PentaSuite, the new full-featured zip compression program from PentaWare, is the company's recommended upgrade for current PentaZip users. The suite includes a new 6.0 version of PentaZip (available separately for $49.95), which now handles 15 different compression formats and has advanced scripting and scheduling features, plus an FTP wizard, a CD-burning feature, and a host of new encryption and file-management options. While PentaSuite is worth its hefty $99.95 price tag and includes all the archiving options a power user will ever need, you'll get better service and support with the comparably priced and feature-rich PKZip Professional Edition 6.0 with Secure Desktop.
Blink, and you'll miss PentaSuite's easy installation. Simply accept the default settings, and you're ready to go--no need to restart your PC. However, to configure PentaSuite to work with your existing e-mail and virus protection programs, you'll need to access the E-mail and AntiVirus tabs of the Advanced Options screen, both within the Options pull-down menu.
The Toolbar preferences offer many configuration options.
A standard Windows-style interface provides access to all of PentaSuite's archiving, or compression, features. Integration with Windows Explorer also allows you to right-click files in Explorer to perform common compression functions, including compressing and extracting files. Several other parts of PentaSuite, such as the FTP client (PentaFTP), the file browser, the scheduler, and the PentaSend PGP wizard, have their own program interfaces, all of which are accessible from PentaSuite's Tools pull-down menu, though we'd prefer to access them through the toolbar.
PentaSuite's main interface is extremely customizable, too. You can move toolbars, add and remove buttons, and choose to display text, icons, or both for most program options. In addition to accessing all the standard zip features from a simple right-click on a file icon, you can also launch the PentaView file viewer application and even compress a file and save it directly to a CD this way. PentaSuite also supports drag-and-drop for quick and easy archiving.
PentaSuite offers more file-management functions than any other archiving program we've tested, including PKZip. And unlike PKZip, PentaSuite adds a built-in FTP client, the ability to save to a CD-burning drive, and an advanced file browser that can display thumbnails and slide shows. PentaSuite also adds high security to your archiving capability with the option of PGP encryption. PKZip uses non-PGP encryption standards.
The standard PentaZip archiving software that is the backbone of PentaSuite now supports ZIP64, which is a 64-bit zip format, and comes with impressive scripting and scheduling features. These scripting and scheduling options are more advanced than those in other zip programs, allowing you to easily set up automated functions.
The Security preferences show the available encryption schemes.
PentaSuite has improved its archiving features, too, by adding PGP-based encryption to the mix. The PentaPGP client is a public key encryption program that uses PGP (now the de facto format for encrypting e-mail files over the Internet) and supports 256-bit encryption keys. If you already have a current desktop version of PGP installed, PentaSuite will use that; otherwise, PentaSuite installs a subset of PGP that works just for file encryption. While the new PentaSend interface offers many options for using PGP encryption, we experienced inconsistent performance when using its wizard.
Another new PentaSuite feature, the PentaSuite Brower application, works much like Windows Explorer but actually peers inside compressed archives to reveal their contents. The browser also performs as a file manager, a thumbnail viewer, and a hex viewer, plus it offers a Shrink + Mail command that makes it extremely easy to compress and e-mail JPEG images.
PentaFTP also contains a full FTP client that includes both normal and SSL connectivity and integrates smoothly with PentaSuite's other functions.
PentaSuite's integrated help system and online help files explain PentaSuite's basic features only adequately. The help systems--both online and built-in--fall short of being truly helpful in several areas. The PGP Client section, for example, is too complicated for anyone unfamiliar with encryption programs.
A sample page from PentaSuite's online help.
PentaSuite also offers a tutorial mode that walks you through the program's basic operations, and the PentaWare Web site includes a brief FAQ, but for more detailed help, you'll need to e-mail or phone PentaWare's tech support. While we received relatively accurate and quick responses to our e-mail questions, telephone support is available for limited hours only: four hours each day, Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. PT.