The Mac has such as pristine image that the idea of shoving a USB stick into it (the horror!) and running portable apps on it seems wrong somehow, as if running extraneous apps on Macs might somehow taint the unified slickness of the system. Say what you will though, portable apps are extremely useful, particularly if you don’t want to clutter your lovely OS X with piles of useful but messy-looking little tools. To that end here are five of the best portable apps for Mac.
1. VLC Media Player
Let’s start with the obvious one. Pretty much one of the first things I do when getting a new computer is install VLC player on it. For years this has been the best media player app around for both Mac and Windows, largely thanks to its exceptional compatibility with most of the codecs out there – whether famous or obscure. Having it on a USB stick means that whenever you plug yourself into a Mac, you’ll be able to watch just about any videos you like on it.
If there’s one app in the world that speaks for itself, it’s Google Chrome, though you might not have heard of its open-source, non-Google-owned sibling, Chromium. It’s a more lightweight version of Chrome that’s less strenuous on the CPU and has a version that will run on Macs off your USB stick.
Having a portable version of Chromium is particularly handy if you don’t want to leave your footprint at an Internet cafe or on other computer that will go on to be used by other people. Because it runs from your USB stick, it won’t store cached data on the local computer, and cookies will stay on your USB stick, too.
One of the better apps for super-accessible and easy-to-use mindmapping and diagramming is available in portable form for the Mac, meaning you can access its robust set of tools wherever you go.
Alongside mind-mapping, XMind also lets you create neat, clean presentations and has a delightfully clean workspace UI which will help keep you efficient by keeping your headspace organized. If you don’t want to create something from scratch, you can just use one of the many templates that come with the app.
4. Portable Gimp
The discerning choice, if you want most of the features of Photoshop without causing a fissure in your personal finances, is GIMP, a free, open-source image-editing suite that for a long time has been the number one Photoshop alternative for just about everyone, if the Internet is to be believed.
The interface is like a slightly less slick version of Photoshop, letting you create and edit images using a layer-based system. With its deep feature set, Gimp is very much aimed at more advanced users, but if you fit that category, or are a professional in the field, then having Gimp on a USB stick is super-handy.
5. Portable Inkscape
What Gimp is to Photoshop, Inkscape is to Adobe Illustrator. It’s the perfect vector graphics editor, built for people in the business of creating logos, illustrations, flashy-looking charts, infographics and so on. The app has come along in leaps and bounds since it was first launched in 2003 and at this point pretty much matches illustrator in every area – from CMYK profiles to high-quality rendering and all the other bells and whistles. Having it on a portable USB stick could prove critical to all the freelance designers and illustrators out there.
These are just some of the many, many apps that we think would be handy to store on a USB stick, ready to boot up no matter what Mac you plug yourself into. Or, as we mentioned earlier, perhaps you just don’t want the mess on your actual Mac and would prefer to run things off a USB. Either way, portable apps are great. Do you have any portable Mac apps that you’d like to add to a USB stick? Let us know!