15+ Must-Have Thumb Drive Apps for Geeks

A portable app is a computer program that you can carry around with you on a portable device and use on any Windows computer. When your USB flash drive, portable hard drive, iPod or other portable device is plugged in, you have access to your software and personal data just as you would on your own PC. And when you unplug the device, none of your personal data is left behind!

I personally have a large memory card on my Windows Mobile phone… so I can use something that I always have with me anyway as a way to carry around software. Pretty handy…

So let’s start with the mac daddy, the PortableApps Suite:

PortableApps.com Suite™ is a complete collection of portable apps including a web browser, email client, office suite, calendar/scheduler, instant messaging client, antivirus, audio player, sudoku game, password manager, PDF reader, minesweeper clone, backup utility and integrated menu, all preconfigured to work portably. Just drop it on your portable device and you’re ready to go.

All versions of the PortableApps.com Suite include the integrated PortableApps.com Menu (pictured at right) and the PortableApps.com Backup utility along with a set of custom icons, an autoplay configuration, folders and a quick start shortcut. In addition, the packages include:

*Note: The Light Suite includes AbiWord Portable (word processor) instead of OpenOffice.org Portable.

Portable apps doesn’t have it all… so let’s look at some of the rest:

Most other portable software can be found at PortableFreeware. While most people can get away with the PortableApps Suite there are a few things missing that I consider crucial to  your portable arsenal.

  • Truecrypt - TrueCrypt creates virtual encrypted disks within a file and mount them as a real disk. It supports a full range of encryption algorithms, including AES-256, which is used within the government for information as high up as Top Secret classification.
  • NotePad++ – Notepad++ is one of the few source code text editors that supports folding. In addition, it features multi-language syntax highlighting, auto-completion, regular expression search/replace, macro recording and playback etc. This is my preferred FREE text editor, it’s fast, light, and easy to use. And let’s face it… how often do you  really need a full blown Word Processor when on the run. If you’ll need one, plan ahead and take your laptop!
  • CCleaner – CCleaner is a system optimization and privacy tool. It removes unused files from your system and cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. Additionally, and most importantly to me, it contains a fully featured registry cleaner.
  • uTorrent – µTorrent is a small BitTorrent client that uses very little system resources. This is my favorite BitTorrent client for the desktop, and while I wouldn’t suggest you run it full time from a portable USB device it could be handy in a pinch if you needed to grab something that requires a torrent download.
  • Foxit Reader Portable – Ok look, PDF’s suck. I hate them… seriously. More than that I hate Acrobat Reader since it’s a huge bloated application that takes forever to launch even on a fully modern PC. Having said that, there’s a LOT of PDF’s out there. Enter Foxt Reader which is a small and fast PDF viewer that is compatible with PDF Standard 1.6. Don’t think you’re limited to only the portable version, there is also a desktop version… ditch Acrobat for good!
  • 7-Zip – Oddly absent from the portableApps Suite is a compression utility. 7-Zip is a file archiver that supports just about every compression format you can think of.
  • FileZilla – A really good portable FTP client.

Just a note that most all of these portable apps can be integrated right into the PortableApps suite menu. The PortableApps.com Menu can automatically add apps in PortableApps.com Format. Just download the file you’d like to add (like FileZilla Portable, for instance). Then, in PortableApps.com Menu, click Options – Add a New App – Install and then select the FileZilla Portable .paf.exe file you just downloaded. The PortableApps.com Menu will automatically install it to the proper location for you.

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