activities, and what form fields are admin-only. In addition: