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Put your new flash drive to good use [Columbia Daily Tribune (MO)]
[January 30, 2013]

Put your new flash drive to good use [Columbia Daily Tribune (MO)]

(Columbia Daily Tribune (MO) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Raise your hand if you were given a new USB flash drive as a present for the holidays but aren't sure what to do with it. You know how they work, obviously, because you probably already own a few. The question is, other than transporting data, in what unique way can you put your new flash drive to use Here's a suggestion: Create a portable office that runs completely off a flash drive, on any Windows PC. Why just take your data when you also can take your apps, enabling you to work independently of the host system The programs we'll look at are 100 percent free, many of them open source, and require no installation - - they all run as-is, directly from the flash drive.

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The first thing you'll need is a USB flash drive, at least 4GB capacity, but larger is better, especially if you plan on building a hefty arsenal of apps, with lots of room left over for data storage. To help with the task of building your portable office, below are some suggested apps to get you going. For a Web site dedicated to portable computing, check out the wealth of downloads available at Here's a few of my favorites from this site: File manager: Windows Explorer has evolved nicely through the years, but it's still not the most efficient way to manage your files and folders. If you desire more functionality, check out NexusFile, a freeware dual-pane file manager from South Korean programmer Junghoon Noh. If you work with files and folders a lot, a dual-pane display is the only way to go. NexusFile also puts functions at your fingertips for changing file and folder attributes, batch renaming, archive management, FTP file transfers, file splitting and joining, file shredding and more.

Web browser: I might be prejudiced because I've been a champion of the desktop version, but feature for feature, Opera Portable Edition is the best Web browser for your office-on-a-stick. Nearly every feature from the desktop version, with the exception of widgets, is found in the portable edition, including: Mouse Gestures, for mouse-driven Web navigation; Opera Turbo, for speeding up slow connections; Speed Dial, a user-defined page of visual bookmarks; Opera Mail, the built-in email client software; and a robust set of program options, including a skinnable interface and content blocking.

Instant messaging: Keeping in real-time contact with friends and colleagues is easy with Instantbird Portable 1.3, an all-in-one instant messaging app that supports all the major players: AOL, Yahoo, MSN, Google Talk, Twitter, Facebook, XMPP, IRC and ICQ. Powered by Mozilla, Instantbird Portable is open-source and completely free. Another messaging app worth keeping on hand is Skype Portable, which offers free video calls, voicemail and call forwarding, in addition to instant messaging, Office suite: Again we turn to open-source software for LibreOffice Portable, a full-featured suite of productivity apps, including a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation design, database manager and drawing tools. Depending on the options you choose, the entire suite runs directly from your flash drive, taking up as little as 260MB. All LibreOffice applications are compatible with their commercial counterparts, such as Microsoft Office, WordPerfect Office and Lotus Symphony.

Media player: Once again, the best desktop media player also is the top portable app in this category. VLC Media Player Portable is identical to the popular desktop media player, only packaged as a portable app, so you can play audio and video files anywhere you go. This self-contained media powerhouse can play a variety of audio and video formats -- MP3, DivX, OGG, WMV, AVI, MKV and dozens more -- as well as standard CDs and DVDs.

Next week, we'll create some custom flash drive configurations for different types of users, including students, techs, teachers, gamers, and more.

Scott A. May is a local computer consultant and Deskside Support technician at IBM. Reach him at

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