As a developer and heavy user of virtual machines, I often find myself installing and configuring the same set of applications and utilities over and over again, usually with the same customisations and settings. A couple of examples are FireFox with a standard set of extenstions (firebug, web dev toolbar, delicious bookmarks) and Notepad++ with explorer shell integration and custom file extension settings.

In the past I have used Windows Live Sync (formerly FolderShare) to have folders of utilities sync’d across physical and virtual machines, but this doesn’t work for bigger apps that require an install such as FireFox. In a recent flash of inspiration I suddenly had the idea of installing the portable versions of these applications to a Live Mesh folder and then have these automatically sync’d to the cloud and available any time, anywhere. Portable apps are designed to be run from USB pen drives etc and do not require a local install but I couldn’t see any reason why this would not work with a Live Mesh folder.

I installed the base platform installer to a new Live Mesh folder and then downloaded a set of portable applications which can then be installed via the platform program, which also includes a quick launcher.

Just for reference, these are the applications that I have chosen to download for now that would be useful on any machine I happen to be working on:

  • 7-Zip
  • Command Prompt
  • GIMP
  • InfraRecorder
  • KeePass
  • Lightscreen
  • Firefox
  • Notepad++
  • PuTTY
  • uTorrent
  • VirtualDub
  • VLC Media Player
  • WinMerge

I don’t really see a need to install a portable email client or office suite as both of these already have online / cloud equivalents from Google and Microsoft.

I’m certainly not the first person to think of this approach to portable apps, as a quick search on Google threw up a couple of earlier blog posts on this subject: