First let’s be clear, this topic is assuming that we are using the Windows Operating system. Although there is a growing community of portable apps for other platforms, I would like to start with Windows apps. We welcome comments on ANY platform’s portable apps but please be clear of your comments platform, if it is another.
What is a Portable App?
A program that can be stored and run from removable media is the basic point that makes an application portable. Although they can even be run from “The Cloud” that is another article for another day.
Imagine this… That 4-16 Gigabyte pocket storage device, (some call it a thumb or flash drive) you have had for a year or more, could carry your favorite programs and even certain desktop customizations to another computer and run them. Maybe a friends computer, or a computer at the library, or even while you go shopping for a new laptop. Perhaps you have one family PC, with the right selection of portable apps you could keep the kids out of your sensitive data.
The functions of many PC programs have depended on the Windows Registry since its creation in v3.1, to provide integration through these enigmatic system files. Portable apps do not depend on the registry this way. Other benefits to the user is operating without leaving traces behind on the host computer. The settings, configuration and data files created by the app are stored on the removable media.
Portable apps have been available for a long time, but lately it is easy to find slick little program suites that actually do their own form of integration on the removable media with menu like interfaces that can even resemble the Start Menu on your Windows task-bar.
The lists of applications you can expect to find have been growing rapidly. Some apps were created exclusively to be portable while others are already familiar and authors have produced a portable version. Many of these are Open Source projects so the source code is also available.
In the next article we will cover some of the apps and the app suites available complete with authors pages and descriptions. We can attempt to dig a bit deeper into this exciting technology and see how it can become a more convenient and perhaps a safer way to use the PC.