The real portable Microsoft Office


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There’s a portable version of Office 2010 you can carry on a USB stick.

Many people would like a portable version of Microsoft Office that you can carry on a USB memory drive and run from any computer. It is possible for some people with Office 2010 on a new computer.

Gradually new computers are rolling out with the Office 2010 Starter edition which is quite different from previous trial versions of Office put on new computers.

Office 2010 Starter has no time limit and has a small amount of advertising. However it is only limited feature versions of Word 2010 and Excel 2010. The omitted features are the more complex and advanced features; for many documents and worksheets the ‘Starter’ Word and Excel should be sufficient. You can open and create documents in both the new and old Office document formats.


Starter ‘To Go’

The really interesting part of Office 2010 Starter is the ‘To Go’ or portable option.

Unlike any other version of Office, you can load Office 2010 Starter ‘To Go’ onto a USB memory stick and run the software on another Windows 7 or Vista computer.

The ‘To Go’ software doesn’t install or conflict with other software so you can even run it on a computer with another version of Microsoft Office. As soon as you unplug the USB device, the ‘To Go’ software disappears from the computer leaving no trace behind.

Office 2010 Starter does this trick using what Microsoft calls ‘Click to Run’ and is really an example of software virtualization. Virtualization means the software runs in a ‘sandbox’ or protected space that doesn’t conflict with other parts of the computer.


Making Starter ‘To Go’

If you have Office 2010 Starter (it is only available on some new computers) go to Programs | Microsoft Office | Office To Go Device Manager. A wizard will take you through the process. You’ll need an Internet connection during the setup wizard and, of course, a USB memory stick with at least 400MB of free space.

Even if you don’t want the Office 2010 Starter software on a new computer, it is worth getting a copy of the ‘To Go’ version. A portable Office can be a handy spare.

For more information on Office 2010 Starter edition and the ‘To Go’ option – Office 2010: the real startup guide has comprehensive details on both including details on what’s happening ‘under the hood’ and how to make a backup of the ‘To Go’ software. It starts on page 72 of Office 2010: the real startup guide 2nd edition.


Alternatives

Office Web Applications are the free, online, browser based, versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. They are mostly portable however an Internet connection is necessary.

For advanced users another option is the ‘ACE’ feature in VMware Workstation. This creates a stand-alone virtual machine with the necessary virtualization software included. You can save an ‘ACE’ virtual machine to a USB memory stick and run it from another computer.

There are various ‘portable’ Office offerings on pirate and illegal software sites but we can’t recommend them. For starters they are in breach of Microsoft’s software license. We’ve tried a few and they either:



  • Don’t work at all

  • Aren’t really portable (ie they install onto the computer either in full or part).

  • Have viruses/worms or other nasties included.
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