Whether you’re a traveling salesman or a globetrotting superspy, there are times when you’re on the road but wish you had all your familiar applications with you. To get all the features you’re used to, carry them on a flash drive that you can plug into someone else’s computer.

The first way to do that is to install a version of the Linux operating system on the drive. Pop the drive into your computer’s USB port and download UNetbootin (free for Windows or Linux). Try Slax or Ubuntu, Linux versions that let you use advanced graphics tools, edit audio, and do other things you can’t easily do in the “cloud.” Start a project on the drive, and you can work on it in the same environment anywhere.

If you don’t want to learn a whole new operating system, there are collections of portable open-source and other programs for both PC and Mac that will allow you to run apps such as the Google Chrome Web browser, KeePass password manager and VLC media player. You can run the programs directly from your thumb drive, and you won’t have to install anything on the computer where you use them.

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