Flashdrive.edu: 100 Free and Useful Portable Apps for College Students

By Megan Jones

From the library to the dorm room to a friend's computer, it's not uncommon for college students to find themselves using a different computer all the time. Putting small and versatile apps on flash drives allows students to take their important programs with them wherever they go. The following portable apps cover everything from documents to note-taking to organization to security to helpful tools and more, are all small enough to go anywhere, and cost absolutely nothing.

Creating and Working with Documents

Whether you want a word processor or spreadsheet app that will work with Microsoft Office programs or you just want a great text editor that will go anywhere, these apps will do the trick.

  1. AbiWord Portable. Download this free alternative to Microsoft Word and be able to write your papers anywhere with this software that includes spell and grammar check, mail merge, and more.
  2. OpenOffice.org Portable. This office suite includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool, drawing package, and database all for free and all portable.
  3. Softmaker Office 2006. Get TextMaker and PlanMaker to replace Word and Excel with this simple, free, and portable office suite.
  4. Sumatra PDF Portable. This app is small and starts up very quickly. Use this when you need a free PDF viewer on the go.
  5. Foxit PDF Reader. View and print PDF files and even fill in interactive forms with this portable app that also opens very quickly.
  6. Notepad ++. Replace Notepad with this free program that is small enough to use comfortably as a portable app.
  7. NoteTab Lite. This text and HTML editor has spell check, allows for formatting, and you can search files.
  8. Q10. Download the portable version of this app to get a very simple, full-screen text editor that performs a word, page, and character count and has features such as spell-check, alarm timer, autosaving, and much more.
  9. QJot. Replace WordPad with this rich text editor that creates .doc files and also allows you to read Word and WordPerfect files.
  10. Jarte. This word processor offers many of the same features as WordPad or Word, but is less cumbersome than those programs.
  11. MoonEdit. A great app for students working on collaborative projects, this text editor allows for multiple people to have access to the same documents and even provides multiple colored cursors so you can easily determine what changes your collaborators are making.

Note Taking

Whether taking notes for a big research project or jotting down the phone number of the cute co-ed next to you in the library, these apps will make sure you never lose any important scrap of paper again.

  1. Evernote. This popular note-taking program offers a download for SanDisk U3 flash drives so you can have the complete program available without downloading directly to a computer.
  2. Ditto. This clipboard manager is full-featured, yet is a portable app that allows you to save clipboard items as well as share them across a network.
  3. PNotes Portable. These sticky notes can go where ever you go and allow you to set alarms, select from various skins, organize, and customize all your notes.
  4. CintaNotes. This note manager allows you to select text and store it, then easily find it by typing any of the words in the note. Save quotes, Wikipedia entries, research data, thoughts and ideas, or whatever you need to keep.
  5. NotesHolder Lite. Keep your notes easily accessible, but don't clutter your desktop with sticky notes with this app.
  6. WikidPad. Store notes, ideas, and more on this stand-alone wiki-like notebook.
  7. StoneNotes. This rich text editor allows you to keep notes while also easily creating hyperlinks, drag & drop organizing, tabbed interface, spell check, easy search capabilities, and much more.
  8. Yadabyte Notes. Keep your notes safe here and no matter how haphazardly you jotted them down, you will always be able to find them with the simple keyword search feature.
  9. NoteCase. Organize text notes in a hierarchical manner in a single document with this portable app that can also be encrypted to protect your privacy.
  10. Notebox Disorganizer. Originally designed for writers researching and developing novels, this note-taking app lets you jot down ideas, organize them, and prepare them for publication in a spreadsheet format.


From calendars to to-do lists to task managers, these apps will not only keep you on track, but they can also follow you wherever you go.

  1. TreePad Lite. Keep all your notes, emails, texts, bookmarks, and more together on this portable app.
  2. Mozilla Sunbird, Portable Edition. Take your calendar, schedule, and to-do list with you everywhere with this app.
  3. ToDoList. This powerful task manager will help you organize and stay on top of all your assignments, projects, and other important tasks and is especially useful for complex projects with multiple due dates.
  4. Lightening Extension. For an even smaller app than Sunbird, if you use Thunderbird for your email, then use Lightening as an extension so you can keep your to-do list and calendar with you all the time.
  5. Rainlendar – Portable Calendar. Organize and access your daily tasks, appointments, and more with this portable calendar app.
  6. Safavor. Keep all your bookmarks on this stand-alone portable app.
  7. Magic Bookmarks. Save and organize your favorite bookmarks, then access them from an icon in the system tray with this portable app that also works as a stand-alone.
  8. Kurlo. This contact manager lets you keep all your important names, addresses, and numbers together, print address labels or envelopes, and even take all this information with you anywhere.
  9. XMind. This app offers a portable version so that you can brainstorm on your own or collaborate with others and track progress.
  10. Alarm Clock by Tarry91. Whether you need to be reminded when to get to class or are trying to limit your time on each task, this portable alarm clock rests in you system tray until it's time to alert you.
  11. Chaos Manager. Manage appointments, keep a calendar, store contact information, and make a to-do list with this app.
  12. TiddlyWiki. This lightweight app has plenty of potential with capabilities ranging from Getting Things Done to note-taking to collaboration to building websites.


