PentaSuite v8 PC Utility Suite

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, August 2005
Published by: PentaWare, Inc.
Requires: Pentium III or faster, 128MB RAM, Windows 98 through XP, server versions require Windows Server 2000 or 2003, 64MB free hard drive space
MSRP: US$129.95 (Pro), $84.95 (Business Pro version), $69.95 (DigiPhoto version)

We all have our favorite productivity programs and little bits of utility software lying around. Some of us tend toward more frequent use of the utilities than others. We all use Windows Explorer from time to time (every time you click the My Computer icon on your desktop). We're always moving files around, renaming files, creating folders, reorganizing things, creating albums, burning backups to CD or DVD, uploading files to a web site or file sharing location, archiving files, protecting files and so on. Doing that sort of work with Windows Explorer is a colossal pain the caboose. So we gradually start using a collection of specialty utilities. The first thing you'll notice about PentaSuite 8 is that it has been designed to unite all of those specialities under one roof. With a consistent user interface (UI) for each component or module, PentaSuite provides a fully integrated set of tools for viewing files, converting files, creating albums and lists of files, transferring files to remote web sites and file servers, backing up files to CD and DVD, copying, moving files, capturing images from files, archiving files and encrypting files along with a host of other functions related to file management.

PentaWare continues to develop it's flagship PentaSuite product based to a great extent on input from registered users. Updates are consistent and frequent, features and functions receive continual attention from the product development team, and the feature set continues to grow in useful ways. The company is very responsive. A good example is the digital photo management in PentaSuite which has kept pace nicely with the steady increase in the popularity of digital photography. PentaSuite has steadily acquired more and more features and functions, based on user feedback, which address the most important file management needs of digital photographers. More robust FTP functionality goes hand in hand with digital photography especially in the hands of people who are maintaining photography web sites, photo blogs and so on. PentaWare has answered the upgrade call with across the board improvements and enhancements in almost every component of PentaSuite 8.


Loading PentaSuite starts the PentaManager which provides a launch pad for all of the different modules in the suite. As of this writing (the software keeps expanding), PentaSuite is composed eight modules containing a total of 23 separate components:

  • PentaZip
  • Shell
  • PentaCD
  • ZIP Wizard
  • PentaBrowser
  • PentaView
  • PentaCollector
  • PentaConverter
  • Photo Album
  • PhotoAlbum Wizard
  • PentaExif
  • PentaDVD
  • PentaFTP
  • PentaPGP
  • PentaSend
  • Script
  • SFX
  • Scheduler
  • Command Line
  • PentaRename
  • PentaWhiteBoard
  • PDF Conversion
  • My Shortcuts

. . . all of which are accessed through PentaManager. Click a module and its component list appears below it. Click a component and it launches into a separate window. Additional power for inveterate geeks resides in the underlying Command Line Interface which can be used to pass parameters to different programs, create and run batch files and so on.

PentaSuite 8 remains totally file-centric, which is consistent with the design philosophy behind the program. Although the continuing absence of a disk defragmenter still irks me, PentaSuite has nonetheless securely driven its stake into the ground at the leading edge of file handling, viewing, albuming, renaming, compression and archiving, file encrypting, uploading/FTP, file e-mailing, backup and batch file creation. If you handle a couple of dozen files (or more) during the course of your daily work, general business, home or hobby pursuits, you need some sort of dedicated file management tool. Even if you don't use every component of every module, the range of functionality in PentaSuite 8 will eventually win you over. Organize a large group of photos into categorized folders, rename everything using PentaRename, run the album wizard, then burn the whole thing to CD or DVD, all without leaving PentaSuite. Do the same thing with business documents and spreadsheets, then encrypt them using PGP, AES or self-decrypting Twofish and archive the whole thing, again all without leaving PentaSuite. Handy dandy indeed.

After approximately 6 weeks of daily use, I've got to admit that PentaSuite 8 really does cover 99% of my personal and business needs. That's a high compliment because I certainly handle a mountain of files every week. What I've found in PentaSuite 8 is the same thing I found in PentaSuite 7—consistent and reliable operation coupled with a range of tools and functions which essentially covers 100% of my needs. Your mileage may vary of course, but the point is that if your needs demand something more powerful than PentaSuite it's also quite likely that you have to step out to a professional specialty utility. As it stands, PentaSuite 8 is useful for home users who have to organize and secure word processing, spreadsheets, photos and other file data. It's also an ideal product for SOHO, home-office and small business owners who have the same needs (albeit on a larger scale), and network and system managers who have to deal with bales of files which are being poorly managed by system users.

Cons: The UI in each module, while remaining quite usable, is starting to get a bit crowded. The UI is also looking quite dated and needs some modernization to more elegantly fit into Windows XP and Windows Vista which is looming on the horizon. The PentaBrowser is very respectable, but unlike Explorer Plus and Total Commander does not have a multi-pane view. Click a module in PentaManager and it opens properly but at a useless size—approximately 640x480—with the file tree pane squashed so that most of its contents is obscured. We couldn't find a way to increase this default module size, so you're going to consistently waste a bit of time resizing module windows. The Workstation version can't be installed on Windows Server machines (2000 Server and 2003 Server).

Pros: As we stated in our PentaSuite 7 review last year, despite the dated looking UI, once you get used to it you'll find you miss PentaManager if you accidentally close it. Despite the lack of a dual pane view, PentaBrowser has grown enough to make you completely forget about Windows Explorer. PentaBrowser can also be used to launch the other main modules found in PentaManager. The CD/DVD burning component won't make you forget about Nero 6 or Easy Media Creator, but for fast file copying and fast backups it's ideal. PentaRename remains one of the handiest utilities around and an absolute necessity for digital photographers and others who accumulate folders full of sequentially numbered files. There are a lot more convenience features for digital photographers and anyone who takes, uses and collects photos, in particular the improved PentaAlbum Wizard and the excellent file converter. Browsing, viewing and organizing photos is a breeze. PentaFTP now cleanly handles multiple logons and download threads. PentaSuite 8 is a file hound's best friend, representing a very competent and productive one-stop shop for all typical file activities. The inclusion of the My Shortcuts module expands PentaSuite 8 toward the replacement desktop category. I haven't even mentioned the Scripting functions (for automating repetitive file management tasks) and a really cool Whiteboard component (which might be better named Storyboard perhaps?) for grabbing individual frames from video files. It all works well. Combine PentaSuite 8 on the desktop with a customized My Yahoo! in your favorite browser and you might never need anything else. Recommended.





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