Flash Drive

A tiny flash drive can hold great possibilities. Photo Recycled Paperboard USB Drive 2 by molotalk on Flickr.

First things first, I’m writing this post because USBMemoryDirect.com is running a promotion where you can get a free 2GB flash drive. You can either talk about the promotion on your own website, or you can simply share their promo page on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ to enter to win one of 100 drives. 2GB isn’t a very large flash drive size anymore, but it is large enough for the apps I’m about to share!

I’ve long been a proponent of portable applications. I used them all the time in high school so I wouldn’t have to use Internet Explorer (I even used a portable version of Firefox from a CD that a friend of mine developed). I later found it useful when I used a homebrewed version of Paint.net (it wasn’t very portable though; it just didn’t require installation). Long story short: a flash drive with your own apps on it can be very helpful. So here are 5 essential portable apps (with a few bonuses thrown in) to put on a flash drive. I’m focusing on the PortableApps.com platform on Windows, though some of these apps are available in Mac flavors as well.

First, the platform

While it’s not strictly required to use any of these portable apps, it’s a good idea to install the PortableApps.com platform on your drive first. This will help you update your apps easily, which is especially important with apps like Firefox or Chrome. It also creates a number of folders on your drive to help you be organized. Simply go to the download page and follow the instructions. After installing the platform, you don’t even have to download each individual app; you can do it all through the platform itself.

Chrome or Firefox

The essential portable app for getting things done is a web browser. Fortunately, both Chrome and Firefox are available in portable form (along with some others, but these are the two worth mentioning). Both are compatible with their sync features, so you can have essentially the same browsing experience you do on your own personal computer. Why is it great to use your own browser on a public computer? It increases security! The settings are stored on your flash drive, and if you keep your flash drive’s software up to date, you don’t have to worry about if the computer’s administrator is doing it.

Google Chrome Portable

Mozilla Firefox, Portable Edition


In the save vein of security, if you’re using a public computer, you’re exposing your flash drive to risks. Even if it’s a well-managed library or internet cafe, there are no guarantees. ClamWin is an open source virus scanner. Keeping it on your flash drive will make it easy to scan your flash drive if you’re ever worried. Make sure to update the virus definitions before running a scan!

ClamWin Portable


LibreOffice is a full-feature office suite, much like Microsoft Office, except that it’s free. While it’s kind of slow (even on a computer), it’s great to keep around, just in case you need to get some work done on a computer that doesn’t have the office programs you need. It’s compatible with most Microsoft Office files you’ll run across. You may just want to use something like Google Docs, but LibreOffice’s compatibility with Office files is better.

LibreOffice Portable

Sumatra PDF

Odds are the public computer you’re using has Adobe Reader on it. Honestly, Adobe Reader isn’t that bad anymore; it can actually be quite fast. But the public computer you’re using probably doesn’t have the latest version. It’s probably using one that’s dreadfully out-of-date and riddled with security holes. Running Sumatra PDF, even from your flash drive, will be faster. It’s ridiculously fast, and can handle most PDFs that you’ll ever open. It’s super small too, so there’s no compelling reason to not keep it on your drive.

Sumatra PDF Portable


Sometimes you need to have a little fun. The computer you’re using probably already has Solitare and Minesweeper on it, so why not try a little Sudoku? You probably already know this fun puzzle game, so it’s nice to have it ready to go on your flash drive. This is another tiny one, so load it up just to be ready.

Sudoku Portable

Bonus App: FocusWriter

I participate in National Novel Writing Month each year, and one of the things that’s helped me accomplish the challenge is to clear out distractions. FocusWriter is a simple writing app that takes up your entire screen so you can’t get distracted by anything else. It’s really simple, but also packed with features. Check it out!

FocusWriter Portable