PentaSuite v7 PC Utility Suite

Reviewed by: Howard Carson
Published by: PentaWare, Inc.
Requires: Windows 98SE through XP (Home or Pro), Pentium computer
MSRP: $99.95 (download); multi-user licensing available

In the world of PC utility suites, especially when searching for the perfect combination of tools which are practical, well integrated and (most important) suited to your needs, there reigns a confusion of choice which is hard to fathom. In fact, there are now a number of well populated, distinctly different categories of utility suites: antivirus/firewall, disk maintenance, general tool kits, file management and network management. PentaSuite 7 falls squarely into the file management category and boasts a unique combination of features and functions which should suit a broad cross section of home, education and small business computer users.

Being true to the Kickstartnews principle that all review software must be tested in real, day-to-day environments meant that I had to not only stop using Nero (for CD/DVD burning) but also my venerable copy of Christian Ghisler's TotalCommander file manager. PentaSuite incorporates a file manager/file viewer as well as a complete CD/DVD module. I also temporarily retired my trusty copy of WS_FTP Pro because PentaSuite also incorporates a complete FTP module. Needless to say, I anticipated the review cycle with more than a little trepidation, mainly because I was afraid that such a widespread replacement of frequently used utilities was going to cost valuable time in a tight schedule which normally can't accommodate much impact from learning curves.

Installation of PentaSuite was uneventful. Let's have a round of applause for DemoShield, Wise and the other installer makers who have improved their products to the point where the installation portion of the new software experience is almost completely transparent and trouble free.

Launching PentaSuite starts the main user interface to all of the different components - the PentaWare Manager. From Manager you can launch, configure and access all of the individual modules. PentaSuite is composed six file management tools containing a total of 16 modules, all of which are accessed through PentaWare Manager:

  • Compression - create and manage compressed archives, make self-extracting (SFX) files, manage zip archives larger than 4GB; the module provides access to PentaScheduler for creating ZIP scripts and batch files for single or recurring tasks
  • Viewer - it's much more than just a viewer; view, edit (resize, convert, select and crop) and convert files from one format to another (over 120 formats) using PentaConverter directly or while inside PentaView or PentaBrowser; photo album creation, collect images from any location, create albums using the wizard, publish albums in HTML format, create slide shows and share images with friends or family in HTML or PDF format; access all file management functions via right-click context menu in PentaView and PentaBrowser
  • Encryption - compress files and send them via PGP encrypted e-mail; protect files on hard drives or removable media using strong encryption (PGP, AES, DES, Blowfish, etc.)
    CD & DVD Burning - copy files to CD or DVD
  • FTP Client - upload and download files using FTP (full SSL support)
  • Tools - the batch module PentaRename is worth its weight in gold; rename using wild cards, sequentially, etc.; well done and useful


Modules also incorporate an underlying Command Line Interface so you can pass parameters to different programs, create and run batch files and so on.

It's obvious that PentaSuite is very file-centric, which is just fine. There's no disk defragmenter in this suite - that's another software category for sure. PentaSuite drives its stake in the ground squarely in the middle of file handling, file viewing, file albuming, file renaming, file compression, file encrypting, file archiving, file uploading, file e-mailing, file burning/storage and batch file creation and management. And that's the decision maker for you too - all you have to ask yourself when considering the purchase of PentaSuite is whether or not your file use and management needs are served by the program's combination of utilities. Although each component in PentaSuite is not quite as robust as some competing stand-alone utilities, PentaSuite still covers 95% of most typical file management needs.

Cons: The UI is a bit dated. The PentaBrowser is respectable, but does not have a multi-pane view and is only slightly more powerful than Windows Explorer. In the PentaView image viewer the Fit-to-Screen setting (click to fit any image to either the full window or just the window width - thereby preserving the aspect ratio) and the Imaging setting (in which you can select either fit to window or fit to window width) appear to be side-by-side duplications of the same functionality. Oddly, neither function is found in the module's View menu, where these controls are normally found in other image/file viewers and file managers. No context sensitive help in any of the dialogs or configuration areas. The online help system is otherwise quite good and context sensitive for the individual components, so we're mystified about why context sensitivity or at least balloon pop-ups haven't been added to dialogs and the options area.

Pros: Despite the dated looking UI, once you get used to it you'll find you miss it if you accidentally close Manager. The highly compatible and stable operation does not appear to occupy a lot of RAM. The thoughtful combination of features and functions presents a unique and useful combination. Particularly useful are PentaAlbum to create HTML albums quickly and easily, complete with title and date, using the built-in wizard; PentaRename is one of the handiest utilities around and an absolute necessity for digital photographers and others who accumulate large numbers of files; PentaFTP is also extremely useful, especially when managing files for public access (small office networks, schools, frequently updated small web sites, etc.); PentaView displays a diverse number of image and document file formats. We also found the PentaZIP functionality to be excellent and easy to use - most people won't need anything else for archiving, e-mail file exchange and general file compression tasks. I'm using PentaSuite on a regular basis now - high praise indeed considering the large volume of software which hits our desks every month. Recommended.




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