|Erica Marshall of muddyboots.org , and my own handywork|
Portable programs are just that. Portable. You can take them with you on your handy-dandy usb stick, flash drive, sd card, or whatever small memory device you've got..
In the past, in order to use almost all programs, you've had to install them to hard disks. The programs then took and rooted themselves into the host by putting part of themselves in the registry. Sometimes they would set up shop in the boot sector. Most programs would leave parts of themselves running in the background, just in case you wanted to use them at some point.
I never really liked that. Once programs got bigger than what would fit on a single floppy disk, I chose carefully what I would allow to take up precious rom real-estate.
With portable programs, those worries are over. Almost every kind of program you can think of can be made into a portable program. Of course huge games other massive programs are going to be excluded for now, but the future looks good for tiny files.
I love portable programs. They allow my inner minimalist to spread out in the space of empty memory. Sure, they take longer to initialize, but once they're up and running, it's hard to tell any difference.
Make sure if you go this route with your programs to make multiple backups. I had one sd card crap out and two usb memory sticks. You get what you pay for in those areas, for sure.
Some software suites that allow multiple downloads to different computers might have difficulties, but I sense people have been working around these issues for quite some time.
So now that you'll have that empty memory, what kind of neighbor will you give your lonely operating system?