We can no longer imagine a computer life without portable apps. On a new system we are therefore quickly back to work: it is not more than copying a few folders or a USB stick in it. In this article, we'll show you our favorite tools.
Portable software is actually a fairly general term for all kinds of programs and tools that do not need to be installed. This software is of course extremely suitable to put on a portable medium, such as a USB stick or an external hard drive. Hence the 'portable'. But nothing prevents you from simply putting these tools on your computer's hard drive. If you ever reinstall your system, you make a copy of the folder beforehand, which you simply restore after a fresh installation. Nice and easy.
Portable software is mainly a Windows phenomenon, so that's what we're focusing on. If you have portable software on your USB stick or external hard drive, you can in principle connect it to any Windows PC to use it. Even on a system where the user does not have administrator rights and where normally nothing is allowed to be installed.
Almost every software maker can choose to make their software portable. So on many websites you see that software is offered in two flavors: as a regular installation version and portable.
Beware of illegal
There are ways to make software that is not portable anyway. This is mainly done by software pirates who convert large commercial packages and distribute them illegally. It may be very tempting to look for such software, but please don't. Not only is it illegal, but there is a very high chance that illegal portable apps will be misused by malicious parties to spread viruses and malware. Anyway, it has been messed with and often these versions are very unstable.
The PortableApps.com website is one of the best and most popular repository of portable software. All apps on this site meet a number of conditions: they are completely free, completely legal, they work from any medium and all parts of a program are in one folder. Furthermore, the 'real' PortableApps apps leave no traces of use in the form of files, folders or registry keys. There are also no specific utilities installed on the PC to use these portable apps.
It is nice that PortableApps works from the cloud in addition to USB sticks and disks. It detects services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and OneDrive, but you can also designate the cloud folder yourself if you're using something else.
In addition to more than 300 apps, PortableApps.com also offers its own menu, so that all your portable apps are easy to find and start. A great thing about this menu is that it automatically checks when you start up whether there are any portable apps that need to be updated. Updating is almost automatic. You can also search for new apps within the PortableApps ecosystem from the menu and download them directly.
Within the menu you can classify apps in folders if there are too many, or make them favorite and/or have them start automatically. You can easily find a specific app with the built-in search function. And of course the menu can be completely adjusted in terms of color and appearance.
Even if you have multiple browsers on your PC, it can still be useful to use one or more portable browsers. For example for testing purposes or to be able to log in to one service with different accounts. For example, we use a portable version of Chrome with a set of custom bookmarks just to manage all kinds of services. PortableApps.com has a portable version of almost every browser (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, etc), only Edge is not listed (of course Microsoft doesn't allow that).
02 XnView Portable
PortableApps.com has a large section with graphics software. No real Adobe counterparts (unless you count GIMP as one), but lots of nice tools. XnView Portable is widely used by us. It is primarily a file viewer that allows you to view and convert over 400 different formats if you wish (although it can save in 'only' fifty different formats). The real power of XnView is in the batch conversion of files and the automatic operations you can throw at it. Worth gold. But are you a bigger fan of the comparable IrfanView: there is also a PortableApps version of it.
03 RawTherapee Portable
If you shoot a lot (and especially in RAW format), you probably still have to process a lot of photos to get the best out of them. This can be done for free with the open source software RawTherapee. The 'normal' version is multiplatform, but the PortableApps version is Windows specific. RawTherapee is really a digital darkroom in which you can work extensively with light and color. If you save edits to a profile, you can easily apply them to a whole series of files.
04 Ant Renamer Portable
PortableApps.com's Utilities category is almost bursting at the seams. These are the programs that are nice to always have with you, but that installed in Windows can pollute the start menu. Ant Renamer Portable is a helper that is always present on our USB stick. You rename (usually large amounts of) files and folders with it. With the buttons Add files and Add folder you choose which files you want to rename. In the Actions tab you determine what is renamed. With a check mark for the option Batch contents you can compile a list of actions that will be performed in one go.
05 WinMerge Portable
WinMerge is quite a specialized tool: you can use it to compare documents to see what the differences are. That can be chunks of plain text or chunks of code. In the case of well-known programming languages or web formats, WinMerge highlights the syntax to make it easier to read. After comparing, you can also merge certain pieces of data from both documents. With the built-in editor, texts and code can also be adjusted immediately. It is also possible to compare files in folders and archives (zip files).