New technologies — and I include hacks in this category — are always fertile ground for making one’s life more efficacious and efficient. One of the hottest technologies is finally coming of age and is ripe for use in making one’s productivity soar. That technology is the humble jump drive.
Also known as flash drives, these simple plastic devices are the natural replacements of floppy discs. Affordable units are available from 64 MB units the size of a penny to 2 GB drives that fit neatly on a key chain. As technology advances, memory capacity is growing at an astounding rate while prices are falling. When first introduced, the problem for some operating systems was that they required a driver to be installed prior to use. Even then some computers still refused to recognize them. That has changed and most computers seem to accept them as an additional drive very easily.
At first glance, one will assume that the best use for these pocket drives is simple storage of files. Indeed, for the last two years, I’ve done exactly that. In fact, I have three years worth of documents related to my profession and still have over half of the memory space still available. This ended the hassle of e-mailing myself documents to work on at home and then e-mailing them back to work. Now I simply set up a “Briefcase” (a windows folder designed to carry copies of documents from one computer to another while keeping both sets updated) on my jump drive and work from that folder at home. I open my folder and see the exact same set up that I have at work. Every morning, I update my files with one click.
Leave it to the developers to make a good thing even sweeter! Now programs are being developed to be installed and run directly from the jump drive. No files are installed on the computer hard drive. This provides one the capability of using one’s favorite programs at work despite many employers prohibiting the installation of employee programs on the company network. The programs are incredibly small compared to their power, which is simply amazing. One cannot tell many of the programs that are designed to run from the jump drive from the full-blown program that one would install on the computer hard drive. So now, it’s possible to bring your favorite word processor along with your documents where ever you go!
Here’s a list of the portable programs that I’ve installed on my jump drive (I have a 1 GB jump drive):
- Open Office – A nice office suite that has a word processor, spreadsheet program, presentation program, and drawing program.
- Portable Firefox – The Firefox we all know and love is available for the jump drive.
- Portable Thunderbird – The Firefox companion email client.
- Opera USB – An elegant browser that also includes its own email client and IRC chat client.
- Essential PIM – Think of a stripped-down Outlook with only the calendar, task lists, contacts, and notes.
- Portable GAIM – A portable IM client
- Portable NVU – Portable html editor
- Portable Filezilla – An FTP program brought to you by the Mozilla folks.
All of the above programs are free, although the Essential PIM program, which is also free, offers a premium upgrade with more features for $39.
There are also websites that offer jump drives pre-installed with portable software, but I do not recommend those as the programs are all free and installation is a simple unzipping of the files to the jump drive. Why pay $125 dollars for a $60 jump drive loaded with free programs?
Over the next few days to weeks, I’ll be offering some reviews of some of the portable programs that I’ve been putting through their paces.