I use a lot of portable applications. At last count, I have 22 of them sitting on my flash drive. I use about half of them nearly every day, and the other half get used often enough to warrant their continued presence on my flash drive. Part 1 of the Portable Applications section will cover the programs that are, for me, daily essentials. Part 2 will cover the ones that I consider to be my ‘support’ programs.
* Firefox Portable – I have long held disdain for Internet Explorer, ((So much so that I jokingly refer to it as Internet _Exploder_.)) and Firefox has been my replacement browser of choice. When computer account limitations at work prevented me from installing Firefox on my work PC, I went hunting for alternate solutions. What I found was Firefox Portable. It was my introduction to portable applications nearly a year and a half ago, and I’ve never looked back. I now run Firefox exclusively from my flash drive, which allows me to keep all my settings, bookmarks, and addons with me at all times. I’ll be talking about Firefox addons in a later part that will make this browser even more powerful and versatile.
* GAIM Portable – What computer and web geek would be without his Instant Messaging client? GAIM Portable gives you the power of several of the most popular IM clients right on your flash drive. No more worrying about getting logged off on another computer or having to import your settings (or installing the software) on a new computer. Launch it from your flash drive and your good to go. It also allows you to run multiple AIM accounts, which is a huge advantage if you have different screen names for different groups of people.
* FileZilla Portable – Web developers rely heavily on their FTP clients. I use mine literally every day for moving files back and forth on my webhost. FileZilla has become my FTP client of choice – it’s free, and it’s extremely easy to use.
* metapad – Who needs Windows Notepad when you have something as powerful as metapad? Granted, Notepad _has_ become a bit more powerful with recent editions, but in my opinion, metapad is still far superior. It offers up more options than does Notepad and handles certain types of files (like .php and .css) much better than Notepad does. metapad has been a staple program for me for several years now.
* GIMP Portable – Photoshop is still my graphics editor of choice, but since it is also still prohibitively expensive to buy – and since I’ve not yet seen a portable version of the software – GIMP fills the gap for the kinds of basic graphic manipulations I generally need to do. It’s relatively small, as programs go, and lets you do quite a bit of the same things that you can do in Photoshop. It’s not as user-friendly or as intuitive as Photoshop, ((Not that Photoshop is particularly intuitive.)) but it generally does what I need it to.
* MWSnap – I frequently need to quickly and easily capture screens from my computer. SnagIt is a great capture software for doing just this, but it’s also relatively expensive to buy. MWSnap does exactly the same thing that SnagIt does, but it has the bonus of being both free and portable. It’s _very_ easy to use and makes it very simple to capture the entire screen, individual windows, or custom-sized rectangles from your computer screen.
* 7-zip Portable – I work with compressed files a lot these days, so I have to have compression software at the ready all the time. WinZip is fine, insofar as it goes – but it only handles .zip files. Sometimes I need to open up a .tar or a .tar.gz file. PowerArchiver does these and more – but it also costs money to buy (unless you’re purchasing much older versions with fewer features). 7-zip opens just about every kind of compressed file out there.
* irfanView – Periodically, I need to resize some pictures, especially ones coming down off a digital camera. The main thing that I use irfanView is its ability to process entire batches of images. I simply select all the images I want to resize, tell it how big I want them, and within a moment or two, everything is down to a manageable size. It makes sharing digital photographs or maintaining a photoblog that much easier.
* OpenOffice Portable – Microsoft has a relatively solid office suite with their MSOffice package. However, like most things Microsoft, it’s also rather expensive. It’s also not portable. OpenOffice provides an alternative office suite to Microsoft’s version that runs every bit as good as, if not better than, the MS version. It has also now been made portable so that you can load it up on your flash drive and run it from anywhere.
* RoughDraft – Now, from a writer’s perspective, RoughDraft is one of the best utilities in my toolkit. I have two writing programs that I use with regularity. RoughDraft is the one I use for writing flash fiction and short stories. It works exclusively with .rtf files, which is actually a pretty good thing because it’s a versatile file type that is available to a number of different word processing programs. RoughDraft allows you to open multiple documents in tabs right inside the main window, so there’s no worry about having too many things open in your Windows taskbar at the same time. This is a slick little program that is must-have for any writer.
* yWriter – For longer writing project I use yWriter. This is quite possibly one of the most powerful little writing packages I’ve ever seen, allowing you to easily create chapters, break them into scenes, and move pieces around as you need to adjust chronology. It also allows you to create character profiles and keep track of notes. This is another must-have for any writer who is serious about getting that novel written.
All of these programs of free and easy to use. These are the programs that I use nearly every day and thus serve as the core of my tools for writing and maintaining my website.
Part 2 of Portable Applications will cover another group of portable apps that get used less frequently but in some ways are just as important as my daily essentials.
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