Here at EverythingUSB.com, as you can imagine, we don't like being chained to our desks. You see, they're always cluttering up with random paperwork and soda can pyramids that just get in the way of our jobs. We'd love to be able to take our work (and trash) elsewhere, no matter how few applications are installed on the victim's host's computer. Enter Ceedo (licensed to Lexar as PowerToGo), the lesser known competitor to U3 that purportedly allows you to take any of your non-portable apps with you on any types of external storage. Sound too good to be true? Read on to find out.
Installing Ceedo is virtually painless. Simply download the installer, run it, and select which Removable Drive you would like Ceedo to be installed on. As soon as the installer finishes, you'll be greeted with a welcome screen, and the Easy-Access Menu, which looks remarkably similar to the Windows XP Start Menu.
The Easy-Access Menu is divided into 8 main parts. At the top, the user name (if registered) and user picture is displayed. On the left side, the first portion is reserved for shortcuts to the default web browser and email client, neither of which can be removed. Underneath that is room for six recently used programs, followed by the All Programs menu. On the right hand side, shortcuts to the portable My Documents etc folders are listed, followed by items for configuring and adding applications to Ceedo, and finally shortcuts for getting help and opening the drive within Explorer. At the very bottom of the menu is a visual representation of how much free space is left on the drive.
Clicking off of the Easy-Access Menu will leave you with the Compact Bar, readily available at the bottom of the screen. Here you will find shortcuts for minimizing Ceedo into the System Tray, opening the main menu, and ejecting the drive. It also doubles as a Quick Launch bar for your installed portable apps. Programs and windows launched within Ceedo are easily identifiable, featuring a colored border and a Ceedo icon in the top right corner.
Privacy In Mind Because road warriors don't want some snob reading where we've been online and who we've talked to after they've left the PC Cafe, Ceedo has multiple ways to protect your privacy. First off, they have included a Ceedo-ized Internet Explorer that keeps your history, favorites etc with you and removes all temp files upon removal, similar to Portable Firefox. Profiles for Outlook Express, Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are also included for computers that have those installed.
Also, Ceedo provides users with the option to store all temp files either on the computer to be cleared on exit, or on the flash drive itself, a feature we have yet to see from other portable application providers. While storing temp files on the flash drive will significantly slow down the drive as well as decrease the overall lifespan of flash drives, it's a surefire way of ensuring no one can analyze what you've been doing on their computer lest they have a key logger or some other invasion of privacy installed. Either way, it's an option, and I like options.
The first thing many users will want to do is get some applications to run from their Ceedo drive. Ceedo maintains a list of programs that as the name implies, are certified to run from Ceedo without issue. Selecting Add Programs from the menu will open a Ceedo-ized Internet Explorer, taking you to the Ceedo Programs Directory. Here you will find over 100 applications certified by Ceedo and broken down into category groups, ranging from games and word processors to compression utilities, VNC clients and even Spybot Search and Destroy.
Compared to the U3 Software Central directory, Ceedo seems to have a wider range of programs to choose from, and every title listed can be downloaded instantly for trial or freeware purposes to allow you to use the software before shelling out dosh to buy it. However, a few heavy hitter programs such as Portable OpenOffice or even a single anti-virus program are notably missing. Also, it's to this reviewer's dismay that there is no clear labeling of whether or not a program is freeware, or how much it costs if it's shareware. Sadly, the only way to find out is by downloading the program.
InstallAnything... or not
One of the most compelling features of Ceedo is the fact that it maintains its own file structure that matches right up to Windows. There are the Program Files and Windows folders, the All Users and %userprofile% directories, and even a registry. Ceedo uses these by capturing and changing file calls to their respective cloned folders on the portable drive, and even makes it so that clicking Desktop or My Documents in the Save As dialog boxes will redirect to the respective folders located on the flash drive. With such advanced capabilities under the hood, it's not unreasonable to think that Ceedo could run practically any program.
Capitalizing on this idea, Ceedo has released InstallAnything, a $30 add-on that allows you to run any EXE setup file to install a program to Ceedo. How well it works is a different matter, which is why I'm glad that there's a 45 day free trial for users to determine whether or not it's worth it to them.
Unfortunately, practically all of the applications I'd want to use for this feature that don't have portable variants will not install. What were once high hopes and exclamations of "SWEET" were replaced with vulgarities and thoughts of bitterness as I discovered that iTunes 6, Photoshop CS, Photoshop CS2, Dreamweaver, Quicken 2006, and even Google Earth refused to install. The only two programs I was able to successfully load are Google Picasa and Trillian. For these two programs, the registry was left untouched and the programs were in fact portable. While indeed nice that I was able to install these applications that aren't listed in the Ceedo Programs Directory, I can't say that I would recommend buying InstallAnything with its current incompatibilities. It'd be nice if Ceedo would host a list of applications that have been tested with InstallAnything to save users time.
Apart from my frustrations with InstallAnything, Ceedo also proved to be irritating at times with usability issues and the availability of support. For one, it's currently impossible to sort the items in the All Programs directory of the Easy Access Menu, a feature that's been in the Windows start menu for as long as I can recall. Other minor quirks include the inability to use a custom picture without dragging it first to the ceedo\Ceedo\UserPictures directory, as there's no browse button in that menu.
All documentation is kept online, on an exceedingly slow and bloated website that hangs Internet Explorer for several seconds. There is no CHM help file that can be used when you're at a computer that doesn't have an internet connection. The documentation is also quite vague, with dialog boxes using unknown acronyms telling you to click Help for more information, only to be brought to a help page that literally says "These settings are for advanced users only and should not be changed unless provided explicit instructions from technical support".
That brings me to my next quirk, the lack of support. Five days after submitting a form request for help regarding Ceedo's Outlook Express failing to launch (only on one computer, where it would otherwise launch fine normally), I still have yet to receive a reply. There is no phone support listed on Ceedo's website. Ouch. Finally, while not necessarily a requirement, it'd be nice if there was a way to view and edit the Ceedo registry for the few applications that can benefit from some registry tweaking. Recap
In the end, I believe that Ceedo is just one of those programs that has potential but doesn't live up to expectations. While the user interface is more advanced than U3's, it lacks some of the most basic abilities such as sorting programs in a list, and the program database could definitely use an overhaul. InstallAnything, perhaps the main reason I've been interested in Ceedo for its advanced registry and file capture abilities, turned out to be a headache that doesn't even come close to its namesake. My advice: try before you buy, but have an aspirin nearby.
By Scott Clark, Consumer Technology Editor