Portable Linux Apps Which Work With Any Linux Distro

portableappslinux icon   Portable Linux Apps Which Work With Any Linux DistroPortable Apps for Windows and Mac have been around for a long time, but are less common in the Linux world. Due to the complexity of Linux dependencies, and the different way different distributions locate these dependencies, the portable Linux application long seemed like a pipe dream.

Until now.

New website PortableLinuxApps features a number of portable Linux applications, which will work on any Linux distribution. These can run off your flash drive or from a folder in your home directory; it doesn’t matter. Best of all, there’s documentation out there to help you make your own program, should you not be able to find what you’re looking for.

How It Works

portable files   Portable Linux Apps Which Work With Any Linux Distro

Like portable applications for other operating systems, portable Linux apps bundle each and every dependency a program has within a single executable. This has downsides: applications with redundent dependencies will take up more hard drive space, for example. For many the convinence of portable applications outweight this negative, particularly in our present age of cheap hard drives.

Because every dependency of each program is bundled in the program itself, these portable Linux apps can run on practically any Linux distro (although I’m certain someone in the comments will manage to prove this wrong). Ubuntu, Fedora and SuSe are all confirmed to work with these apps, which is a solid start.

Just remember: once you download such an app, remember that you’ll need to change the permission to allow executing the file as a program. If you’re not sure how to do this the simplest way is to right-click the file, then click “Properties” followed by the “Permissions” tab. You’ll find the option to allow execution at the bottom of the window:

portable permissinos   Portable Linux Apps Which Work With Any Linux Distro

One Online Collection

It would seem that, for now, PortableLinuxApps.org is the place to find…well…portable Linux apps.

portablelinuxapps   Portable Linux Apps Which Work With Any Linux Distro

The collection currently is quite small but features many MakeUseOf favourites, including:

  • DosBox, a DOS emulator for playing old games.
  • Handbrake, the best way to convert video.
  • Transmission, the light BitTorrent program.
  • Pidgin, the universal IM program.

Just download the software, set the permissions and you’re good to go!

Rolling Your Own

Can’t find a particular program you’re looking for? You can bundle it yourself! The process is relatively easy, if not a little convoluted. The good folks at OMG Ubuntu recently wrote a post explaining how to convert an Ubuntu .deb file into a portable app, so check that out for more information.

Here’s hoping that in the future creating a portable app from a .deb file will be a two-click affair!

Conclusion

portable handbrake   Portable Linux Apps Which Work With Any Linux Distro

Package management is perhaps what makes Linux great, but it’s also one of the most common complaints newcomers to Linux have. Being used to simply Googling and downloading any program needed, the average new users are a little confused by what they find: .tar.gz files or worse.

This is made worse by the sheer number of different Linux distros on the market, and the fact that they all have different ways of managing packages. The best thing to do, of course, is to learn to use your distro’s package manager. But portable apps are cool, and certainly have their place.

Can you think of cool uses for such technology? Have any apps you’ve bundled yourself that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

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12 Comments -

0 votes

Strodtbeck

I love portable apps! Been using them for a long time now. . . nearly all the software I now use if 100% portable. Makes life a lot easier.

0 votes

Pdrift

this is just awesome, i used portable apps on windows and am glad to see that I can still use portable apps now that I am strictly linux

0 votes

Anonymous

When an ELF executable is created the developer has two choices: dynamic and static. Dynamic apps require some libraries to be preinstalled on the target machine. Most distro repositories make sure dependencies reside or are installed with the binary. Static apps are compiled with all necessary dependencies part of the executable. The down side is, of course, static binaries tend to be much larger then dynamic binaries. In former times, when hard drive space as at a premium dynamic executables were essential.

On modern desktops and laptops hard disks today are huge and running static binaries is no longer a problem. But, on netbooks, minis or smaller devices the old paradigm still reigns.

The idea of “portable” apps is not new. Several years ago I used a KDE based tool which installed portable KDE apps. The site is: http://klik.atekon.de/
It allows the user to download and run the application without installing it. All that is needed is to install a client app which “opens” the package up, including sub-directories, and runs the executable. When the app is closed the package is “un-opened”. Any files added to it are retained in it. It is sort of like using the mount & loop command to open an ISO. After it is opened one can run any executable in it. Umount it and it closes up. Delete it and the whole app is gone.

Personally, I prefer to use a repository based distro.

0 votes

Guest

I would rather just compile from source, which I do by using Gentoo.

0 votes

Richard Carpenter

You may not have time, Especially when troubleshooting a computer.

0 votes

GreyGeek77

When an ELF executable is created the developer has two choices: dynamic and static. Dynamic apps require some libraries to be preinstalled on the target machine. Most distro repositories make sure dependencies reside or are installed with the binary. Static apps are compiled with all necessary dependencies part of the executable. The down side is, of course, static binaries tend to be much larger then dynamic binaries. In former times, when hard drive space as at a premium dynamic executables were essential.

On modern desktops and laptops hard disks today are huge and running static binaries is no longer a problem. But, on netbooks, minis or smaller devices the old paradigm still reigns.

The idea of “portable” apps is not new. Several years ago I used a KDE based tool which installed portable KDE apps. The site is: http://klik.atekon.de/
It allows the user to download and run the application without installing it. All that is needed is to install a client app which “opens” the package up, including sub-directories, and runs the executable. When the app is closed the package is “un-opened”. Any files added to it are retained in it. It is sort of like using the mount & loop command to open an ISO. After it is opened one can run any executable in it. Umount it and it closes up. Delete it and the whole app is gone.

Personally, I prefer to use a repository based distro.

0 votes

Homer

It would only be useful if every distro stopped packaging and a central repository of all apps was made. Then it could be good. But getting everyone to agree that it might be a good idea is impossible which renders the whole idea useless.

Having portable apps to make ex windows Linux newbies more comfortable is a very weak reason and another sign that all these Windows newbies are further weakening the strengths of Linux. It’s differences are it’s strengths. Every time we become a little more like windows Linux gets worse. It’s like the Lebanese guys all moving into the same suburb in a different country to escape their horrid lives in the home land, only to create the same horrid environment where they moved to.

0 votes

LebDude

I totally agree about the Lebanese issue especially in Michigan!

0 votes

Richard Carpenter

I use personally use portable apps for troubleshooting other computers.

For your info, Portable apps for Unix could be made before Windows was ever thought of.

0 votes

Homer

It would only be useful if every distro stopped packaging and a central repository of all apps was made. Then it could be good. But getting everyone to agree that it might be a good idea is impossible which renders the whole idea useless.

Having portable apps to make ex windows Linux newbies more comfortable is a very weak reason and another sign that all these Windows newbies are further weakening the strengths of Linux. It’s differences are it’s strengths. Every time we become a little more like windows Linux gets worse. It’s like the Lebanese guys all moving into the same suburb in a different country to escape their horrid lives in the home land, only to create the same horrid environment where they moved to.

0 votes

RichardCarpen

I use personally use portable apps for troubleshooting other computers.

For your info, Portable apps for Unix could be made before Windows was ever thought of.

0 votes

Sayan “Riju” Chakrabarti

>> Being used to simply Googling and downloading any program needed, the average new users are a little confused by what they find: .tar.gz files or worse.

Well, when /me first came to Linux, he was awed by the fact you don’t need to Google around to find out an app (and worry about whether that app is safe to download or comes with some fine prints), but can simply search for it & install it from a package manager! That was a defining reason why /me switched to Linux for good.

Each to his own, /me guesses! ;=)