I noticed there is a tag. There are only 4 questions tagged with it as of today but since portable can mean two very different things in the software world, I think it would be a good idea to clearly define which meaning applies here. So, which of these should be used for?

  1. The classic definition, a portable application or method is one that works on multiple systems with different OSs.

  2. The 'modern' definition, a portable application is one that can run from a pendrive or other such media without needing to be installed on the host OS.

Both of these can be relevant to software requests. If I were to ask for a browser I can use on Linux, Windows and OSX, I would tag it with . If I were to request a browser that I can install on a pendrive, plug it in to my friend's computer and have my profile all set up, I might tag it in the same way.

So, should be split into two tags? Should it keep only one meaning and a new tag created for the other? Should it apply to both?

  • 1
    Maybe have "Multi-platform" for the traditional definition? Jul 12, 2014 at 14:09
  • I think remove this tag and rename it to fit the "modern" usage. IMO if you want an app that can run on multiple OSes then tag the question with those OSes. Perhaps a "multi-platform" tag would help.. Not sure on that though.
    – Seth
    Jul 12, 2014 at 22:56

2 Answers 2


We already have a tag for the first meaning:

All four questions tagged with seem to use it in the second meaning.

The Wikipedia article Portable application is about the second meaning, while the article about the first meaning is called Software portability.

So, when a solution

  • 1
    That seems reasonable. I suggest that the tag wiki excerpts be edited to explain the use of each tag.
    – terdon
    Jul 14, 2014 at 14:56

Personally when it comes to applications I only use the word portable to mean no installation needed. This SE is about end-users so the other meaning of portable (which I prefer to use to define a source code rather that a program to make it unambiguous) is not really on-topic here: I haven't seen anyone asking for a software that they can easily port to another OS.

  • Not software that can be ported as such, no. That's not what the term is used for mostly. However, someone who uses multiple OSs could, for example, ask "Is there a movie player that works on Windows, Linux and OSX?" That would be asking for a portable application and be topic.
    – terdon
    Jul 14, 2014 at 11:40
  • “No installation needed” is what the term means among Windows users. As a long-term Linux user, I'd never heard of that meaning until fairly recently. In Linux/Unix user terminology, Firefox is portable, IE is not, and this is about availability, not about installation methods. How well-known is the meaning “portable” = ”no installation needed“ even among Windows users? Jul 15, 2014 at 9:19
  • @Gilles Interesting. Extrapolating from my conversations with other users, I would that amongst Windows users “portable” = ”no installation needed" for the majority of them (like > 80 %). if you Google "Portable Apps" the majority of links points to ”no installation needed". That's a pretty good point for Windows, at least where many programs don't know how to clean themselves property when they get uninstall. Jul 15, 2014 at 15:32
  • @terdon Yes, I often hear either "to port an application", "an application was ported to this OS", or "this code is pretty portable". Well given your comments portable is more ambiguous than I thought :) Jul 15, 2014 at 15:35

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