If you’re a geek like me and you carry around a USB drive on your keychain, you might be looking for some useful utilities to keep on your drive. First and foremost you need to protect your portable drive with encryption. Information can fall into the wrong hands if the drive is lost or stolen. Your data can even be stolen if you hand your keys over when you get your car serviced or parked by a valet, so it is absolutely essential you keep data on your portable drive protected.
Once you’re protected with encryption, you’ll want to install PortableApps. PortableApps is a suite of very useful applications and utilities to have on your portable drive. When you download the suite, you get a a nice menu launcher for loading applications and documents you store on your drive. I actually use a modified version of the PortableApps menu. I like the mod better, primarily because it allows you to rename and hide menu items. I don’t know why the official version hasn’t yet incorporated the additional features that the mod provides, but I hope they do soon. You may find these apps to be the most useful:
- Firefox – My favorite web browser. It can be really useful to have your fully customized Firefox (with saved passwords and all) with you wherever you go. Once again, I can’t stress enough how important encryption is. If you save passwords on your portable Firefox make sure you’re running it on an encrypted drive so that your passwords will remain safe if the drive is lost or stolen.
- Pidgin – An instant messaging client that supports pretty much all of the major IM networks (Yahoo!, MSN, Google, AOL, IRC, Jabber, etc).
- 7-zip – Never again will you be stranded with some kind of compressed file with no way to extract the contents. 7-zip supports a ton of different archive types.
- VLC – An excellent and lightweight media player for playing movies and audio files. With VLC you don’t have to hunt down codecs for playback, as it is all inclusive.
- Notepad++ – If you’re a developer, you’ll find Notepad++ indespensible. It’s a really nice text editor that includes syntax highlighting for a ton of different programming languages.
There are many other useful portable programs available for download as well. You can actually make any program available in the PortableApps menu, simply by copying all of the program files and subdirectories into a subdirectory under the PortableApps directory. This works for relatively simple programs that include all of the necessary configuration and data files within the program directory and subdirectories. You won’t be able to use more complicated programs that write entries into the system registry and copy and use files in other directories. I’ll write more later about some of the other useful apps I carry on my USB drive that are not included in the PortableApps suite.