PStart, PortableApps.com Suite or Lupo Pen Suite - Portable apps on a USB stick

Thomas Zucker-ScharffSolution Guide
CERTIFIED EXPERT
Veteran in computer systems, malware removal and ransomware topics.  I have been working in the field since 1985.
Published:
Edited by: Andrew Leniart
There are a few good portable app launchers out there, this is my take on several of them.  If I miss your favorite, please let me know in the comments.

When I started to write this article, it was about how great PStart was as a portable launcher (that is why there is more detailed information about PStart), then it turned into a comparison of PStart and the Portable apps suite.  Finally, I ended up comparing Lupo Pensuite, PStart, and PortableApps.  To my surprise, I found several items that made me lean more towards Lupo Pensuite compared to the other two (2).  So I decided to do a comparison article of the 3 launchers.  I am open to any critiques you may have, so feel free to add comments in the section below.  


To start out, I wanted to be sure I had the latest download of all three platforms, so I went to the PortableApps.com website, the Lupo Pensuite website, and the Pegtop - PStart website, and downloaded the newest platform of each launcher and then installed each on a USB stick (in the case of the PortableApps suite and the Lupo Pensuite - to the same stick).


During the writing of this article, I attempted to contact the developers of all three platforms to get their input.  Only the creator of the PortableApps.com Suite, John Haller, responded to my inquiries.  In response to one question, he indicated that other portable app platforms, such as Lupo, are less secure. 


John Haller said;

The old suite you're referencing includes a much smaller set of apps and is dangerously outdated. Nearly all apps have security issues due to having old versions. The older versions are also smaller in the case of bigger apps. This is why the PA.c Platform downloads the latest updated apps as you decide to install them. You get updated, secure apps regardless of when you download or install.

Indeed the latest version of the Lupo Pensuite platform is dated 2016.  In a further discussion, John Haller also said several things that are worthy of repeating;  

Unattended Install:
"You can do an unattended install of all the open-source software and the freeware that doesn't require a license agreement at present on first run. The ability to agree to all licenses upfront for the freeware is coming in a future release. Showing the license agreements is required in our agreements with the publishers whose software we package."
It needs to be stated that in all fairness only about 1/3rd of the dialogs contained license information, most were just asking where one wanted to install the app and then click install.  So if the only problem is the need to agree to license issues, this does not apply.  In most cases, there was a wizard dialog (click next), a dialog asking about the install location (click next) and finally a dialog that one needed to click finish on (or launch and finish).


Why you can't download everything at once?
"We don't currently do a monolithic suite of software as there will generally be at least one app that is outdated and insecure within a day or two of releasing it. We may add an English-only, monthly update suite that does an update check as part of the install at some point in the future. Most of the freeware apps would not be eligible for inclusion, though, as most publishers don't give permission for such bundling."

License Agreements and Number of Apps:
"... it's worth noting that the other suite you reference includes software in violation of its license and copyright, including software from PortableApps.com. And it was abandoned over 4 years ago, so you're installing old, insecure, unsupported software that won't be updated. It's also worth noting that downloading and updating will take longer for our suite as we have about 3 times as many apps and they're all real, full apps (no shovelware small single-use utilities that mostly serve to inflate app numbers)."
So on to the review ...

Portable Apps Suite

It does indeed take a while to install (5mb download, 12mb installed).  The site says that there are 31gb of apps.  When it finished there were 401 updates to install, I selected all of them (right click and check all) which took extremely long to complete.

The Portable apps suite has its own updater and does allow you to put your applications wherever you wish. From their website (on this page - https://portableapps.com/platform/features) - italics are mine -

" You can organize your growing app collection using the customizable menu so you can find the apps you need with ease.  You can organize apps into folders automatically or create your own that work the way you think.  Pick apps as favorites and they'll always be right at the top for instant access.  You can even have the menu learn which apps you use most and keep them front and center.  And when you need to find an app quickly, just type in the integrated search, and you'll find what you're looking for.  When you've found your app, just hit enter and the first app will start right up. You can also use the keyboard to navigate the app list and your search results."

Although putting apps where you want is not as easy as it sounds.  Due to another factor I haven't played around with this launcher as much as I would have liked.

Look and Feel:

The look of the Portable Apps launcher is significantly nicer than that of the PStart launcher and about the same as the Lupo Pensuite launcher - ASuite.  The below pictures show each launcher after some changes to the default setup.


