Once upon a time easy remote computing was a pipe dream, now people routinely carry gigs of data around on flash drivers smaller than a modest pack of chewing gum. Manage your apps and data with these portable application suites.
Photo by basheertome.
A note on the reviews: portable applications suites usually contain dozens and dozens of individual applications. We'll be unable to list every single one here and we urge you to visit the site of the suite to check out the full application list.
Liberkey (Windows, Free)
LiberKey doesn't have the polished menu found in the PortableApps suite, but its menu is functional and conveniently arranged by program type. LiberKey opts to put things in categories labelled according to what they do, so even if you've never seen an application that is included in the LiberKey suite you'll have a pretty good idea that it's a colour Picker or Security Tool based on the folder you find it in. It's a useful feature given that the Ultimate installation installs around 250 applications—you're bound to see quite a few you've never used before.
PortableApps Suite (Windows, Free)
PortableApps is the Grand Daddy of portable application sites. Between John Haller—the founder of the site—and the dozens of developers, packagers, translators, and the hundreds of people that participate in the forums, the sheer number of people working to polish the PortableApps suite has resulted in a very comprehensive package. The PortableApps suite includes basics like Firefox for browsing and Pidgin for instant messaging but also includes—in the full package—Open Office. You could download all the individual portable components separately of course, but what really ties everything together is the PortableApps menu system. Seen in the screenshot above the menu system is clean, includes a backup utility, and makes organising your portable apps and documents simple.
Many of you took the stance that running portable apps in Windows was great but way too restrictive. Booting a computer into a distinct operating system gives power users the ability to run the machine as their own without any risk to the native operating system on the machine. You can find dozens and dozens of Linux distributions which can be modified or tweaked to run off a portable drive. If you're just getting started with using a LiveUSB version of Linux however we'd suggest taking a peak at one of our past features on portable Linux use: Battle of the Thumb Drive Linux Systems—one of the contestants, Puppy Linux, is pictured in the screenshot above. If you want to get a sense the number of Live Linux versions out there, check out The LiveCD List here.
Geek.Menu (Windows, Free)
Geek.Menu is a branch in the PortableApps development tree. Geek.Menu uses the same convenient installation files from PortableApps.com that the original PortableApps suite uses. The layout is similar but Geek.Menu has several key enhancements—you can check them out here—like support for TrueCrypt, creation of categories within the menu structure, and automatic application execution on menu startup. You'll note—from the screenshot above—that Geek.Menu doesn't come preloaded with software. To get Geek.Menu off to a quick start you can download the PortableApps suite and swap out the menu systems.
Lupo PenSuite (Windows, Free)
Lupo PenSuite mashes up a familiar looking menu with a huge offering of applications. Taking a note from the LiberKey school of portable suite production, Lupo PenSuite throws everything at you but the kitchen sink. Need to tinker in the Windows Registry? Lupo PenSuite has 8 applications just for registry editing. You can check out the full app log at this link. If you're looking for a suite that sports everything from a web browser to a dvd burner and everything in between including security tools and torrent clients, Lupo PenSuite has quite a list of offerings.
Amazed that your favourite didn't make it? Can't believe the number of portable application suites out there? Let's hear about it in the comments.