Applications to Go! Keep your life on a USB stick...

Some people have one computer they - and they only - use all the time. It sits in the living room / study / bedroom they have all their software installed there and it never moves. That covers a lot of people and they are happy that way. Some people however are not like that. Maybe youíve got a desktop and a laptop. Maybe you borrow your partners cool new laptop because itís easier than digging out yours. Sometimes perhaps you have to use your parents PC which has none of the stuff you want on it. Who knows, maybe you donít actually own a computer full time or you switch between a machine at home and work. Well for you thereís a nice little way to make things easier to work on any computer - Portable Apps.

Indeed there are often times when even if you are happy with your one computer most of the time it would be handy to have some useful tools handy wherever you go. Maybe you need to do some word processing and you want to make sure you have access to software wherever you are even if you are borrowing your palís PC. Again Portable Apps steps in.

If you look at your usual desktop youíll see a few files lying around, often some folders you copied there a while ago and those four or five applications you use all the time. A web browser, a word processor, maybe email program, maybe chat. Usually they are set up the way you want them - bookmarks of pages you visit often, maybe some word processor templates etc. The point is itís annoying to not have them and itís annoying to have to set up someone elseís programs the way you like them. It might even be seen as bad form to bookmark all your geeky web comics on your girlfriendís new laptop! What you need is a copy of the programs that retain their settings wherever they are run and can be handily stored on a portable device - like a little USB stick. You know the cheap little ones you get free for visiting a trade show.

Portable apps ?- portableapps.com - is a site that lets you download all sorts of programs that you can install on a USB key. They range from Web browsers to anti virus applications and guarantee not to touch the underlying system as long as you run them straight from the USB key. They also save all their settings onto the USB key meaning for example that your browsing history, bookmarks, cookies etc. are all safely stored and as soon as youíve removed the device from the computer thereís no audit trail left behind. Now Iím not advocating this as a way of surfing dodgy sites at work - and in fact it probably wonít help as a tech savvy company will block sites at the perimeter - but it does mean you can click accept to remember passwords for web sites that possibly you donít want other people getting access to if itís a shared computer.

It is often handy to take round with you applications that you use but are not always installed on most PCís. A lot of people use ďGimpĒ for photo editing but it is uncommon to find ready for you on someone else computer. Likewise most people donít have a HTML editor handy.

It is not only serious applications that are covered. Youíll find a number of games and a couple of music and video players. Portable VLC is a very handy tool to have when you want to show a video file and you donít want to install all those codecs on someone elseís computer.

The site even has a handy pre-packaged ďsuiteĒ of applications covering most bases which has a nice little menu which launches when you insert your USB key into most machines.

Two caveats to bear in mind. Firstly things will run a little more slowly from a USB key than from the hard disk of a computer. Programs like Open Office are slow to start up the first time anyway so have a little patience. Secondly donít expect any Microsoft applications to come this way - so no Internet Explorer, Outlook or MS Word. The licensing as well as technical issues make this to hard to do.

Finally if you find this all useful donít forget to back up your USB key! In fact backing them up is nice and simple - as everything is stored in files you can simply copy over everything from the key to somewhere safe - say for instance the hard disk of your own computer. If you loose your key simply copy them all back onto a new one.

By Primitive Designs Last updated: 30 September 2011, 17:23