Take your software with you: Portable Apps

On the road

What software would you take with you
on the road?
Image by OneEighteen

What do you do if you’re away from home and want to use a particular piece of software only to find that the PC you have access to doesn’t have it installed? Perhaps you’ve got to do some image manipulation and find that your only option is Microsoft Paint! Maybe you need to FTP something to your webserver and (like me) you can’t figure out an easy way to do it in Vista. Maybe it’s just a case of wanting to use your bookmarks and plugins in Firefox – after all, you took the time to customise your browser, so why not?

One option would be to bring a laptop with you, and that’s a perfectly good idea. But if you don’t have a laptop, or just don’t want to take it with you this time, there’s another option: portable applications.

Portable applications are designed to reside on a USB drive rather than on the PCs hard drive, so you can take them with you and run them on any PC that will: a) mount a USB drive, and b) allow you to run programs that didn’t come with the computer. That might sound like a bit of a daft thing to say, but you may find that some computer have had their USB ports disabled for “security” purposes, and/or require the permission of an administrator to run applications that haven’t been pre-approved. But even so, you should find that this works on most PCs.

Let’s look at some real life examples as to why you would want to do this: I enabled disc use on my iPod so that it acts as a USB drive, and installed portable versions of Firefox 3 (web browser), Filezilla (FTP client), GIMP (image manipulation and creation) and Evernote (note-taking).

So, as I mentioned above, I can take all of my bookmarks and plugins with me when using Firefox on someone else’s PC. Now, I know that I could use delicious to make my bookmarks portable, but that’s not quite as handy as just having them there in the browser. I also have all of my saved passwords with me, which I wouldn’t trust to a 3rd party online service.

Evernote portable works just like the normal desktop version and, yes, there is a web-based version so you could wonder why you would want to go to the trouble of having the portable one? Perhaps this is personal taste, but I find the web-based Evernote slightly clunky and unfriendly, while the desktop version is really great. That makes the portable version worthwhile for me.

Filezilla and GIMP? Well, I already mentioned those too… I just can’t figure out how to quickly FTP stuff in Vista, and I hate having to use MS Paint when I want to knock up a graphic. So, those come with me too :)

Portable apps are a great way of using customised workspaces while on the road, and a great way of using apps that just aren’t available on your temporary computer. I’ll certainly be keeping a few apps on my iPod from now on!

At the moment, I have only tested portable apps on PC, although there are applications available for Mac too – have a poke around the internet and see what you find useful! Visit PortableApps.com for loads of portable versions of your favourite applications.

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