photo.JPGIn the course of my day, I use two or three main desktop and laptop com¬≠puters in two or three dif¬≠fer¬≠ent parts of the city.

And yet, work¬≠ing on dif¬≠fer¬≠ent devices, I still have access to a core set of tools and util¬≠it¬≠ies that I find essen¬≠tial to my daily work. Here‚Äôs how I do it.

Some of the com¬≠puters are ‚Äėcli¬≠ent‚Äô man¬≠aged, so I don‚Äôt have com¬≠plete con¬≠trol over the soft¬≠ware suite I have avail¬≠able to me.

There are two options that I use, though I find myself mov¬≠ing to one more often these days.

But before I get ahead of myself, let me write a little bit about the applications.

Port¬≠able Apps
One of the import¬≠ant fea¬≠tures I look for in a tool or util¬≠ity is it‚Äôs abil¬≠ity to ‚Äėstand alone‚Äô or be ‚Äėport¬≠able‚Äô.

To quote Wiki­pe­dia:

A port­able applic­a­tion (port­able app) is a com­puter soft­ware pro­gram that is able to run inde­pend­ently without the need to install files to the sys­tem it is run upon. They are com­monly used on a remov­able stor­age device such as a CD, USB flash drive, flash card, or floppy disk.

And the beauty of a port¬≠able applic¬≠a¬≠tion, is that any cus¬≠tom¬≠iz¬≠a¬≠tions or applic¬≠a¬≠tion set¬≠ting tweaks made on one com¬≠puter are avail¬≠able to all your com¬≠puters as they‚Äôre stored in the applic¬≠a¬≠tion folder, as they would be if the pro¬≠gram was ‚Äėinstalled‚Äô in the tra¬≠di¬≠tion¬≠al way.

In my case, the port­able apps I use are text edit­ors, sys­tem net­work tools, file trans­fer tools, and image editors.

My first solution
In the past I used USB flash drives a lot. It was easy to plug them in and have imme­di­ate access to the pro­grams and data I needed.

The sys­tem worked well, just plug in the drive, nav­ig­ate to it and the pro­grams I need, and I’m in business.

Unfor­tu­nately there’s a bit of a down­side to these thumb drives:

  • need to be encryp¬≠ted to ensure the data was safe in the event the drive was lost or stolen
  • always scanned for mal¬≠ware upon inser¬≠tion into the com¬≠puter, and occa¬≠sion¬≠ally that hung the computer
  • needed to back up the data should the drive be lost or stolen

My cur­rent solution
Drop­Box is my go-to solu­tion. Sure, any Cloud stor­age solu­tion would do, but for me Drop­Box is the cat’s paja­mas. Here’s why:

  • when installed onto the sys¬≠tem, the Drop¬≠Box folder is avail¬≠able to all com¬≠puters added to your account
  • all applic¬≠a¬≠tions and data copied into the loc¬≠al Drop¬≠Box folder are imme¬≠di¬≠ately copied to the Drop¬≠Box folder on all the oth¬≠er com¬≠puters attached to my Drop¬≠Box account
  • backup cop¬≠ies of the data are auto¬≠mat¬≠ic¬≠ally stored on all com¬≠puter sys¬≠tems I use regularly
  • data can be encryp¬≠ted for safe stor¬≠age in the cloud

And here’s how it works for me. My home com­puters and one vir­tu­al work­sta­tion at my cli­ent’s loc­a­tion have the Drop­Box cli­ent installed.

When work¬≠ing from home, I simply store my cli¬≠ent work in the appro¬≠pri¬≠ate folder on Drop¬≠Box. Then, when at the cli¬≠ent‚Äôs site, just open up the same folder and files on my vir¬≠tu¬≠al work¬≠sta¬≠tion and carry on.

And, if I’m at a cli­ent site without an installed Drop­Box, I can eas­ily access the data or apps by log­ging in to Drop­Box’s web interface.

If you’re look­ing for anoth­er solu­tion, check out SugarSync.

3 things that make this work
My solu­tion is obvi­ously depend­ent on a few things to work optimally:

  • Installed Drop¬≠Box on all my systems
  • Inter¬≠net access
  • Applic¬≠a¬≠tions that are developed for ‚Äėport¬≠ab¬≠il¬≠ity‚Äô

Oth¬≠er¬≠wise, I‚Äôm back to the mod¬≠ern ver¬≠sion of ‚Äėsneak¬≠er-net‚Äô with the USB drives :smileyhappy:

This works for me, but what about you? How do you com­pute in mul­tiple locations?

And if you’re look­ing for some port­able applic­a­tions to get you star­ted, check out
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By Brad Grier geek.hack


  1. Hi Brad,

    I like your Drop¬≠Box solu¬≠tion. Probalby I‚Äôll give it a try some day. I‚Äôm a freel¬≠ance writer and some times I have to work out of two or three dif¬≠fer¬≠ent desktop com¬≠puters. For this, I carry my own port¬≠able apps in a thumb drive. This work for me 90 per¬≠cent of the time. How¬≠ever, some appli¬≠ations refuse to run on a dif¬≠fer¬≠ent desktop if the pro¬≠gram was set up ori¬≠gin¬≠ally throuh an spe¬≠cif¬≠ic drive port (a, g, k, or M drive, for example) and they recor¬≠ded a file as installed on a spe¬≠cif¬≠ic drive. When I go to a dif¬≠fer¬≠ent com¬≠puter, the app can¬≠not find the file needed to run (a data¬≠base file, for example) becuase now it is run¬≠ning through drive K instead of the ori¬≠gin¬≠al G drive.

    Is there a way around this issue that you know? Thanks for your advice in advance.

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