I mentioned portable apps before. I’d like to go back over it in more detail as I find them so darn handy.
I don’t travel much so I don’t have a regular reason for carrying my software around in my pocket, but there’s another way to use them. Right on my hard-drive.
If you go over to the PortableApps site and download the PortableApps Suite, you get basic OpenSource programs with it; Firefox, Thunderbird, ClamWin anti-virus, Pidgin Instant Messenger, Sunbird Calendar and OpenOffice. Or you can have the Lite version using AbiWord instead of OpenOffice. Then you can browse through a list and download anything else that appeals to you – Audacity audio editor, Z-zip, Gimp, Notepad++, VLC media player, etc.
PortableApps is the OpenSource and free version of a portable environment for Windows computers.
From there you can go over to Portable Freeware and browse through by category, most popular, etc. Or Wikipedia for an extensive listing by category. So, between the three sites, you can get enough software to keep you busy for several lifetimes.
What I like about this portable software is that it’s extremely easy to install and even easier to update. You can put it on a USB key or external hard-drive, an iPod, maybe even a CD.
I don’t even have to install the ‘regular’ versions of the same software. I can keep the usual group of shortcuts on my desktop, but linked to the portable apps instead.
After installation of PortableApps you can open and close this menu on your desktop, or on any other Windows computer you plug into:
When you want to add a new program to PortableApps, just click on Options, Install a New App, and browse to the file you’ve downloaded. It will be done for you in a flash. This only works with software from the PortableApps site. For other software there’s a different procedure.
For programs downloaded from other sites, such as Portable Freeware, just open the folder if it’s a zip and move the plain folder to your folder called PortableApps, wherever you put that when you initially installed the Suite. The software will immediately show up on the list above. Sometimes there’s a simple instruction or two from the developer that you should read first and follow.
Deleting programs is as easy as deleting their folder from the PortableApps folder. That’s just a folder full of folders, one for each program.
I like to check PortableApps for updates about once a month. They keep a handy list on their homepage. It’s as simple as downloading the updated file and using the Installation instructions above.
I keep my PortableApps on an external hard-drive along with copies of all my files. Just in case I ever want to cut and run. I run several programs directly from there instead of installing them to my hard-drive in the usual manner. There’s really no point in doing that when I can have the portable version that looks and runs just the same.
There are other options that will cost you. Such as U3 (update: now seemingly defunct) and MojoPac (also gone) and Ceedo. Some portable software is only U3-compatible and you have to purchase a U3 thumb-drive to use it on, and the U3-only compatible software. If there’s something there you just have to have. The price of USB drives has come down so far lately you can get a 2GB Sandisk Cruzer Titanium for $50. The price of the software varies, and most of it is still free.
This does not cover all the software that you use or would want to, but it’s a start on it. And there’s more portable software coming on board all the time.
If you need to take your whole computer in your pocket, MojoPac and Ceedo are a different concept. They turn virtually any portable USB device into a Windows environment where you can install whatever you normally would on a Windows PC, and then run it off another Windows PC. MojoPac costs about $50, Ceedo $30.
I had some problems with MojoPac when I tried it last Fall, but that was almost a year ago. I’m sure it’s better by now. Note: it only runs on a host computer with administrator rights. That would exclude things like schools, libraries, hotels and Internet cafes. Ceedo I’m not familiar with but it’s the same sort of thing. For sure, you’ll want to run the 30-day trials of these before purchase to make sure one or the other would suit your purposes.
Another one that looks promising is MokaFiveLivePC, albeit a tad complicated.