Don Moore

Tekspeak’s Guide To Making Portable Apps

In vmware on October 9, 2010 at 6:29 PM

Portable applications are pretty useful. They’re good to use when:

  • You’re on a a computer that belongs to someone else, and you don’t want to, or can’t, install a program you need to use.
  • You want to use two versions of the same program on the same machine.
  • You want to run a program while using much less system resources.

There are portable versions of many of the most popular programs available online. But what of the apps that don’t have a portable version readily available? In this installment of Tekspeak Guide, TS will show you how to make virtually (pun intended) any program portable.

Step 1: Download ThinApp Suite

ThinApp (formerly Thinstall) is a virtualization program from VMWare, the same company behind the ubiquitous Worskstation line of products. ThinApp captures an image of a program, and makes a miniature virtualized OS environment for it, enabling it to run without install.

Now, the ThinApp Suite runs for USD $5,000… going out on a limb, it’s safe to say that most of our readers aren’t going to spend five grand on a software. We’re not going to say where the copy used for this guide came from (hint: it rhymes with Florence) but needless to say, it was way, way below sticker price.

Once it’s installed, run ThinApp Setup Capture.

Step 2: Run a pre scan

Running a pre scan allows  ThinApp to take a snapshot of your system and create a baseline. They recommend a clean Windows, but it works fine on a PC with about a dozen or so programs already installed.

Note: You cannot have the program you wish to make portable already installed when you do the pre-scan. ThinApp will designate the program as part of the baseline and not be able to capture an image of it once you do the post-scan.

Step 3: Install the App

Now you install the program (or set of programs) you want to make portable. I picked Microsoft Office 2003 because it’s the perfect candidate for a portable version: You often find yourself wanting to use it on computers other than your own; different versions of Office could cause problems when installed (or uninstalled) together; and it is often memory intensive, using large chunks of RAM.

Step 4: Run the post scan

After the apps installed smoothly (our installation of CS5 took a while) run the post scan, which basically checks for any programs installed since the pre scan.

Step 5: Choose entry points

In this step, you’ll be choosing which programs to turn into portable apps. Usually, just selecting all will do the trick. Click through the next few screens to save the selected files, then…

Step 6: Profit!

If it all goes to plan, you should have your programs saved as self contained executable files, which can run with no installation required. Congrats!

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