You’ve got your own PC set up at home just the way you like it, with all of the software you need installed ready for when you need it. When you’re out and about, you probably take your laptop with you and this has been similarly set up.
But what about when you have to use someone else’s computer? You might be at a friend’s house and want to use a particular program that they don’t have installed. If you don’t want to have to go to the trouble of downloading and installing your favorite apps every time you move to a different computer, portable apps may be what you need.
There’s something of a clue about what to expect in the moniker ‘portable apps’. These are applications that have been especially designed to run from a USB drive so you can use them on any computer without the need to keep installing the same software over and over again.
After downloading almost any application, the first thing you have to do it to install it before you can get to work. This is often not a problem but if you are not using your own computer, you may not be able to install software of your own – this could be because of a system restriction or just the preferences of the computer’s owner.
A few months ago we took a look at some of the most useful portable apps and to follow this up we thought we’d take a look at one of the best repositories for such software – PorableApps.com. Many of the program features in the previous roundup are available on the PortableApps web site, but there also a useful container apps which can be used to create your perfect USB-based software collection.
You can download all of the portable apps you want to use on an individual basis if you like, but there is also a handy utility in the form of the PortableApps.com Platform which can be used to manage your software collection and create your own custom USB drive packed with the tools you need.
Pay a visit to the PorableApps web site and click the green Download Now button. Click the Download Now button to be taken to the SourceForge web site to download the installer and save it to your desktop.
Run through the installer and when prompted for a location, click the browse button and select your USB drive. This will install the PortableApps software to your drive as well as creating a Documents folder so everything you need is readily available on your USB stick.
When the installation is complete, ensure that the Launch PortableApps.com Platform box is ticked and click Finish.
Choosing Your Apps
So far you have only installed the platform app; you can now select which portable apps you would like to add to your USB drive. You will be presented with a lengthy list of apps broken up into a number of categories ranging from games and education to graphics and office.
Take a browse through the list and tick the box to the left of any of the apps you are interested in. When you’ve finished selecting software, click the Next button to continue. It’s worth totting up the app sizes that are listed to the right of the window to ensure that you don’t run out of space on your USB drive – and don’t forget to leave as little space for your documents.
The process of downloading all of the selected app will then begin. For many apps this is all that is needed, but there are some – such as Google Chrome Portable – which require installation, and you’ll be guided through the process as and when necessary.
Using Portable Apps
Once all of your chosen apps have been downloaded and installed, you’ll see that there is a new icon in the notification area of the taskbar. This works like a version of the Start menu for your portable apps, and if you left click it you’ll see a list of the app you have installed – it works in very much the same way as the Start menu, with your most frequently used apps appearing at the top of the list, but with everything else being accessible through the All Portable Apps sub-menu.
You can add more apps to your collection by right clicking the same icon and select the Apps option followed by Get More Apps – there’s also the option to check for the availability of updates.
Providing you have autorun enabled on any computer you use, the PortableApps Platform will run automatically when you plug in your USB drive, but you can easily use Explorer to navigate to the drive and manually launch the Start.exe application.
The PortableApps Platform tool can be viewed like an app store for portable software. There are plenty of web sites from which you can download portable apps, but by using this tool you can access them all in the same place without having to hunt all over the internet for what you’re looking for.
The flexibility you are given by having all of your software and documents in one place means that you are free to use almost any computer and still have access to the tools you need – no need to worry about syncing files or settings?
How do you get on with portable apps? Have you found any gems that you’d like to share with others? Let us know in the comments below.