Make your apps portable

Lifehacker.com recently reviewed the release of PortableApps Suite 1.0, a polished, light weight application that you can use to install portable applications to removable storage devices such as USB Flash drives, mp3 players, external hard drives but also your main system.

The Portable Apps Suite provides you with a launcher that you can use to start portable apps that you have selected and added to the suite before. So, you start the menu and get to pick the apps that you have added to the device.

The programs are fully portable which means that you do not need to worry about Registry or file changes on the host operating system, or temporary files that leave traces on it.PortableApps Suite 1.0 comes in standard, lite, and base editions.

Applications can be added or removed via the PortableApps menu. The following represents a sample of apps available on the site:

  • 7-Zip Portable
  • AbiWord Portable
  • Audacity Portable
  • ClamWin Portable
  • FileZilla Portable
  • Firefox Portable
  • Gaim Portable
  • GIMP Portable
  • Miranda IM Portable
  • Nvu Portable
  • OpenOffice.org Portable
  • Sudoku Portable
  • Sunbird Portable
  • Thunderbird Portable
  • VLC Media Player Portable

PortableApps Suite 1.0 is a fantastic way for mobile users to compute securely using software they've selected on any Windows PC. So, why don't I use it? In a word, flexibility.

In order for programs to become portable and thus compatible with the PAS interface, they have to meet certain requirements; I will mention two, here. The first, and perhaps most important, is licensing. Since most commercial software packages prohibit modification, a prerequisite for compression and dependency resolution, the number of potentially portable programs is limited.

Second, an application must be wrapped as a paf.exe in order to be integrated into the suite. To its credit the PAS site does describe launcher construction, though, this limitation represents a significant obstacle to mass adoption in my opinion.

So, what is a burgeoning tech savant to do? Firstly, don't forget that programs available sans installers are portable by nature. Often compressed as ZIP or RAR files, the executables contained within are incredibly versatile once decompressed, running off local drives, optical storage media, memory cards (SD, SM, CF), and even venerable floppy disks.

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Also, don't automatically preclude software wrapped in installers. Some -- not all -- applications can be "unwrapped" in order to expose the files contained within. I recommend Universal Extractor to check whether or not a program is capable of becoming portable. The brain child of Jared Breland, UE extracts files from a myriad of archives, including but not limited to ZIP, ARJ, LZH, MSI, and EXE. Once a package has been unwrapped, you might find yourself looking at folders named {app}, {tmp}, or embedded as well as a few shortcuts and text files depending on your particular software. While this is no guarantee, I've had pretty good luck moving all the files in all the directories into a single folder, {apps} for example, and launching the program from there. You can then rename the {apps} folder to something more closely resembling the program contained within, assuming the program proves stable. The last step would be to move your newly created program folder to your preferred platform.

Before you begin testing your entire software library, though, it would be worthwhile to browse the extensive repository of pre-tested portable freeware available at the aptly named The Portable Freeware Collection.

Once you have assembled the requisite applications on your preferred device you will need an interface from which to access them. PStart can be installed on your portable media and launched automatically when connected to a PC. The program is also accessible via a system tray icon. Through PStart's main menu folders, groups or files can be added and organized. It also sports limited search functions, an attractive notepad, and information about the media. Additional customization options for hardcore tweakers are available as well.

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Responses to Make your apps portable

  1. Martin December 12, 2006 at 8:33 am #

    Congratulations for your first post. It's so much better than my first post here at ghacks :)

  2. theblatantadvertiser December 13, 2006 at 12:08 am #

    Cheers Martin! Cheers.

  3. tzulo September 29, 2007 at 6:09 pm #

    You can also find some great portable software at http://pendriveapps.com

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