This here is a list of software that I use to make portable applications. These are just what I use and while they're good for what I look for in making PAFs, the same might not be so for you. As you get more experienced, you'll find tools to your liking in which you'll use in place of these.
The heart and soul of every portable application. Well, any PortableApps.comFormat compliant application anyway. NSIS is a professional open source system to create standard Windows installers as well as the portable launchers we'll be discussing here. Visit the homepage and download the installer or get the portable version by PortableApps.com. Reg2NSIS is a small utility which converts .reg files into usable NSIS code but more on this later.
This application helps to monitor any changes made to your system during the installation of a new program. It allows you to take a snapshot of your system prior to installing a new program. It then takes an additional snapshot after the installation has completed after which compares the two snapshots and displays all changes in a graphical tree view, marking all registry values and/or files that have been added, changed or deleted. Total Uninstall saves these changes for later review. Visit their support documentation for more information. You can find the version I use here.
Notepad++ is a free source code editor and Notepad replacement that supports several languages including NSIS. With this application you are sure to increase your PAF making productivity, I know I do. You can find the portable version here. Some plugins to consider using with this would be Explorer (for it's NppExec script support) and NppExec which enables you to run commands/programs directly from Notepad++. When combined these two tools can make a powerful utility in making PAF production a lot easier.
IcoFX is a professional icon and cursor editor for Windows. It is an all-in-one solution for icon creation, extraction and editing. I use this tool to extract the applications icons for use with the portable version. Pick up the portable version here.
RegDllView is a small utility that displays the list of all registered
exe files (COM registration). For each registered file, you can view the last date/time that it was registered, and the list of all registration entries (
ProgID). Use this tool to get an idea of what DLL files you'll need to register for your portable application. Make sure to get both 32bit and 64bit variants. You can probably use some more of NirSoft's Utilities.
Oracle's VirtualBox is a x86 and AMD64/Intel64 virtualization tool for running Windows, Linux, Macintosh, Solaris, etc. It supports a large number of guest operating systems and is actively developed with frequent releases. So software that you use within a virtual machine won't interfere with the host operating system. Portable-VirtualBox offers the same features that VirtualBox does while maintaining its own portable environment. Thus, making this a perfect tool for capturing our applications in a controlled environment. You can find pre-built virtual machines over at the Oracle Tech Network.