Portable Apps Administration
In recent posts I've been blathering on and on about portable apps and even went so far as to put together a description of how to make WordPress portable. I continue to discover useful programs related to taking applications on the road with me via a USB drive.
Keeping my USB drive in sync with my computer would be a nightmare without help from specialized software. I tried various programs designed to do just this including FullSync and PathSync. Both of these are free programs, but neither met my needs. In particular, both seemed to have difficulty in determining which files had changed. As a result, the synchronization process always took more time than necessary.
Fortunately, I was directed to SyncBack Freeware. This program has turned out to be near perfect for my needs. In addition to resolving the issue of properly detecting changes in files, it also allows me to execute a program before the file synchronization begins. I find this useful because it allows me to run a script I've created to update local copies of my blog databases and shutdown running programs so that files are unlocked all before the data is copied to my USB drive.
Some programs are created from the ground up to be portable. Those that aren't built this way can sometimes still run portably, but it takes a little effort to find out which ones will. That's where the Universal Extractor comes in. This program, and yes it's portable, allows you to extract a program from a setup executable thus bypassing the usual installation routines that typically accompany today's software. Once extracted, it's simply a matter of launching the program executable to see if it'll run. If it does, you've likely got a new portable application.
Note that even though a program will run without having been installed, it may still write to the registry or save files to the hard drive. Such programs aren't truly portable, but can still be useful. For example, SyncBack which I mentioned above as my file synchronization program of choice, can be extracted from the installation program with Universal Extractor. The program runs and functions properly. However, it seems to write user profiles to a location outside of the program folder meaning that profiles need to be recreated on every computer from which it is run.
Once you hit a dozen or more portable applications on your USB drive it becomes a bit of pain remembering the folder name of the program you want and then navigating to it to launch it. Pstart simplifies this by allowing you to build a menuing system very similar to the Start menu that is part of the Windows operating systems. There's even an option to have this menu system load automatically when the USB drive is connected.