PortableApps Launcher (default apps)
PStart Launcher
Lupo PenSuite ASuite Launcher


Installation:

The installation of the Portable Apps suite of applications was somewhat annoying. Once everything was downloaded and "installed," it then asked to install each item again, but this time a majority of them presented an install screen which included clicking some button at least 3 times ("Next," "Install," and "Finish" - think 3 x ~300 applications = 900 clicks plus the license clicks - ~1000 altogether - because sometimes there was an extra click to agree to the license). This is what took the most time. 


Some applications were fairly fast while other larger applications took a while.  I would have preferred if everything downloaded at once and the install could be unattended.  Given what John Haller said earlier about license agreements, I can see that some applications might require that the license be displayed, but that should be no more than 1 or 2 clicks.


Customization:

I really wanted to like this platform.  I really need to be able to make subcategories (I want an Internet category - check, but I also want to be able to have a Browser sub-category - no dice). So one either needs to make a lot of categories, which looks messy at best or make do with the ones that exist.  It was relatively easy to recategorize items, once I figured it out.  All one needs to do is right-click on an item go to categories and select the new category.  But the lack of being able to create sub-categories is a deal-breaker.  


This platform would have scored way higher but for 2 main problems, the installation took forever and the customization was nearly non-existent.


Ease of Use:

The Portable Apps suite is very easy to use, once installed.  It could use a lot more documentation.


Space needed to install:

This launcher took up the most space of all three launchers.  If one installs all applications one needs at least a 32gb stick.


Portable Suite


Installation




Installation Time


Unattended Install



Customization



Overall look and Feel

Ease of Use

Space needed to install


Security
updated




Overall (out of a possible 40)
PortableApps
3 2 0 2 5 5 2 (12mb -  31GB) 5 24 or 60%
Reason
This was due to a combination of install time and lack of an unattended install option
It not only took too long to install / update, but each app needed to be babysat
Doesn't exist
Relatively easy, although one cannot make ones own sub-categories
Very nice
Very easy to use
The largest of all the launchers even without all the applications
You can either set the suite to update automatically or you can do it manually.  Both the platform and the apps are kept up to date.
Overall


PStart

You can get the PStart launcher here (http://www.pegtop.net/start/).  Once you download the launcher, I suggest adding icons to both your stick and to the launcher folder as this makes it easier to figure out what is where as well as making it look nicer.  


Getting Icons:

You can use something like Icon Extractor from Nirsoft (https://www.nirsoft.net/utils/iconsext.html) to extract icons from files or you can just designate the file that has the icon you like best.


This site has a bunch of icons: https://findicons.com/search/lupo-pen-suite 


If you install the portableapps.com suite it will install a slew of icons (mine installed 443) in the directory: <installdirectory or driveletter>:\PortableApps\PortableApps.com\App\Graphics\AppIcons.  


It installs a bunch of .ico files that can be used for nearly anything. Or if you install the basic version of the Lupo Pen Suite it installs a bunch of icons and icon sets to: 


<your drive letter>:\Lupo_PenSuite_v2016_Full\Launcher\Icons and <your drive letter>:\Lupo_PenSuite_v2016_Full\Launcher\Icons\Set. 


It should be noted that almost all of the applications do come with their own icons and if added properly will use those icons to represent themselves, but it is nice to have a choice (especially since the folders will only have a folder icon). Having to add icons was indeed a problem. This should have come with icons.  So think of this as a drawback.


I recently rediscovered this app on my stick and reconfigured it so that instead of continually searching for various application installations and/or software (or any portable applications as well) I can just launch this app and the menus I made walk me through the various software, etc.  I still have to remember where I put each install of software or each portable application, but it is a little easier.


The procedure for creating a launch menu with  PStart is fairly easy.  You can add files other than ".exe" files although there are a few extra steps to do so.


After the initial download from the Pegtop site you will need to install the launcher on a USB stick (preferably on the stick you are going to use - don't worry it DOES NOT format it). You should see the following screens


Initial setup screen Agree to license screen Type of install & target Confirm destination Install finishes


The initial menu screen is more than a little disheartening.  It is a blank - so points for the small footprint and fast install, but no points for GUI/look and feel/ Ease of use. There are a number of ways to populate it, some of which are automatic.


Initial screen Scan for executables (.exe files) using the File Menu


To make a long story a little shorter, I dragged a bunch of items onto the menu. This included folders. When they didn't drag the way I wanted them to I just added them use the add file selection. But first, you need to create a group to add it to and then insert the first item (after that dragging works fine as does moving things around by dragging).  If you are comfortable editing an XML file, PStart generates a pstart.xml file in the same directory as the pstart.exe file.


