Of late I have been working for The Ministry, a top-secret department located in the heart of our country’s great government. The secrecy and security extends to their locked-down IT policy, as I’ve highlighted elsewhere. Bearing in mind those wise words: “Necessity is the mother of circumvention”, I started to play around with PortableApps.com.
A portable application is simply a program that will run from a USB stick. PortableApps.com is an open platform for Windows that has a compiled a collection of Free Open Source Software customised to run on a USB stick, so that no personal data is left on the host computer. There is also a rather nifty PortableApps Menu, an elegant way to access your apps.
The advantage of all this is that I don’t need Administrator rights at work to run my useful software (eg Firefox with all the Add-on trimmings & bookmarks). Indeed, I can run the software (with personalised settings) on any Windows PC on my travels.
There is a wide range of applications, and the base suite installers are all very easy to set up. There are alternatives, such as U3 and Ceedo: however, the advantage/disadvantage is that these both run and are proprietary software.
For me, one of the most useful applications is XAMPP, an Apache/MySQL/PHP/Perl web server. Web on a stick! This means I can set up a development server on my local machine without having to fill in forms in triplicate and wait a few months to be told “No” ;)
And finally, one very cool piece of functionality is the ability to run standalone versions of Internet Explorer — you can download the browsers from evolt.org, put them into the PortableApps folder and they should appear as if by magic in the PortableApps menu.