Whether you like to communicate by email, IM, or even Skype, these apps will ensure you have all the information necessary to communicate no matter where you access a computer.

  1. Mozilla Thunderbird, Portable Edition. This email app allows you to safely take your emails, account information, and address book with you anywhere you go.
  2. Qm – The Quick Mailer. If you need to send quick emails and don't want to load your whole email program, use this small, portable app.
  3. gDisk. Mac users will enjoy this app that turns their Gmail account into a portable hard drive.
  4. Vallen POP3 Mail Checker. Preview and delete emails from your POP account without having to download them into your account. This app can be used with multiple accounts.
  5. Koma-Mail. Use this portable email program to access your POP3/IMAP accounts. It also includes a spam filter, imports and exports email messages and contacts, and even includes a simple RSS reader.
  6. Pegasus Mail. Having been around since 1990, this email client has experience under it's belt as well as a free, portable email program that is very simple to use.
  7. Popcorn – Portable Text Email Client. If security while emailing is an important issue for you, then give Popcorn a try for simple, text-only emails with SMTP/POP3 support.
  8. Trillian Anywhere. Use this portable app to take your IMs, preferences, and contacts with you anywhere to any type of portable media.
  9. Pidgin Portable. Another popular IM client, this portable version of Pidgin allows you to take your settings and buddy list with you.
  10. Miranda IM. Give Miranda IM a try if you want a very small, yet customizable, IM client to take on the go.
  11. Skype. Learn how to make Skype a portable app here and you can be making free calls, videos, and IMs where ever you go.

Web and Graphic Design

Whether you are studying design or are making a few extra bucks designing websites, these apps will ensure you can do the work necessary everywhere.

  1. KompoZer. Create web documents with this WYSIWYG program that does not require you know any HTML to create great web pages.
  2. GIMP Portable. This image and photo editor is a free and comparable replacement for Photoshop that is also portable enough to take anywhere you go.
  3. Anim8or. This 3D modeling and character animation program is small enough to fit on your thumb drive yet powerful enough for enhancing presentations or creating fun animation for extra curricular fun.
  4. Web Design Toy. Type in HTML and immediately see on a split screen the results of your code.
  5. CSS Tab Designermake money online

>. You don't have to know any CSS programming to create beautiful tabs and lists for any website.

  • Get Color. This app allows you to capture any color on your screen for use in programming or design work.
  • Artweaver. This program allows you to simulate a wide variety of brush strokes and supports many common formats including BMP, GIF, and JPEG.
  • Photoscape. View and edit photos with this app that comes loaded with plenty of easy-to-use features.
  • ArtRage 2.5 Starter Edition. Get 8 painting tools and start creating great pictures right away.
  • Rendera. This graphics program supports artistic painting, photo retouching, and tile design.
  • Internet Tools

    From browsing to keeping up with RSS feeds to stopping pop-ups, these apps will enhance your Internet experience everywhere.

    1. Mozilla Firefox, Portable. Download this portable version of Firefox to be able to take your passwords and bookmarks with you as you surf in a secure environment.
    2. Portable Chrome. Use this German-developed app lets you keep Google Chrome on your USB to take advantage of the safe and easy browsing Chrome users love.
    3. Mac-on-Stick. Mac users who are fairly technologically savvy and want to learn how to get their OS Classic 7.0.1 on a stick can find out how here.
    4. GreatNews. This portable RSS feed reader provides a fast and efficient way to organize and read your RSS feeds.
    5. Fact200. Use this app to help you do Internet research. Find information online, save it, and organize and retrieve it easily.
    6. Fresh Find. This small app helps streamline your Internet searches so that they are more efficient.
    7. DownThemAll! Extension. Download all or some of the links or images on a webpage at one time and speed up the download process by up to 400% with this Firefox extension.
    8. Lightscreen Portable. Capture a screenshot and take it with you on your USB flash drive, then access it on any other computer.
    9. PopKi. Stop pop-up ads while you are browsing the Internet with this stand-along app.
    10. MyLastSearch. Get information on your search history done with Google, Yahoo!, and MSN then save to the clipboard or create a file with this information.


    Keeping your flash drive safe, the files on it, or your passwords and other important information secret, these apps will help keep you secure while you are on the go.

