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Working With Portable Apps

By B Lingafelter    Updated      tools

Portable apps are designed to be used on a portable storage device (USB drive or portable hard drive), cloud drive (like DropBox and Google Drive), or even your local PC. If you need to complete homework on a computer that does not allow you to install and configure necessary applications, portable apps are a great solution. And there are portable versions of many open-source software applications essential for Web Development, like portable browsers and text editors.

Step 1: Install Portable Apps Platform

The best place to get portable apps is from PortableApps.com. While the PortableApps.com Platform is not required to install and run portable versions of your favorite software, it does provide many benefits. The platform ties all the portable apps together, making it easy to install new apps, upgrade existing ones, and to launch the apps when needed. It even has a backup feature to backup app settings. Currently, the platform is about a 4MB download; 8MB installed.

For installation instructions, read Installing the PortableApps.com Platform. The support page also provides answers to many of the questions you may have after installation. As stated, you should install the platform to the root directory of your portable drive (E:\).

Step 2: Install Portable Apps

At the end of the PortableApps Platform installation, the installer will prompt you to select the apps you want to download and install.

It's tempting to go crazy checking all the portable apps you think might be necessary. However, the more apps you select at one time, the longer it will take to download and install them. Start off with just a minimum of the most essential apps. Once you are comfortable with how the platform works, you can always add more apps.

Essential portable apps:

Other portable apps packaged with PortableApps launcher

  • Brackets Portable
  • Atom Portable (older than full version of Atom editor)
  • SublimeText3 - (compressed .zip file; not packaged with PortableApps launcher)
    Note: Download portable version and extract .zip file to temporary location. Then move Sublime Text folder to Portable Apps folder on USB drive. To access from Portable Apps menu, click Apps button and choose Refresh Apps. Sublime Text will appear in Other category. To move to another category, right-click on executable and choose Category.

Standalone Installation

The Portable Apps platform makes updating and adding apps an easy process, but it's not required. All portable apps packaged with the PortableApps launcher can be installed manually.

  1. Use provided links to download standalone portable apps.
  2. Browse to the location of the downloaded AppNamePortable_x.x.paf.exe file.
  3. Double-click the file to start the installation.
  4. Follow the on-screen prompts to select the location for installation.
    If the installer detects an existing PortableApps directory on one of your attached drives or within your USERPROFILE folder, it will automatically select that. Otherwise, the current directory will be selected by default. Within the directory you select, an AppNamePortable directory will be created containing the portable app. Note that installing to the C:\Program Files or equivalent is not supported.

Installing on Lab computers: Create PortableApps directory in Documents and select in step 4 above.

Other Portable Apps by Category

Some other useful apps are listed below by PortableApps.com category.


Please note: Installing XAMPP Lite should be avoided unless you are already comfortable with installing, configuring, and running a packaged local test server and know why you need it. XAMPP is not for newbies.

  • XAMPP Lite - Apache, mySQL, PHP, phpMyAdmin, etc in one package
    NOTE: Click Download XAMPP Lite button to go to XAMPP for Windows downloads on Sourceforge.net. Open the directory for the appropriate XAMPP version, and grab the xampp-portable-win (either .zip or .7z) file. Do NOT try to use the executable (.exe) file for installation to portable drive. Basic installation instructions follow, but if you need additional help check the Apache Friends Support Forum (English forums at bottom).

To install XAMPP Lite on USB Drive:

  1. Unpack/extract to the root directory of your portable drive (e:\xampp or g:/xampp). DO NOT run "setup_xampp.bat" for portable installation!
  2. Open the xampp directory and double-click the xampp-control.exe file to run the XAMPP Control panel.
  3. Click Start button next to Apache to turn on your web server; Stop button to turn it off.
  4. Click Start button next to MySQL if you need database access; Stop button to turn it off.
    Refer to Using XAMPP Control Panel tutorial for detailed information on how to use the control panel.
  5. After starting Apache, type http://localhost/ in address bar of browser to load default index.html in htdocs folder.

Graphics & Pictures

  • Blender - 3D modelling, animation, rendering, post-production, playback
  • Gimp - Photo and Image Editor (open source alternative for PhotoShop)
    Note: To dock floating panels/windows, choose Windows -> Single-Window mode.
  • IcoFX - full-featured icon editor
  • Inkscape - Vector Graphics Editor (open source alternative for Illustrator) and an excellent choice for creating SVG files
  • Pencil Project - prototyping and diagramming tool
  • PngOptimizer -¬†image converter and optimizer


  • FileZilla - full-featured FTP client
  • Google Chrome
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Opera


  • Foxit Reader - small and fast PDF reader
  • LibreOffice - word processor, spreadsheet, presentations with excellent compatibility
  • Stickies - lightweight sticky notes
  • Sumatra PDF - PDF, Comic Book, and E-book Reader


  • ClamWin - Antivirus on the go


  • 7-Zip - File archiver and compressor
  • WinMerge - ¬†file comparison and merging