My favourite portable applications

I am always in search of useful software. Particularly small utilities that I can use everyday. I also love trialling new softwares. But the side effect is I am a bit hesitant to install them for the fear of messing my system. Which is why I often find myself using portable applications. Actually this is so popular, most popular software tools are available in a "portable" version.  If you have no idea of what a portable app is or are simply interested in the ones I use - read on anyway.
If you are wondering what a "portable" software is, it's like any other application except  for one important difference - you don't need to install it to use it. It works exactly like (say) a document - you download, sometimes unzip and then double-click the file. And off you go :) If you like the idea, you may want to spend a few minutes to go through my previous FAQ on this topic. And almost all of the apps listed below should work as-is from Windows XP to Windows 7.

Portable Firefox – the Beta version
Firefox is one of the most used applications on my PC. This is also one of the first applications that I started using as a portable app. Originally I carried this around on my USB drive so I can could access my bookmarks, password, history, etc. wherever I went. But soon web-based sync services like XMarks Sync made that a lot easier. But not so long ago I discovered that it was possible to use the portable version to test a beta version of Firefox along-side the stable version (see previous post on this topic).  As a result, I can use the latest features in Firefox on offer and yet have the option to fall-back to the stable release, in case I quickly need to.
Links> Firefox 4 beta portable | Firefox 3 stable portable

IOBit Uninstaller {Updated}
This is my current favourite replacement to the Add or Remove programs tool that comes built-in to Windows (my previous one was Revo Uninstaller Free version). It’s only  after you use this tool that one realizes how much garbage an application’s “uninstaller” can leave behind.
Link: IOBit Uninstaller

Remove Empty Directories (RED)
RED is a freeware that finds and deletes empty directories for you. What I love about this app is that it is smart enough to
  • Displays a list of empty directories so I can chose what to delete
  • Has an option to deletes to the Recycle Bin, just in case I’ve made a mistake.
  • Keep it’s hands off system folders
  • Detects directories with empty files as empty.
  • Detects directories with only temporary leftover files as empty too.
  • Let’s me mark certain directories as do-not-touch (useful for some games that are touchy about stuff like this) and some as always-delete.
  • Is pretty light on disk and memory needs. An so on…
I make it a point to run this regularly on directories that are frequently changing – typically ones that are used for downloads, hold photos, etc.
Link> Remove Empty Directories (RED)
Note: The portable version is one of the download types.

Notepad2 Portable
This is, again, a replacement for the default Windows app – Notepad. It’s excellent to have around if you find yourself firing up notepad to edit configuration files, notes or even programming code.

What I particularly find appealing that it is as light as notepad, but seems to offer just that little bit extra that I need. I wish Microsoft would simply make this app to replace the default notepad application :)

Link> Notepad2 Portable
Tip: Look through the comments on this page for some useful tips on how to replace Notepad with this app.

CCleaner and Recuva by Piriform
I’ve clubbed these two because they’re from the same company – Piriform. CCleaner (short for Crap Cleaner) is an excellent tool to free up disk space by removing temporary and other un-useful files from your computer. I use this so often that I run this automatically twice a week using Windows scheduler too (see previous post on how to do this yourself).

It’s sister application – Recuva has saved my (ahem) bottom more than once by helping me undelete files from my hard disk. Yes Yes, I’ve heard of the Windows recycle bin, but I sometimes tend to Shift+Del (delete without moving to Recycle Bin) files without thinking. Ever since I almost deleted my financial data once, Recuva has been my best friends ;-)

FastStone Capture
This is a very easy to use screen-capture utility. A majority of the recent screenshots you see on this blog have been captured and annotated using this tool. It’s also very light on the memory. The application became paid-only from v5.4 so the freeware (and portable) version has been made available for general use. For me this is more than sufficient for my needs.
Link> FastStone Capture v5.3

Team Viewer{New}
A free-for-personal use Remote access and support software. Useful to have if you provide remote help to friends and family for software. What makes this particular favourite with me is that can be portable for both you and the person at other end. Has built-in VoIP which saves me from holding a phone while I speak. And the ultra-cool drag-and-drop of files between the computers being shared. For a little more detail check out this dedicated post on the topic.
Link: TeamViewer (look for a link titled "Portable" on this page)

Sysinternals Utilities
These are extremely advanced system tools by some extremely talented guys. Unless you work in a computer-related field such as programming, desktop management or are a medium-to-advanced Windows user, you are unlikely to need these. For me, these are a must-have for someone who wants and expects to see more that what Windows generally shows you. My favourite among these are
  • Process Explorer – my permanent replacement for Windows Task manager
  • Process Monitor – the best way to monitor in real-time a processes’ disk, registry and file activities.
  • Autologon – Stop or Start having Windows prompt you for a login/ password.
Oh and yes, you may also want to check written these excellent blog posts by Sysinternals co-founder Mark Russinovich on real-life uses of these tools.
Link> Sysinternal Utilities

I am sure there are lots and lots of other good portable tools around. The above list is only the ones that i use – almost daily. If there’s any other tool that you really like, please do share it’s details in the comment box below.