    1. TrueCrypt. Make sure no one can access what you've got on your USB drive with this free app.
    2. KeePass Password Safe Portable. Keep all your passwords locked on your USB and take them anywhere with you so you never need to worry about forgetting passwords or someone else accessing them.
    3. Flash Drive Reminder. Never leave your flash drive behind again with this simple tool. Download the app on your flash drive, then any time you are using the drive, Flash Drive Reminder remains on in the background, popping up when you log off or shut down your session.
    4. LockNote. Take text notes and lock them up with this app that provides an excellent, secure place to keep important information such as passwords, social security numbers, etc. that you can store on a USB stick or any other portable device.
    5. FlyingBit Password Keeper. Keep logins, passwords, serial numbers, and any other important information on this app that you can take anywhere with you.
    6. DP Shredder. Feel secure that you have successfully “shredded” any important files and folders with this app that easily goes with you on your USB stick.
    7. EjectUSB. If you've ever had problems safely ejecting your flash drive, this app will help you eject every time you are on a Windows system without fear of losing important data.
    8. ClamWin Portable. Take this antivirus program with you everywhere so you can scan files anywhere and won't leave any personal information behind.
    9. Make your thumb drive returnable. While this isn't necessarily an app, it is just as useful and important as one. Learn this simple way to ensure anyone who finds your lost thumb drive can discover how to return it to you.
    10. Ghostzilla. Keep busybodies at bay with this app that makes your computer screen appear normal while you look at a different program within the page. If the person moves closer, just move your mouse off the page and it will disappear completely.

    Math and Science

    These apps are specifically helpful for those studying math and science and offer calculators, planetariums, and entire solar system exploration.

    1. eCalc. This version of the Windows calculator is a stand-alone that is easy to take where ever you go and doesn't require an Internet connection to use.
    2. SpecQ Mathematics. If you would like something a little heftier than eCalc, try this math program that, in addition to simple math, also allows you to graph, perform complex computations, and more.
    3. SpeedCrunch. Yet another portable calculator, this cross-platform app is fast, lightweight, and handles complex computations.
    4. Celestia. Explore the universe in three dimensions with this app that allows you to virtually leave the Earth and explore the entire solar system and beyond.
    5. Stellarium. If you want to be able to see a realistic sky in 3D from any computer, then download this app.

    Handy Tools

    From dictionaries to translators to on-screen keyboards to money managers, you won't want to leave these helpful apps behind.

    1. WordWeb. Download this free software to have access to a dictionary and thesaurus that works offline.
    2. Lingoes Portable Dictionary. Get both a dictionary and text translator in one with this great app that can be used on any PC when you download it to your flash drive.
    3. DemoHelper. Whether you are conducting a presentation or leading a group study session, use this tiny app to write on your screen for emphasis. Use freehand, shapes, and different colors.
    4. eTextReader. If you like to read text from Project Gutenberg, this portable app allows you to read the plain texts in a book-like manner.
    5. Money Manager Ex. Use this app to manage your money so you know where it's going and how to make sure you have enough each semester.
    6. Convert. Convert distance, volume, time, temperature, mass, density, pressure, and much more with this tool.
    7. Virtual Magnifying Glass Portable. Take a magnifying glass with you no matter which computer you are using with this cool app.
    8. On-Screen Keyboard Portable. If you enjoy using the Windows on-screen keyboard, then keep this app on your USB drive to have access to the same keyboard no matter where you go.
    9. Volumouse. This app lets you control the volume by using the mouse wheel and is great for any student who regularly works around others. Set whatever parameters you wish to make it work as you need.
    10. Cornice Portable. This image viewer allows you to show your images on any computer and lets you zoom, rotate, show thumbnails, and more.
    11. InfraRecorder Portable. Burn CDs and DVDs anywhere with this portable app that has a ton of great features.

    For a Little Fun

    It's time to take a break from all that studying with these fun apps that include music, puzzles, and games.

    1. Screamer Radio. Listen to plenty of Internet radio streams where ever you go with this app that is also easy to use.
    2. SharePod. Use this portable app to use your iPod without iTunes. Manage, play, back up, and share your music.
    3. uTorrent. This BitTorrent client is so light you can keep it on your USB and take it with you anywhere.
    4. Juice. Download and listen to your podcasts with this free app that is fast and easy to use.
    5. AIMP Classic. Go beyond just listening to music with this multimedia app that includes an audio converter, recorder, and tag editor.
    6. Sudoku Portable Puzzle Game. You may be able to call this one an educational app since Sudoku is great for developing logical thinking.
    7. Mega Mario – Portable Super Mario. This clone of Super Mario Brothers is free, fun–and by some accounts–even better than the original.
    8. Bricks 2000 – Tetris Clone. Based off Tetris, this clone is very similar and may even be a bit more challenging.
    9. Stranded II. Find food, make your own tools, hunt, construct buildings, or tame wild animals as you learn to survive in this game.
    10. Deluxe PacMan – Portable Arcade Game. Follow the instructions here to learn how to download and make this game portable so you can go old school anywhere.


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