Have you been to a client site where the computers have been locked down without the software you require? Maybe this USB toolkit will help boost productivity.
The idea is to collect a bunch of portable applications and bundle them together on a flash drive so you can take them where you go. Not every application is portable as software often requires administrator access. Below we will look at how to organise your collection as well as recommending some the essential programs.
2 Organising Your Collection:
It is nice to organise the programs into categories so that you can quickly find what you need. There are several popular options to choose from:
You can have a look at these, use the suite I have compiled or have a go at customising your own!
2.1 Installing my USB Toolkit:
Create an image and write instructions on how to image flash drive once happy with drive.
2.2 Creating your own USB Toolkit:
Installing a Menu:
I am am going to use the PortableApps menu in this example. (You might want to check out a fork of this menu called geek.menu
. It has many extra features such as support for truecrypt, local/www search-bar, etc. Go to the (stable) download page
and download a copy of the latest version).
The standard PortableApps menu is available from here. Just click the “download now” button.
Once you have downloaded the installer, run it and point it to your flash drive (in my case the D:/ drive) to install the menu.
Once the launcher has been extracted/installed you can have a look at the menu. (Support for autorun.inf has been removed from Windows 7/8 so you will need to open the flash drive and run the menu using Start.exe each time you insert the flash drive).
This should open the menu and add the menu’s icon to the taskbar. You can click this to toggle the menu as you would the Window’s Start Menu.
Adding PortableApps Applications to the Menu:
After you install the menu the ‘Portable App Directory’ should open automatically. Alternatively you can download the applications from the PortableApps website
Adding Other Portable Applications:
PortableApps.com doesn’t have every potable application and some of the ones I have recommended are not listed there. Luckily we can still add these to our menu.
One such application is Recuva which can be used to recover deleted files. To add this application, all you need to do is download the archive
, create a folder in the /PortableApps/ directory on you drive and extract the contents of the archive there.
You now have two options:
Option 1 – AddOtherAppsToPAM
Download AddOtherAppsToPAM 126.96.36.199 Development Test 1
and install it. Open it from the menu and go to the ‘Add Apps’ tab; then ‘browse for [the] app’ and select the executable from the directory you extracted the files into above. Once you have selected the executable click the ‘Setup for app so it will add to menu’ button.
You can further customise things like the icon and category using the other options.
Option 2 – A Manual Approach
Whilst using the application above works well, I found that it can be a little messy which is why I probably prefer this approach though it is a little more involving. All you need to do is create the “appinfo.ini” file (you might even want to use an existing one as a template).
The “appinfo.ini” file should be located in /[application directory]/App/AppInfo and be structured in the following way:
Since we selected the category as “Utilities” that is where it will be placed in our menu:
You may notice that there is no icon. To fix this you need to put an icon file called “appicon[X]
.ico” into the same directory as the “appinfo.ini” file, where [X]
is the number you used in the ‘appinfo.ini’ file. To extract an icon from an executable you can use Greenfish Icon Editor Pro Portable
. Here is the final result:
However when adding a application with only one executable I found I had to configure the appinfo.inf file like this:
3 Some Recommended Essentials:
Here I will provide some brief information of programs I find quite essential. Of cause there will probably be others but this should cover the basics (see Chapter 4 for further applications).
3.1 Office Stuff:
If you want something similar to Microsoft Office there are two obvious options, LibreOffice
and Open Office
. Not only are these pieces of software full of the regular features you would be familiar with but they are also compatible with Microsoft Office and WordPerfect file formats. (In fact, this document was written in LibreOffice Writer).
Another tool I like to have at hand is a powerful but lightweight text editor. On this front, its hard to beat Notepad++
. Not only does this editor support tabbed editing, but it also supports syntax highlighting, zooming, macros, etc.
3.2 Image Editors and Viewers:
The image viewer that comes with any standard operating system is typically inadequate for the average tester. A more advanced image editor makes a handy edition and a screen capture tool is also invaluable.
For capturing screenshots I found PicPick
a really useful. Not only does it support taking screenshots of a specific region of the screen but it can automatically save an image, or copy it to the clipboard, or both. It also has other tools such as an on-screen ruler, and features an inbuilt editor which can be handy for making annotations but you can also do some complex things like adding filters (such as blurring sensitive information).
Another program you might want to try out is Lightscreen
which seems a little bit more lightweight but is also less feature packed.
If you need to record video CamStudio
is a free application that allows you to record all screen and audio activity and save it to a video file. It is similar to Camtasia
A More Serious Picture Editor
As mentioned above PicPick
is a valuable picture editor, but if more serious image editing is required GIMP can be used. GIMP is the free version of Adobe’s Photoshop and is a complex editor which supports layers.
Viewer & Editor:
Being able to open and edit PDF files can be essential. Foxit Reader
is fast and allows you to annotate documents.
Splitting and Merging:
It is often useful to be able to merge .pdf files or be able to delete pages. This can all be done (and more) using PDFTK Builder Portable
and what’s more it is quite straight forward to use. It has other features such as password protection, and ability to add watermarks.
There are several options for portable web browsers. Most of the popular browsers are available as portable programs, including Firefox
, Google Chrome
. See Section 5 for some valuable add-ons for the Firefox browser.
The popular VLC Media Player
is also available as a portable program, allowing you to carry around and play your favourite audio and video files.
If you need to edit audio files is Audacity
might be just what you need.
3.6 Other Tools:
Compression and Archives Extractor:
is similar to WinZip or WinRar. It can be used to open most archives and also supports creating self extracting and password encrypted archives. I find password encryption can be quite useful when trying to send files that would otherwise be blocked by an email filter; just communicate the password in the email so the recipient can open it!
Recovering Deleted Files:
Have the software for recovering a deleted file can be a lifesaver. I have used Recuva
in the past and find it works quite well.
is a useful dictionary applications to find the meaning of all those obscure words. You might want to add some of the free dictionaries available here
4 More Specialised Applications
is the popular telnet and SSH client allowing you to connect in to your systems on the go.
Apache, mySQL, PHP and Perl
is an integrated server package of Apache, mySQL, PHP and Perl. Everything is pre-configured and ready to go! It also includes Filezilla ???
“XAMPP isn’t in PortableApps.com Format, but it easily integrates with the PortableApps.com Suite by using the XAMPP Launcher 1.6 and installing XAMPP in the root directory of your portable device or the appropriate subdirectory within XAMPP launcher.”
Imaging USB Drives
ImageUSB is a free utility which lets you write an image concurrently to multiple USB Flash Drives. It is capable of creating exact bit-level copies of USB Flash Drives (UFDs), and is an extremely effective tool for the mass duplication of UFDs.
“While using your portable apps on your USB flash drive, you may want to associate file types with the apps on your USB flash drive. If you’re using a computer on which you can’t change the file associations, you can use a tool, called Portable Extension Warlock (PEW)
to create a database of file extensions associated with the portable apps on your USB flash drive. It creates a temporary drop zone on the screen where you can drag and drop files to open them using the associated programs. It’s not the same as double-clicking on a file to open it, but it’s a happy medium between that and having to open the app first and then open the file.”
5 Firefox Plugins
I use the Firefox browser on pretty much every device I own, the main reasons for this are the fact it is compatible with different operating systems and perhaps more importantly the abundance of add-ons that are available. Here are some add-ons (in no particular order) I have found useful (and some without which I couldn’t even function effectively).
Blocks banners, pop-ups and video ads saving bandwidth and often regaining valuable screen space.
DownThemAll lets you download all the links or images contained in a webpage and much more: you can refine your downloads by fully customisable criteria to get only what you really want.
DownThemAll is all you can desire from a download manager: it features an advanced accelerator that increases speed up to 400%, it allows you to pause and resume downloads at any time.
Lazarus: Form Recovery
Remember the last time you lost everything you’d typed into that web-form? And there didn’t seem to be any way to get it back? Well, there’s one sure way to make sure nothing like that ever happens again; you just need to
Lazarus auto-saves web-forms as you type, so if a server times out, your cat wanders across the keyboard, you close the page by accident, or anything else goes wrong, you can simply return to that page, click the Lazarus icon next to the form, and select what you want to recover. It’s just that easy.
Webpage Screenshot in Firefox
Allows you to conveniently capture screenshots including whole-page screenshots.
Allows you to open pages that require the IE browser (including ActiveX controls). For example you can run HP QC in Firefox using this add-on.
AutoAuth automatically submits HTTP authentication dialogs when you’ve chosen to have the browser save your login information.
6 Create Your Own Portable Programs
What happens if the program you want is not available a portable version? There are methods for converting installed software into portable applications. If there is something you feel you can’t live without maybe you want to research this area a little further. Here are a couple of ideas:
Method 1 – Extract using 7-zip:
Download the executable and then try open I using 7-zip (your success will depend upon the installers compression format).
If you can open the executable you might be able to extract the application files onto your drive and integrate it into your menu.
Method 2 – Install and Copy:
Install the application on another computer where you have administrator access and then copy over the program files.
Method 3 – Special Purpose Applications:
There are some software programs that try to convert applications for you. Check out Cameyo