Tools Roundup: Portable Edition

Is your computer so bogged down with software you rarely use that it takes several minutes to boot? Have you ever sat down at a friends computer and been missing your favorite piece of software? If you answered yes to either question then read on. If you didn't you may still read on.

Most people these days carry a thumbstick around. They might look tiny attached to your keys but many of them are quite large in capacity. So what do people put on them? Photos, Resumes, Presentations. Well you can carry software around with you as well.

If you carry your favorite apps around with you then you will never be caught without "that really great FTP app" when you try and fix your grandmothers PC.

You should really start with the portable apps site. These guys repackage existing Open Source applications in such a way that they can run without integration with your computers environment. What does that mean? It means that the application "installs" to a self-contained folder. Once installed the apps can be moved around with a simple XCOPY.

These guys have really nailed the portable application experience packaging popular apps in a way that makes them easy to install and use. Among those on my thumbstick at the moment:
  • Portable Notepad++
  • Portable Firefox - Actually loads faster off of my thumbstick than IE7 does off of my hard-drive!
  • Portable KeepPass
  • Portable Sunbird
  • Portable GIMP
  • Portable FileZilla
  • Portable Pidgin

There are heaps more available on the website including Portable OpenOffice. Also make sure that you check out the PortableApps Suite which comes with its own menu and backup system.

Huzzah no more corrupt registry entries, difficult to locate XML files or Start Menu clutter, and no apps mysteriously missing their uninstaller. And remember that these applications don't actually need to be run from a thubstick. Do you need system integration with FileZilla? Really?

Portable Foxit

What's this? A PDF reader that loads in under 20 minutes? Impossible! I am not going to harp on too much about Foxit but for 99.99% of PDF reading needs this application will do what you need it to. If you have been stuck using other (unnamed) PDF readers then why not give Foxit a go. Download the zip file version and it will run from anywhere, including your thumbstick.


Blogs are all well and good for recording information which is open to the public but what about other, more sensitive, information? I'm not talking about credit card numbers and banking passwords, I mean friends birthdays and project ideas. For this sort of information a personal wiki is an excellent tool.

I like TiddlyWiki because it doesn't require a server, it doesn't make you install python or php, and it works just as I want it to. It is a single html page with some javascript goodness inside. Download a copy and have a play.

Portable Ruby on Rails

Rails isn't an application it's a framework for building applications. If you ever wanted to learn Ruby on Rails then I highly recommend this approach.The article tells you how to build a portable ruby implementation (which comes with a digital copy of Programming Ruby, the best way to learn) and then how to get rails working on top. Roll this up with Portable NVU and you have a web-development platform on a stick.

If you can get everything to work together then you can become a roving Rails consultant. Able to work on any computer, giving presentations from any machine and able to show work in progress at a client site without messy installation procedures. Sounds good right?

If you use a portable application that I haven't listed, let me know.

Posted by: Mike Minutillo
Last revised: 27 May, 2011 02:42 PM History


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