I have my home desktop set up with applications for a variety of tasks, but when traveling, at work or at a friend’s house (I’m often de facto IT for friends and family) I never seem to have the tools I need. I used to carry around a book of CDs with various applications, but that was bulky and required installation on someone else’s machine. About three years ago I discovered PortableApps.com and now I just carry a thumbdrive with the PortableApps suite — a downloadable collection of freeware and open-source utilities (for PCs only, not Macs) designed to be loaded onto a removable drive.
The “Portable” in PortableApps means that no installation is required and no data is saved to the host machine. You don’t need to be logged in as an account that allows software installs (i.e., an admin. account). Your data is stored on the flash drive, so when you load Firefox Portable Edition, you have your bookmarks and passwords at hand. When you load your FTP client, you have your saved IP addresses.
With PortableApps your data is not stored on the host PC. The advantage of this is that data such as browsing history, temp. files and config. files are not stored on someone else’s computer. That has privacy and security benefits, and could keep you from getting blamed for problems because you installed unfamiliar programs on someone else’s computer.
A huge range of useful applications is included. Some standouts are Firefox Portable Edition, Pidgin Portable (a multi-IM client), OpenOffice Portable, GIMP Portable (image editing) and Firebird Portable (e-mail). Also included are FTP clients, media players and DVD authoring programs.
Aside from the benefit of portability, PortableApps is a curated list of legal, free products. Application versions are kept up to date. The suite is downloadable with one click, and there’s a categorized menu to access the files
This suite has come in handy so many times I’ve lost count. I even keep a folder on my regular hard drive because the apps are so useful. I also appreciate that PortableApps.com continues to update the list of applications and their versions. It’s even possible to manually add applications to the suite, but I haven’t needed to do that yet.