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Tune Into

If you tune into, you’ll find a free, open source project. It specializes in permitting users to build portable custom suites of apps and applications. Instead of having to install programs on specific machines, you can access such programs from various location. These incluee a cloud folder (such as DropBox, OneDrive, or Google Drive), a local hard disk, or even a USB flash drive. That means you can sit down at a computer, any computer, and get access to your go-to browser with favorites or bookmarks and extensions or add-ins ready to go. Same goes for music files, photo editors, games, development tools, and so forth.

If I Tune Into, Then What?

You’ll start off by downloading the PortableApps setup environment from the download page. Then you must choose an install target. Of the many targets available for this screen shot I chose a 64GB Mushkin USB 3.0 flash drive.

Your basic range of portable app targets: USB drive, local drive, or in the cloud.

Then, click Install to start the installation.

The Fun Begins After Installation Ends

That’s it for installation. The next step is to run the Platform. Do that by clicking Finish. The Platform window pops up, followed by a fill-in form that allows you to choose portable apps to install in your personalized environment. There are hundreds of options from which one can choose of which — strictly for grins — I chose Notepad++, IrfanView, Chrome, FileZilla, Firefox, Opera, AIMP, Audacity, VLC, Hijack This, Kaspersky TDSSKiller, PWGen, 7-ZIP, CPU-Z, CrystalDiskInfo, CrystalDiskMark, Explorer++, GeekUninstaller, GPU-Z, SSD-Z, TreeSize Free, WhatChanged, WinDirStat, Windows Error Lookup Tool, and World Clock. Click next and it tells me I’ve got 28 items to grab, which it starts downloading in the order specified. I see bandwidth levels jumping into the hundreds of Mbps, so it doesn’t appear overly throttled.

It takes about 5 minutes to download the 28 items I chose, and another litte while before I realize I have to grant permission for the apps on my list to get installed on the Mushkin UFD. Then I get into a rhythm with the remaining 27 items. This takes a while longer (perhaps 20 minutes all told). CPU usage never spikes that much, so this appears to be a mostly IO-bound activity. Chrome and Opera take longest (1-2 minutes each); some items install in less than 5 seconds; the major seem to take 20-35 seconds. You can find a complete directory of the more than 300 portable apps available for this project on its Portable App Directory page. It’s a pretty big list.

Using Portable Apps Is Dead Simple

Once you’ve got your portable apps installed, run start.exe from the root of the UFD (or wherever else you might put your portable platform). Then a portable menu becomes accessible through the portable apps icon in the notification area on the Taskbar. Click that, and you get a menu that lets you pick from the list of portable apps you’ve installed.

I couldn’t change the 5-sec delay in Snagit and it takes 3 seconds or so for the notification items to clear, so perforce you see both here. Sigh.

To launch a protable app from the menu, select it and double-click, or hit the enter key. Great stuff. I just wish they had more admin apps in their collection.

Virtual Desktop