Putting together a portable office - MKII

Over the weekend I decided that it was time to revamp my 'portable office' USB flash drive. I put this together nearly two years ago and it has served me well in that time, acting as a base of operations when I'm away from my main PC. While some of the applications that I installed onto it have been updated, others have not. It's time to build myself a new portable office.

Over the weekend I decided that it was time to revamp my 'portable office' USB flash drive.  I put this together nearly two years ago and it has served me well in that time, acting as a base of operations when I'm away from my main PC.  While some of the applications that I installed onto it have been updated, others have not.  It's time to build myself a new portable office.

Putting together a portable office - MKII
One thing that's changed over the years is the capacity of USB flash drives.  My original portable office was carried on a 2GB Kingston Data Traveler Elite Privacy Edition drive.  I like this drive a lot because it features on-board 128-bit hardware-based AES encryption but having to sign into it each and every time that I needed it was a pain.  Also, the security software didn't play nicely with Windows Vista.  I decided to replace the 2GB Kingston drive with an 8GB Corsair Survivor.  There are drives available with larger capacities, but 8GB is more than enough for my needs.

Now onto the software.

Dmailer V7

Putting together a portable office - MKII
A cornerstone to my portable office is an application called Dmailer.  Since my work life is so closely tied to Outlook, I need a way to be able to take Outlook with me when I'm not in the Office.  Dmailer lets me do this.  Not only can I take emails with me, but I can also take attachments, calendar, contacts, tasks and notes with me.  Any edits or changes I make are synced with Outlook the next time I connect the USB key to my main PC. 

I can also send and receive email through Dmailer, although this feature needs to be set up - I wish that Dmailer could pick up on my Outlook accounts and allow me to pick ones I wanted to take with me. 

Putting together a portable office - MKII

And in case I lose my portable office, everything is password protected and encrypted using 128-bit AES.

Other features that Dmailer offers is the ability to take my Internet Explorer or Firefox favorites with me (you have to pick one - you can't take both) and secure browsing. 

The downside - Dmailer isn't free.  A single license costs $39.95 but the application has, for me at any rate, paid for itself many times over.  I got an even better deal a few years ago when I bought a perpetual license (an offer that doesn't seem to be offered any more). 

Dmailer is available as an OEM product on some SanDisk, LaCie and Western Digital products.

PortableApps

Putting together a portable office used to mean going to dozens of websites, finding the right downloads, downloading them, reading through installation instructions, and then taking the plunge and installing the app - hoping that everything would work out right.  That was, at best, a load of hassle.  At worse, you wasted a lot of time trying to get everything to work and gave up after a few hours because the whole idea of a portable office seemed like too much hassle.

This is where PortableApps.com Suite comes in. 

PortableApps.com Suite is a collection of applications that can be installed onto and work off a USB flash drive.  There are two versions of the PortableApps.com Suite - Standard (90MB) and Lite (30MB).

Putting together a portable office - MKII
PortableApps.com Suite contains a whole raft of useful applications, including:

  • Web browser
  • Email client
  • Office suite
  • Instant messaging client
  • Antivirus
  • Calendar
  • Backup utility

But it gets better than that.  There's an integrated menu to make launching the apps easier.  All you need to do is download the suite you want, install it to your USB flash drive and you've got an instant portable office - all for the amazing price of $0!

The PortableApps site also hosts dozens of other useful applications which you can download and install.  It's also a snap to add these apps to the PortableApps menu.

Final Thoughts

It's now easier than ever to put together a portable office.  Also, if you're not looking for something specific (like Outlook support) then chances are good that your portable office will cost you no more than the price of the USB flash drive and an hour or so of your time (unless you become obsessed and want to find and install as many apps as you can).  That's a pretty sweet deal.

One application that I add to my portable ofice that's not available throuhg PortableApps.com is PasswordSafe.  I use PasswordSafe over the KeePass software available on PortableApps.com simply because I've been using PasswordSafe for years and can't be bothered migrating to a new app.

I carry my portable office with me even when I'm packing a notebook simply because it's easier to transfer data between my PCs on a USB drive than it is to use the network.  This also means that I don't junk up my notebook with countless apps, which keeps it happier.

Thoughts?  Have you created a portable office?  If so, what applications are important to you?