Five portable apps that run anywhere and everywhere

These must-have apps run on Windows, Mac and Linux systems, and even off a USB drive.

by Kevin Purdy - If you've got multiple computers at home, a computer at work, and occasional guest sessions on other systems, you don't have to memorize and juggle bookmarks, passwords, and application settings. Get comfortable with applications that run anywhere and everywhere--Windows, Mac, and Linux systems, and even off a USB drive--and you'll spend less time fidgeting and more time cranking.

[ See also: SMS services to make your standard cell phone smart ]

For USB-friendly versions of any of these apps, head to and grab the latest installer.

KeePass: It's the ultimate portable lockbox. Versions of KeePass are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems, as well as on the iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry smartphone platforms. There's a portable (Windows) version that runs off thumb drives, and since it's open source, it's likely to adapt to any new system that comes along. Import or enter your passwords once into KeePass, come up with a single, ultimate password or file "key" to secure them all, and you'll never lose your data or log-ins again.

Thunderbird 3: With the new version 3.0 just out, Thunderbird has made it easier than ever to get an efficient, reliable desktop email client up and running in two, maybe three minutes. Even if you're a total Gmail devotee (like certain tip authors), Thunderbird is the smart app to keep on a USB stick and all your systems. When webmail services go down, IMAP connections through Thunderbird usually still work. When you need to write and read email offline, you can hope you installed Google Gears, or just load up Thunderbird and grab your messages before you go.

VLC Player: Why keep an any-codec-goes multimedia player handy on a system meant for business? Because many companies send video and audio files in strangely proprietary formats, and VLC knows and plays them all. If your own file doesn't play in VLC, it means clients won't be able to play it, either.

Sumatra PDF: Okay, so this super-speedy PDF reader doesn't actually run on Linux or Mac systems--but, then again, you generally don't need it to, as those systems have capable and fast-moving built-in PDF readers. Windows, on the other hand, well ... do yourself a favor. Keep Sumatra handy as a default PDF handler, or at least a secondary go-to when certain other official readers crash or continually bug you for upgrades.

AbiWord: Microsoft Office is the standard for editing Word-formatted documents, but it's huge and definitely centered on Windows (and, somewhat in 2008, Macs). OpenOffice is the direct, open competitor, but it's similarly hefty and unwieldy. AbiWord, on the other hand, quietly opens all Word, OpenOffice, Word Perfect, and other files, and opens and operates with speed and minimal system taxing.

ITWorld DealPost: The best in tech deals and discounts.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon