Taking your apps with you
Have you ever found yourself at an internet cafe or using someone else's computer, and been dismayed by the lack of functional, useful applications?
Then you'll want to think about setting yourself up a portable application collection, which you can take with you on a storage device.
It's kind of like having a utility belt handy, like some sort of digital Batman.
This is probably old news for some, but I've just re-discovered portable apps, and have been putting the finishing touches on my 1GB (ish) portable app kit, and wanted to share the love.
Yep, with about 1GB of free programs on a USB stick, you can perform a huge range of tasks without installing anything on the computer, all from the device - a USB drive, iPod, iPad or other external drive.
So, here are some tips for creating your own portable app toolkit.
First of all, I recommend you give the Portable Apps front-end a try to keep your apps in order.
This is the menu for your kit - a nice graphical representation of your programs. It lets you show/hide programs in the kit, as well as rename and organise them however you like. It makes it easy to launch and manage the apps and minimises to the taskbar.
Once you download the front-end, put it on a fresh USB stick or iPod/external hard-drive etc. Run and install it, and you'll see that it created a file for the apps, and another to keep your media in.
Now, download a few apps and copy them on to your device, in the same directory as the front-end program. Run and install them, then run the Portable Apps program. They should be listed and you can organise them by right-clicking them.
This is an (almost) universal file player for video and audio. It will play just about any file type you can throw at it. A must have for your kit.
Audacity is an open-source audio editing program. It can edit WAV and MP3 files, plus a few other types, but those two are very common. You can record and play audio, adjust and edit it using filters and cutting/pasting, and export it back in to a WAV or MP3. This program is remarkably powerful, but simple enough that it doesn't take a lot of exploring to get used to.
3. Open Office
This free Microsoft-alternative is handy is so many situations. It is compatible with its Microsoft counterpart, and allows you to write and edit documents with a full range of options, create spreadsheets and presentations and complete a range of business/publishing tasks right from your kit.
4. The GIMP
It's a suggestive name, but I suggest you go and get this free image-processing program ASAP. It's basically Photoshop Jr. Not quite as powerful, but still a major force to be reckoned with. It includes all basic functions - masks, layers, multiple formats, filters - and many more. This is one of the handiest of them all.
You don't have to suffer through using some dodgy browser on a foreign computer *cough* IE *cough* - you have the option of Firefox, wherever you go.
This program can compress and un-compress those pesky ZIP files, plus a wide range of other compressed-file formats.
Yes, Skype is available in a portable form. Wherever you are, in whichever country, as long as you have (reliable) internet, you can Skype.
This one is a full-featured CD/DVD burning program. Sometimes you might come across computers with a CD/DVD writer, but no decent software (if any). It's no longer a problem - burn away.
VirtualDub is a video recording program which is surprisingly powerful and useful. Sure, it's no Adobe Premiere, but you can open, edit and save video clips with very little knowledge of editing. Simple, but effective.
You can use this program to extract, encode and convert audio. It's useful for getting media in to a usable form. In short, it rips CDs to Mp3.
Have you ever deleted a file on your computer, or perhaps a photo on your camera, and cursed the day? Now, you have a way of potentially getting those back. This tool scours the source for all recently deleted files, and can often bring them back from oblivion.
Do you use portable apps? When have they helped you out? Know of any good ones I've missed?