• United States

Useful U3 applications

Mar 20, 20064 mins

While application loading is noticeably slow, as long as the application’s reading and writing to the U3 drive is what we shall term ‘casual,’ operational performance will be adequate.

For the last two weeks we have been discussing U3 flash drives, an emerging standard for controlling and managing “portable” applications.”

As discussed last week, U3 applications are Windows applications implemented at one of three levels: U3LP, U3LP+ or U3A.

U3LP applications are installed on a U3 device along with their configuration data, user preferences and associated files, while U3LP+ applications also come bundled with and use the U3 Device API (DAPI) Dynamic Link Library (DLL). U3A applications are host-based: The programs are installed on a host PC and use the U3 DAPI DLL to detect and communicate with U3 thumb drives when they are inserted into the host.

You will want to add programs to a U3 drive, and the place to go is The U3 download site provides freeware and commercial programs. The freeware offerings include products such as Mozilla Firefox, Skype and OpenOffice, while commercial products include Roboform’s Pass2Go and the Portable Edition of ThinkFree Office 3.

Some commercial products on the site, such as ThinkFree Office, are not linked directly to the vendor’s site but to a download of a trial version. This kind of quasi bait-and-switch selling is ridiculous.

Anyway, there are lots of U3-compliant applications available on the site, although none explicitly states its level of compliance.

We have used a few of these applications and have been impressed. For example, we’ve used Roboform’s Pass2Go, and we discussed Roboform last year.

When launched from a U3 drive, Pass2Go will provide all of the site-logon and password-capture functions that the standard Roboform provides but use the site logon data stored on the U3 drive. If Roboform is installed on a PC, Pass2Go will take over, substituting the U3-stored site logon data for the host-based logon data.

Another U3 application we tried is the beta version of Accomplice, which aims to fill a gap in the personal-organizer market, at least as far as Microsoft Outlook is concerned.

This is a good thing, as Outlook’s Tasks feature is wimpy and not well suited to managing tasks for a team unless you are using Exchange (which introduces another problem). The problem for most people is that the next step up, a full-blown project-management system, is overkill. Accomplice aims to fill that gap as well as address the challenges of team task coordination and integration with Outlook.

Accomplice can be run as a regular Windows application or, in its U3 incarnation, launched from a U3 drive.

Accomplice’s activities (we think it would have been better to stick with the term “tasks”) include a description, an importance assignment, due date, status and next steps (a free-form text field where you can log anything pertaining to the progress of an activity).

You can synchronize Accomplice with Outlook Tasks and Contacts items, and import activities from a spreadsheet. Accomplice also provides a pop-up toolbar that appears, by default, at the top of the screen in much the same style as the Windows Start bar. In its U3 form, Accomplice stores all of its settings and task data on the U3 drive.

In its current beta version Accomplice looks very good and potentially is a cost-effective alternative to group task management with Outlook minus Exchange. Interestingly, Accomplice looks like a tool that could effectively support the Get Things Done philosophy (see

What these U3 applications demonstrate is that for low-input and -output applications, U3 technology is fine. While application loading is noticeably slow, as long as the application’s reading and writing to the U3 drive is what we shall term “casual,” operational performance will be adequate.

In short, there is a lot to recommend U3 applications.

Store your thoughts at or on Gibbsblog.


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

More from this author