Tech Tattle

A portable solution for your software needs

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Do you move around a lot between computers, or does your work’s security system block you from using the software you love to use? Let me point you in the direction of PortableApps.com, which holds a great collection of some of my favourite software.

While most networked computer systems rightly prevent anyone without administrative rights from installing software, portable applications provide the work-around. You simply download the software to a USB flash drive and click on the executable file to use it.

In some cases you might be able to download the software directly to your desktop and install it from there. Unfortunately for Mac users, the portable apps are for Windows systems only.

Of course, check with your IT department or employer before doing so or you could get in trouble, but I do not see why they would have any problems, unless you are downloading from the site’s games section (wink, wink...). IT departments tend to be overly controlling I find, and want to know exactly what is on every computer, but they should be, since they are protecting an entire network, and the company.

The usefulness of portable software goes beyond just getting around restrictions. They allow you to carry around applications from computer to computer, while leaving no trace on the host computer. Bookmarks, settings, email and more are saved on the key.

Your privacy is safeguarded - no need to log off, wipe out stored passwords, or surfing history. You pull your key out and you are gone. However, do check to ensure the computer you are temporarily using has not saved these anyway.

What can you find at PortableApps? All the software is free and ready to use. You will need a portable browser. My main browser remains Internet Explorer, but I do like using the portable Firefox, mainly because it comes equipped with one of the best screen savers in the business. You can also get portable versions of Chrome and Opera.

There are a number of chat clients and RSS feed managers to download in the site’s internet section. Try Mozilla’s Thunderbird if you need a portable email interface. SeaMonkey is a complete internet suite, with browser, email and chat utilities. I have not used it, so I can’t really say if it is easy to use. It gets a four out of five stars on CNet’s Download.com

Avid downloaders can use Bittorrent and uTorrent to get what they need. I use Skype a lot, but I could not get the portable version to work. Perhaps you will have better luck.

I am glad there is a portable version of the OpenOffice suite available among other possibilities offered on the site. OpenOffice gives you the same functions as Microsoft’s Office suite without the price. The interface can be a bit clunky, but really what is there to complain about? I use Microsoft Office on my desktop and OpenOffice on my laptop and have had no major worries. OpenOffice documents are compatible with Microsoft’s, as long as you set OpenOffice to save in a “.doc” format.

I do a lot of graphic work, so two of my favourite portable programs are IfranView and Gimp. I have championed IfranView before, and I praise it again. IfranView is fast and can process huge batches of photographs easily. JPEGView, Fotografix, XnView and PhotoFiltre are alternate image editors.

I use Photoshop almost daily, but I will not find it on most computers, since it is too expensive for most budgets. Gimp is the next best choice. Gimp is a powerful image editor and is open source. It is difficult to learn how to use properly - but so is Photoshop - and the interface is a bit rough. But it does the job.

You will also find Inkscape if you need to work with vector graphics, Blender for 3D modelling and animation and Hot Spot Studio for artwork. Download and work with videos using DamnVid and for sound editing try Audacity.

Everyone should have 7-Zip to compress or uncompress files. You should also have some of the security software available on the site. I also recommend Notepad++ portable, especially since I need to check and edit XML files used on a site I oversee. It gives me a way to check that IT has done a proper job on a file.

If you need to edit a webpage, try Nvu and KompoZer. More technical types will like XAMPP, which gives you Apache, mySQL, PHP, phpMyAdmin and other server admin software in one package.

Finally, if all you want is some standard Internet and office software you can download a package PortableApps has put together. The software comes with its own interface and platform, and without any spyware or advertising.

You have a choice of three packages, with the largest requiring only a 1GB key.

Not all of the software has been updated to Windows 7, so you might have to wait if you are on that platform.

Send any comments to elamin.ahmed[AT]gmail.com

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Published Apr 13, 2011 at 8:26 am (Updated Apr 13, 2011 at 8:24 am)

Tech Tattle

A portable solution for your software needs

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