by Dan Gayle
Nut-graph: At work or school, portable apps can make your day just a bit more bearable.
Boring desk job? Got a computer
locked down tighter than Granny’s “medicine” cabinet? I happen to have one of those jobs, and let me tell you: being forced to use the loathed Internet Explorer on our ancient PCs isn’t the greatest
thrill ride in my life.
But never fear, dear readers, there is a happy solution to our problems: Portable apps.
Thanks to the Free Open Source Software (FOSS) movement, popular
applications such as Mozilla Firefox can now be run from small, portable thumb drives, external hard drive, and even iPods.
Are you like me and can’t stand “Internet Exploiter”? The fleet footed Firefox is a fast, full-featured
web browser that only takes up 6.1MB of space, which is pretty much small enough to fit in even the oldest first-generation thumb drive. If there is one program that you should get for your own use, this should be it. Because it is extensible,
you can load up all of your favorite Firefox extensions such as Googlepedia, Scribefire and the Web Developer Toolbar and take them with you.
Need a word processor? Abiword.
Need an e-mail app? Thunderbird.
Want to download torrents
(ooh, you naughty boy)? µTorrent for Windows is your best bet (Sorry to disappoint you, my Mac brethren, I’m still searching and will keep you posted).
There are other apps that are available for photo and image editing,
web development, ftp, zip archiving and many other purposes.
Heck, if you’re adventurous enough, you can even run a Linux
operating system off of your thumb drive (Although, I wouldn’t try this one at work…).
For what I need at work, I downloaded Pidgin Portable, an instant messaging client that supports
every I.M. protocol that you could want. MSN, Yahoo!, Google Talk, ICQ, AIM and a whole slew of other protocols are within your grasp.
So here are a few warnings that you should keep in mind when adventuring
through the world of portable apps.
First, a Mac app can only run on a Mac, and vice-versa with a PC. If you use both systems, then you’ll need two different versions of each app. However, the same thumb drive will work for both, so no worries there.
Secondly, be careful about storing
sensitive information in your programs such as passwords in Firefox or emails in Thunderbird. Should you lose your thumb drive or someone decides to steal it, a common occurrence, then your info can be floating out there for prying eyes to dig into.
Lastly, and possibly the most important: don’t get caught downloading
torrents by your boss or TSS.
If you do, I don’t know you. I’ve never even heard of portable apps and I don’t know what you’re talking
Relevant websites to check out:
For Googlepedia, Scribefire, or Web Developer Toolbar extensions for Mozilla Firefox:
For portable apps for PCs:
For portable apps for Macs: