The Best Portable Apps

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A portable app is a “lite” version of a software, which can be run without being installed on the host computer, and which doesn’t modify the computer’s configuration information. In other words, you can run it, and use it, and no-one will ever know you were there.

Apart from being more flexible and secure when working on public computers, another good use for portable apps is to keep your number of installed apps to an absolute minimum. Installed programs take up space and can cause a computer to run slower, so the less you have installed the better. My personal policy is that I never install something if there is a portable version available.

But which portable apps are the best? There are so many to choose from. What you need is for MakeUseOf to lead the way and show you which ones to look at first. Follow me.

Audio Players


A nice little media player, with different skins, playlists, and the ability to play and rip audio CDs. It supports multiple formats, advanced tagging capabilities, and customisable keyboard shortcuts.


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AIMP is a bright looking thing, which supports multi-format files, multiple playlists, audio converting, naming and sorting tags, easy music organization, and it even works as an alarm clock, waking you up to your favourite tunes.

Audio Editors & Extractors


If editing audio is your thing baby, then Audacity should be at the top of your toolbox list. It’s the easiest tool available to cut, copy, splice, and mix audio, record live files, change the speed and pitch of a recording, and import / export some obscure file formats. It is also the best tool for making your smartphone ringtones, as well as other uses you may not have thought of.


Quite simply the best, easiest, and fastest CD ripper I have ever found. I have previously written about CDex, and its ability to rip the discs into MP3 files, along with its metadata (by connecting with a “remote database”). You can add all of the music to new playlists, as well as have the computer shutdown when the ripping has finished. So this is an ideal “start it and go to bed” app.


If CDex doesn’t manage to get you the metadata for your MP3 files, then that is where the tag editor Mp3tag comes in. Simply load the relevant songs into MP3tag, and from there you can fix the title of the song, the singer / band, name of album, and album artwork. Save your work and bingo, your MP3 files are fixed.



The need for a multi-protocol IM program may be fading, what with Google Talk merging into Hangouts, and Windows Live Messenger merging into Skype, but there is still a place for Pidgin in your life. The XMPP protocol allows you to link accounts such as Slack and you still have AIM, ICQ, IRC, and Yahoo Messenger, if you are one of the Internet oldies.


The grand-daddy of all IM and video calling programs, especially now that Microsoft have got their claws on it. Now Skype is integrated into your television, the XBox and all Windows Live Messenger accounts can be accessed through the Skype interface. Make free calls to other Skype users, pay dirt-cheap charges for calls to landlines and mobiles, and use Skype for sending SMS (credit required).

Email Stripper

A favourite if you have friends and family who insist on forwarding you chain emails, with the dashes in them. If you want to pass on the chain email nice and clean, then run the text through Email Stripper. Once the text is inside the box, press “strip it!” and bingo, the text will appear nice and clean. Pressing “copy” puts the clean text on your clipboard, ready for pasting into a new email.


Brutal Chess

I don’t know why I play chess, I really don’t. I always get slaughtered by the program, within the first 5-10 minutes of play. This is me after a few minutes, and already my Queen is under threat (I’m the white team).

The only brutal part of it is the brutal blood-letting going on when I get it into my head that I am a chess grandmaster.


Now here’s a game that I win more often! This is a game which my wife and I are totally addicted to, and when I opened the game to write this section, I ended up frittering away about 30 minutes of precious writing time, determined to beat my score.

You need to use Universal Extractor to extract the files, and then go from there. It’s all explained on the download page. Now go forth and waste several days mindlessly playing this game. Forget to wash, eat, feed the dog…..


I am not clever enough for Sudoku, but when my brother-in-law heard about this article, he immediately recommended Sudoku, as that’s his brain food. He’s on the “Impossible” level. I’m on the “how the hell do you play this thing?” level.

If you’re clever enough to play this game, then this is a good one for when you are in doctors waiting rooms. Every time I walk into one, someone is playing Sudoku.

Image Viewers


IrfanView is superior, in my opinion, for batch editing of images, which is ideal if you are in my line of work (writing, in case you’re wondering. “Professional stalker” is my hobby). After inserting all the required screenshots, I just have to hit one button and voilà! They are resized or renamed. No sweat!

So why is it under “Image Viewer” and not “Image Editor“? Because it can do both. IrfanView is excellent also as a quick light app for viewing images (either individually or as a slideshow).


Have you ever wanted / needed to have an image uploaded to the net quickly and easily, so it can be shared? Enter Hyperdesktop. This small app sits in your task tray, and when called up by a keyboard shortcut, you can make a copy of the entire screen or just a portion of it. It will then be automatically uploaded to Imgur and the short URL will be immediately copied to your clipboard for sharing. Bing Badda Boom!


A nice simple app which scans your hard drive and presents the images to you for easy viewing. As well as looking at the pictures, you can also view its properties, including the EXIF data.

You can import 400 different file formats and export your photos in one of 50 file formats. Plus slideshows, printing support, and side-by-side comparison.

Image Editors


Who doesn’t know GIMP? The “poor person’s Photoshop”, because GIMP emulates a lot of Photoshop features, except for the fact that you are not paying through the nose for GIMP. Plus, like Photoshop, GIMP has a lot of features with a steep learning curve. I have been using GIMP for years, and I know I have only scratched the surface of it. Maybe I should be making use of MUO’s GIMP tutorials?


As the name of the app indicates, JPEG View is for….viewing JPEG’s? No surprise there then, but you can just as well use this great app for also viewing BMP, PNG, GIF and TIFF images. You can also do some basic editing on those images such as adjusting the contrast, lighting, sharpness, and a few others I don’t fully understand. No, as well as a chess grandmaster, I am not a photographer either. Is it that obvious?

Watermark Image

It’s very easy to steal an image from the Internet. I’m so beautiful that my picture gets stolen all the time. People seem to think that every image on Google is fair game and free to use. So it is absolutely necessary to claim ownership to your work by adding a watermark to the image, so everyone knows it’s yours.

Watermark Image by TSR Software is the best I have found for this task. Just load your picture in, decide if you want a text or image watermark, and use the easy-to-follow features. Then save your new photo, and then dare anyone to steal it then. Just don’t put it at the edge of the image where screenshot software can chop it off. Stick it in the middle of the image instead.

To get the free portable version, go to the download page link which is listed above, and scroll right down to the very bottom until you see this. That’s what you’re looking for.



At some point, you are going to need to wipe your computer. Whatever the reason, you are going to need the license keys for all of your paid software, and I am willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that you don’t already have them written down. Am I right?

LicenseCrawler is your saviour. Before wiping your hard drive, run this nifty little program, and any license numbers stored in the Windows Registry will be shown in a handy text file which can then be saved. Just remember to save it to a USB drive or email it to yourself. Don’t leave it on the drive you are going to wipe, is what I’m saying.


This app has two purposes. What it does is that it disables the keys on your keyboard, for when you are away from the computer. So first, this can be used to stop your children from deleting and ruining that 100 page report to your boss. But secondly, and this is what I use it for, it can be used to clean the keyboard without watching the keys go crazy on your monitor.

LinuxLive USB Creator

Linux is a great alternative system, if you are tired of the usual Windows or Mac scene. And we have covered Linux extensively over the years. LinuxLive USB Creator is an app which easily and effortlessly installs any version of Linux onto your USB stick. It falls under the “even your grandma could do it” category.


Awesome Duplicate Photo Finder

With our digital packrat ways, it is very easy to accumulate stuff on our hard drives. In my photo folder for my dog, I know I have about six copies of every photo, as it’s very easy to whip out the smartphone, and keep your finger on the camera button, snapping off picture after picture. So how do you weed out the duplicates and make space on your hard drive? Use Awesome Duplicate Photo Finder!

Just add the photo directories on your hard drive that you want scanned and it will get to work finding the duplicates. Don’t worry, nothing gets deleted without your say-so. When it has finished, it will find similar images, present them to you side-by-side with a probability in percentage terms of how likely it is that the photos are similar. You then decide which one you want to keep and which one gets tossed.


If you have a huge collection of anything, whether it be books, DVDs, belly-button lint, whatever, then you may want to catalogue it all so you know what you have. That is where DataCrow comes in. Just choose your category, and add the details. It is a bit on the basic side but that will appeal to some people who are totally into minimalism.

Free Download Manager

The first thing that this has got going for it is that it can automatically detect downloads starting in both Firefox and Chrome. So there is no need to actually start it in Download Manager. As long as Download Manager is running in the background, it will know when something starts in one of those browsers. It will also monitor the clipboard for any downloads.

Overall, using an app like this often makes downloads faster, plus if the browser was suddenly to crash and close, Download Manager would be able to pick up the download where it left off.

Text Editors


AbiWord Portable is a free word processing program similar to Microsoft Word. It supports numerous file formats such as Microsoft Word, Word Perfect, Open Document (, Office Open XML (MS Word 2007), RTF, HTML, Palm and more. It has grammar and spelling checkers as well as other handy features including mail merge capabilities, plus a plugin system allowing you to add features with available add-on plugins.


Notepad++ Portable is a full-featured text editor for coders and developers. It has features such as syntax highlighting, syntax folding, auto-completion, drag ‘N’ Drop, macro recording and playback, and much more.

Jarte Plus

What I like about Jarte is its nice appealing interface, and its huge number of keyboard shortcuts. It is based on the Microsoft WordPad word processing engine built into Windows, and all documents are compatible with Microsoft Word. It opens files with the formats RTF, DOC, and DOCX. It’s fast, and you can export to PDF.



PNotes Portable is an easy to use sticky notes manager with skins, flexible display options and a built-in scheduler. You can place it on your USB flash drive, iPod, portable hard drive or a CD and use it on any computer, without leaving any personal information behind.


Are you the kind of person who has lots of paper sticky notes lying around? Then ditch them all and try this. Stickies is a lightweight sticky note utility that allows you to place virtual sticky notes on your computer screen.

Q10 Minimalist Word Processor

Microsoft Word is full of bloat, and has so many features that you end up playing around with them, and subsequently wasting time. Q10 aims to simplify the whole word processing experience by giving you a completely blank screen (white by default, but you can change the colour). A word and page count pretty much completes the ensemble. Now get writing.

Security & Privacy


PWGen is a password generator which will create for you large amounts of cryptographically-secure passwords or passphrases consisting of words from a word list. PWGen provides lots of options to customize passwords to the users’ various needs. Additionally, it offers strong text encryption and the creation of random data files (e.g., key files).


ClamWin is an anti-virus program, which gives you features such as detecting viruses (obviously), as well as regular updates to the virus engine. You have to remember though that due to its portable nature, this is not a real-time scanner. This means that it will only detect a virus if you manually give it a file to check. Plus scheduled scans and updates are also not possible so you have to manually update it yourself.


If you are the paranoid type (and you should, because they really are out to get you), then Cybershredder is essential for making sure those deleted files stay deleted.

System Tools


This is probably the best and easiest disc burning software app that I have ever used. Simply choose which one you want, then you will see your hard drive on the left and the disc space on the right. Then it’s just a case of dragging and dropping the files from your hard drive to the disc space. Then watch it start burning.


We are big fans of CCleaner here at MUO, and it definitely pays for you to give your computer a thorough cleaning now and then. Clear out all the crap files that are blocking up your system, and more. This is one thing you should schedule on a regular basis. The downside is that the portable version takes ages to start up.

Geek Uninstaller

When you uninstall something from your computer, it isn’t really completely uninstalled. Windows leaves behind junk files and empty folders, which over time can clog up the pipes. Geek Uninstaller uninstalls programs properly and makes sure that all the junk goes with it.

Video Players

VLC Player

A media player that needs no real introduction. VLC Player is hugely popular due to its ability to “just work”. It handles virtually any file format you care to throw at it. It also plays DVDs and streaming video.


PotPlayer is a feature-rich media player that plays hundreds of different video and audio formats without any dependency on installed codecs, as well as streaming media and DVD video. Other features include configurable subtitles, audio and subtitles delay adjustment, video equalizer, playlist support, etc.


This media player is notable for the fact that the developer is actively developing a feature where you can have two sets of subtitles on the screen at the same time, side-by-side. This would be invaluable for language learners who can see their native language on the left, and the language they are learning on the right.

Video Editors


Avidemux is a video editor designed for simple cutting, filtering and encoding tasks. It supports many file types, including AVI, DVD compatible MPEG files, MP4 and ASF, using a variety of codecs. Tasks can be automated using projects, job queue and powerful scripting capabilities.


VirtualDub Portable is a video capture/processing app. It has batch-processing capabilities for processing large numbers of files and can be extended with third-party video filters. VirtualDub is mainly geared toward processing AVI files, although it can read (not write) MPEG-1 and also handle sets of BMP images.


Do you have TV show files on your computer with messed up file names? Then Filebot will access various television-related websites such as IMDB and to get the full episode list for the relevant TV series and your titles will be automatically fixed for you. Pure genius.

Web & FTP


Quite simply the best FTP client available. If you are a webmaster, and you need access to your server files, then use Filezilla and never look back. Just enter your FTP details, and Filezilla will speedily connect with your site and present you with your files.

Google Chrome

Opinion is divided over which is the best browser, but it practically seems to come down to two possibilities – Firefox and Chrome. In my opinion, Chrome is the winner, due to its superior syncing abilities, its speedy connection to the net, and the availability of extremely useful add-ons.


If downloading torrents is your thing, then uTorrent is your friend. This claims to use no more than 6MB of bandwidth, so you pretty much forget that it is there. Features include bandwidth prioritization, scheduling, RSS auto-downloading, and more.

Which portable apps are on your USB stick? Which ones can you not live without? Let us know in the comments below so we can fall in love with them too.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This article may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

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