For those of us that are called upon time and time again to repair computers that aren’t ours, after a while, it gets to a point where you will probably have the necessary tools on you at all times. And what better way of doing this than to use a USB pen stick? These days 4, 8 or even 16 Gigabyte USB sticks cost very little and I often keep one on a keyring or in my pocket in case emergency repairs are needed at sometime or another. But rather then dig though my mass of computer files, I’ve learned to use, convert and adapt the necessary tools to work with portable application launchers.
For those that don’t use them already, an application launcher can be a god send when trying to organise portable applications on a pen stick. It is a central launching tool to know where all your applications are, much like the Windows start menu. This helps to organize yourself so you’re not looking all over the place for malware and virus removal tools or network repair utilities on your external flash drive. I’ve personally used several and recommend you to have a good look at them all because it can be a case of personal preference as much as anything else. The only launcher I do not cover here is U3 because firstly the sticks aren’t as common as standard pen sticks, and also because I have never had any flash drives that support it.
The PortableApps.com launcher is one of the oldest and still one of the best launchers. The Suite offers a huge collection of portable applications that cover just about every area you care to think of. It’s a complete application and works in all forms of Windows from Windows 2000 up to Windows 7 and 8. The PortableApps.com project concentrates on Open Source software which is admirable, but by the same token, a number of other free tools might not be available in the Portable Apps Directory if they don’t fall into that catagory.
Geek.Menu is a fork of the portableapps.com suite which offers additional security and features not yet implimented in PortableApps.com. These include running applications and saving documents to a TrueCrypt encrypted volume, support for different trusted / untrusted profiles, multiple enhancements to the menu interface, automatic application launching on startup and ejection scripts.
Much like PortableApps.com’s launcher, it is a completely portable launcher too. I haven’t used it too much, however, it comes across as the same general idea as PortableApps.com. It is a different style then the Start Menu style, in that it comes across a bit like Gnome-DO under Linux.
ASuite has the option of having a PortableApps.com’s Start Menu styled launcher or a more standard ‘classic’ type menu, which is what I prefer. It has no skins, unlike the PortableApps.com launcher, and is lighter, even when comparing to them fully loaded and not, but it does have a nice clean launcher window which can be placed whereever you want on screen. That means you can access the applications in two different ways. It is also smaller in terms of file size on your USB pen stick as well. This is more of a manual launcher where you have to add the applications yourself and is more “hands on” than something like Liberkey or the PortableApps.com launcher because you have to source the software yourself as opposed to a provided selection of portable tools which can be downloaded straight to your launcher. Because it has the option to be clean and simple, this is the one I’ve been using for a few years now and was also the launcher used in the Liberkey portable suite before they switched to their own.
Another launcher and perhaps the most controversial of those listed here is Liberkey. Since it’s inception in around 2007, Liberkey has been at the centre of a few issues surrounding possible GPL violations, but appears to have gotten over most, if not all of them. For example, Piriform’s tools such as CCleaner and Defraggler were not included for several months because the people at Liberkey could not get permission for the products to be included in the suite. Something they may have ignored in the early days. This is certainly the best looking and most comprehensive suite in my opinion. There is a built in downloader and updater and all this can be done within the suite itself. Because of the shear amount of applications Liberkey offers, 292 at the last count, I actually keep a full copy of this on a partition on my PC which is where I run tools like Firefox or Opera from.
Despite how it might look like being just another thing to add into the toolkit, a portable application launcher can prove to be extremely useful at organizing and making your applications easier to get to. And just with a selection of portable programs listed here on Raymond.cc over the years, you could put together a pretty awesome toolkit! Just try not to add too many useless programs to make your toolkit bloated. I used to have nearly 500 applications on my Asuite USB toolkit before I came to my senses and dropped it to around 150, don’t miss any of the 300+ I took off….