Right-Click Menu
Add a Group
Add a file to the Group
Navigate to the directory and Select All under File Type s
Select the file of your choice


This will enable you to add any file, not only exe files. If you drag and drop exe files, they will use their own icon (no need to edit). The folders you will need to decide what icon if any you wish to use. If a file is deleted from your stick, the icon for the file becomes blank.


My Pstart Menus The install folder expanded The default Pstart icon and customized one The Menuing system as I set it up


There are as many ways to set this up as there are people who use it.  I personally like this one.



This is another screenshot of my setup showing multiple groupings and what happens when an app is no longer on the stick (far left the icons for Maxthon and IronPortable have disappeared). Notice also that the webserver and cookie viewer folders have no icons.  After checking these I found that the programs that had been providing the icons were gone as well.


Having a launcher like this, with the portable apps that go with it, turned out not to be just a convenience.  Not too long ago I was testing our new firewall and needed to take a bunch of bookmarks with me for the test.  I just used the portable firefox on the stick and it worked like a charm!!  I can also start an install from this stick or copy the needed files from the stick to a computer on which I am working.  This launcher makes this all a lot easier.


Portable Suite


Installation



Installation Time


Unattended Install


Customization



Overall look and Feel

Ease of Use


Space needed to install

Security / Updated


Overall (out of a possible 40)
PStart 3 5 3 3.5 0 3 4 (1MB plus space for apps) 2 23.5 or 58.75%
Reason The installation was fast and easy, but it would have been a lot nicer if there was something visible after the install It took no time to install this launcher The launcher installation did need some interaction Very customizable, but requires a lot of work Least appealing GUI Not easy to set up but fairly easy to use Very little space taken up by launcher Not easy to update Overall


Lupo Pensuite

Installation:

This was easily the nicest one to install.  Although I didn't realize this when I wrote the part about the Portable Apps installer, the Lupo Pensuite installer does download everything and install it without intervention from the user (unattended). Lupo took about 30 minutes to download (full version) and then a little less than an hour to install. In order to add your own software you either need to click the ASuite icon/choice or put the apps in the MyApps folder.


Initial welcome for setup License agreement Language Destination



Customization:

Here are some images after I did the initial install of Lupo Pensuite (aka ASuite). There are several ways to customize it and in the manager, you can easily change the icon sets, which is a nice touch.


Lupo after install Options menu ASuite menu (editing) After making some changes


The suite manager is also fairly helpful.


The suite manager After clicking "Check updates" you need to then click "Check"


Both Lupo and Portable apps put all of the apps they install in the apps folder, so unless you mess with the settings and customize it, there is little logical filing done other than that they are in alpha order.


Security / App updates:

For this suite, app updates can be set to go automatically, but it should be noted that the applications and the platform downloaded to your computer initially are out-of-date and insecure. The platform, as far as I can tell, has not been updated for several years. When I went to update individual applications, it said I was up to date.  The version of Firefox that ran was version 42 which updated to version 43.0.1 (latest on my desktop is version 72.x).


It may indeed be the case that this platform has been abandoned since the last update looks to be 12/13/2015!  In which case it might be prudent to pay more attention to Security when it comes to the Lupo suite.


Portable Suite


Installation



Installation Time


Unattended Install


Customization



Overall look and Feel

Ease of Use


Space needed to install

Security / Updated


Overall (out of a possible 40)
PortableApps 3 2 0 2 5 5 2 (12 MB + space for apps  - up to 32gb) 5 24 or 60%
PStart 3 5 3 3.5 0 3 4 (1MB plus space for apps) 2 23.5 or 58.75%
Lupo Pensuite / ASuite 5 4 5 3.5 4 4 3 (987MB  - includes apps) 0 28.5 or 71.25%



About the ratings:

I tried to be fair with the ratings. I admit to having a preference for PStart and then wanting to like PortableApps.  I was surprised at the end when Lupo got the highest rating. I am fairly sure that it had something to do with which items I picked to rate.  It may be unfair to have three (3) items devoted to the installation when there are only 8 items being rated.


Despite the ratings, I feel safer using the PortableApps platform than I do using Lupo Pensuite. I generally use PStart more than the other two (mostly because it takes a lot of time to configure these and I already spent time configuring PStart).


I hope you found this article useful. You are encouraged to ask questions, report any bugs or make any other comments about it below.

  

Note: If you need further "Support" about this topic, please consider using the Ask a Question feature of Experts Exchange. I monitor questions asked and would be pleased to provide any additional support required in questions asked in this manner, along with other EE experts...

 

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Thomas Zucker-ScharffSolution Guide
CERTIFIED EXPERT
Veteran in computer systems, malware removal and ransomware topics.  I have been working in the field since 1985.

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