Portable Apps

The place I’m working right now doesn’t allow me to install software, no matter what it is, onto my development desktop.  I can understand their concerns with licensing, viruses and the such, but I’m struggling without a full toolkit. 

Developers need tools, and there are times when we don’t see the need for them until we’re right in the middle of trying to track down some odd behaviour in our applications.  We also need tools so we can stay productive.  I don’t mind the fact that you’re willing to pay me a bunch of money to come in and write code, but let me at least try to give you the best return on my time as I possibly can.  I will give kudos out to my current employer.  They have tried to adopt good tools for the developers.  All workstations have ReSharper, TestDriven.NET, Textpad and a few other in-house utilities.  This is all great, but it’s not quite as far as I’d like to see it.  On top of that I don’t have the patience to work through a month or more of process to get the next tool installed on the developer workstations.

This has led me into the world of portable apps.  Right now I have 3 that I’m using and I’m sure the list will grow.  

The first is Firefox.  There are a whole bunch of explanations on the web about setting it up to run off on a USB drive so I won’t get into it here.

Second is SlickRun.  Now this one did have a few starter examples on the web, but none that I found took it to the point that the application is fully operational from a USB drive.  Here’s how you do it.

  1. Install SlickRun on any PC.  Part of the installation process will be to install the Delphi runtime if it isn’t already.
  2. Copy the SlickRun installation folder (C:\Program Files\SlickRun) to a folder on your USB Drive.
  3. Copy the Delphi runtime files (rtl60.bpl, vcl60.bpl, vclx60.bpl) from C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32 into the SlickRun folder on your USB Drive.  These files must be in the folder that contains the sr.exe file.

Running SlickRun is as easy as double clicking on the sr.exe file.  A couple of things to note.  First is that SlickRun will create a set of folders on your USB Drive to hold Application Data, Cookies, Desktop, etc.  I haven’t figured out a way to tell SlickRun where to look for these on my local machine.  Because of this you will want to leave your USB drive plugged in until you have completely logged off or shut down your computer.  If you don’t it may cause synchronization problems.  I also encountered problems with SlickRun starting some applications, like Visual Studio, and not recognizing the right locations to pickup things like the ReSharper license that I had installed on that PC.

The third application that I have installed is Notepad++.  This one is easy.  Just copy the installation folder from C:\Program Files\NotePad++ onto your USB Drive and you’re done.

Hope this helps and let me know if you have any other development tools/aids that you run from your USB Drive.