The Top 5 Portable Apps For Linux

Danny Stieben 11-04-2011

<firstimage=”//”>portable linux appsMost of us know about portable apps for Windows, and how useful they can be sometimes. It’s great to simply have your favorite programs and add-ons with you, especially in the case of browsers. However, portable Linux apps have been nonexistent, at least until now. Lately a decent collection of Linux portable apps have showed up, and are now worth mentioning for those who want to try them out.


About Portable Linux Apps

The portable apps I will mention come from, which packages commonly used apps into executable files that can be run from a USB drive.  But before we dive into the greatest portable Linux apps out there, there are a few things that you need to be aware of.

On the site, not all of the links are working, but most are. Although the program’s code itself is stable, the parts of it that make it a portable app are not what you expect. If a dependency is missing on the computer it is being run on, the app will not start. You can find this out by launching the app from a terminal and looking at the output. Additionally, while the program itself is portable, whenever it’s run, it creates a .<name> folder in the Home folder of whatever user you’re currently logged in as, and not on the flash drive. So if you want to remove your traces from the computer as well as actually keeping your settings, you’ll have to move that folder around between computer and flash drive.

Hopefully in the future, these little inconveniences will be solved.

portable linux apps

Downloading The File

One requirement for these portable Linux apps to work is that they need to have executable rights. On flash drives that are usually formatted with FAT32, this doesn’t work, and your apps won’t launch. Since you’ll be using them under Linux anyway, it’s best if you take a partitioning tool such as GParted and shrink the current FAT32 partition. Then you can create an ext3/ext4 partition in the free space and you’re ready to go.


portable linux

Change the settings to “Allow executing file as program“.  Then close and enjoy.

Now here are those top 5 Linux portable apps.


portable linux


It’s no surprise that Firefox is among the top 5 portable apps. It’s simply a very popular piece of software that can run easily on anything. It’s also one of the top portable apps for Windows, so this would probably be one of the first choices to turn into something portable for Linux. In case you’re not a Firefox fan, there are also Chromium builds available.


portable linux

If you’re on a system that doesn’t have an office suite installed, having either LibreOffice or OpenOffice with you can be a life saver. They’re easy to use, powerful, and in most cases don’t require any changes in settings. They also have advantages over Office simply because of their portability. If you pair up both the portable versions for Linux and Windows, you can create high quality documents and presentations without having to worry about something messing up.

VLC Media Player

linux portable apps


If you ever encounter a rare media format, you need the right player or be left in the dark. [NO LONGER WORKS] VLC is notorious for it’s ability to play virtually everything under the sun. When you’re on the go, you never know what strange things you might come across, but it’s always best to be prepared!


linux portable apps

It’s surprising that Boxee has been made into a portable app, but that’s a very good thing! Boxee is a great media center alternative among others, and has a great mix of functionality and eye-candy. It works fairly well too, though in my test many of the online features were dead. I had the same problem before when I actually had it installed, so I’m not quite sure what’s going on.

However, it’s a joy to have even with local files. Another plus with portable Boxee is that it’s not restricted to one operating system (unlike the version which you install to a hard drive), so people of other distros like Fedora and openSUSE can download the executable file and simply run it. All settings are kept in the .boxee folder, so it’s just like having an installed copy.



portable linux apps

Whenever you’re on the go, it’s very important that you can take notes and keep track of them. Gnote is a great choice because it’s lightweight and doesn’t have Mono as a dependency. It’s easy to use, has lots of formatting and organizational features, and doesn’t take up much space. It’s your best bet to jot down those sudden ideas.


Portable Linux apps are on their way, and will soon be as plentiful as their Windows counterparts. Although they are currently rough around the edges, their use will become more practical in the near future. However, it’s always a great time to try them out and be the first to make use of their benefits.

If you have used some way to run Linux programs with a portable app, what did you do? What other programs would you like to see as a portable Linux app?

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Explore more about: Portable App, USB, USB Drive.

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  1. Guest
    April 11, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Why would you even want portable apps for Linux? Just download the iso, put it on an usb stick, select to use the whole space when transferring the data over, and you got a full functioning system with full 'real' programs and all you need is a 4GB stick, or 8GB if you also want to put some pictures and stuff on there. Also, Ubuntu already comes with all the goodies pre-installed so whats the point of this article?

    • Danny Stieben
      April 14, 2011 at 4:56 am

      It could be possible that some people wouldn't find having an entire OS with them very convenient, especially if they only need a certain program. Additionally, it's possible that you cannot boot from the stick because the BIOS of the computer you'd be using doesn't support it or is password-protected.

  2. Xpple
    April 11, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    I use portable apps almost exclusively on my Win7 setup and it makes maintenance so much easier.

    I really think Linux should make all apps fully portable and work on all distros--no more repositories for each distro, apps work like they should on all distros, computer maintenance and app maintenance is so much easier.

    • Danny Stieben
      April 14, 2011 at 4:55 am

      That's very true, but lots of people have different opinions on how things should work or be packaged. I'm just happy that a lot of the generic Linux programs happen to work on virtually all distros.

  3. Anomaly
    April 11, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    I never seen the need for a portable Linux app. If you need to take your Linux apps with you just make the whole OS portable and take it with you. I always carry Mint or Ubuntu on a USB drive with me.

    • Danny Stieben
      April 14, 2011 at 4:54 am

      Yes, that's another possibility, although not everyone wants to carry around an entire OS. Also, it's possible that they can't boot off of the USB sticks because either the BIOS doesn't support it or because it's password-protected.

      I'm curious, do you simply have a LiveCD ISO loaded onto the stick or did you actually install it onto the stick?

      • Gulzar Singh
        May 4, 2011 at 6:27 am

        You can do both.
        Put live CD with unetbootin or from Live USB creator(Ubuntu)

        You can also install it on USB.
        Do the same installation but paritition your USB and not HDD and install bootloader on MBR of USB .
        its simple.