Heading off to teach and not sure whether particular software is installed on the classroom computer? Tired of going to a conference and lumbering your laptop through airport security? How about plugging in your USB flash drive and having your software, bookmarks, and settings available to you!
Using a computer on which you do not have administrative access to install software can lead to situations where particular programs are unavailable to you and certain files don’t work (e.g., video, audio). Both circumstances can be frustrating when standing in front of an audience and result in significant scrambling on your part. But now there is a simple and free way to bring along your favorite computer programs with all of your bookmarks, settings, email as well as a range of popular programs. Portable apps allow you to install and run programs directly from a storage device, such as an USB flash drive or an iPod. This way, you do not have to install any software on the computer and, moreover, do not leave any personal data behind.
What is it? How does it work?
Portable apps (short for applications) are open source programs that can be installed and run on portable storage devices; therefore, avoiding the necessity to install software on the actual computer. This is particularly helpful when you need to work with many machines and you do not have permission to make permanent changes to a desktop’s configuration (e.g., teaching in different university classrooms). All one needs to do before entering the classroom is to download and install the app using a computer where one has administrative rights.
What is it not?
Be careful not to confuse portable apps with apps distributed by Apple or Android for their respective mobile devices. Although similar in concept, portable apps do not need to be installed on devices that house their own processing power (e.g., smart phones, iPads). Instead portable apps can run on so-capped dumb devices, such as storage drives. Furthermore, portable apps are free and open source for anyone to download.
What apps are available?
PortableApps.com currently lists more than 100 apps including popular software such as Skype, VLC Multimedia Player, or Open Office. On the website, one can find apps listed in categories such as accessibility, development, education, games, music & video, Internet, and more. Unfortunately, these apps can currently be used only on Windows machines.
Where to find more info?
For a list and description of available apps visit PortableApps.com (http://portableapps.com/) or feel free to visit the Office of Instructional Consulting (http://www.indiana.edu/~icy).