Office in Your Pocket

Even if you aren’t a card-carrying geek, you may have a USB drive in your pocket. The little drives are becoming ubiquitous for anyone in the technology arena. Never has toting large amounts of data around been so convenient. A new trend you may not be aware of is using USB drives to run whole software packages or even operating systems.

A case in point is the portable version of OpenOffice 2.01 at OpenOffice is the main office package used by Linux distributions, but it also runs on Windows, Macs, pretty much anything. It’s a complete office suite with a word processor, spread sheet, presentation, database, and graphics packages, and it’s compatible with Microsoft Office file formats. Now you can put the whole package on your USB drive and have an office suit available wherever you go.

What else can you run from your USB drive? Firefox (browser), Thunderbird (email), Gaim (IM client), NVU (web development), and lots of others. You can even load a whole operating system on your thumb drive, such that you can plug in the drive, boot the computer and end up in Linux (if your computer was made in the last couple of years so the BIOS will allow it).

Having software you can run from a USB drive is extremely handy, particularly if you might have to do some work at more than one PC, or you want your browser and bookmarks to be at your fingertips when you’re vacationing at your parents house or some other form of purgatory. If you’ve got one and some free space, give it a try. And no, you can’t launch ArcGIS from one. Maybe that’ll be a 9.3 feature…..