By Lincoln Spector Ontrack Data International's PowerDesk Pro, long the best tool for managing PC files, now adds impressive features to version 5, beating back a strong challenge from Microsoft Windows Explorer.
My shipping PowerDesk Pro 5 also matched functions included in Windows XP, such as group file renaming and thumbnail image views. But most of this software's new tricks are original: For example, you can search or sort MP3 files by album, title, artist, or genre, and you can edit tags and create and manage playlists. Windows XP offers direct connection to many of the newer digital cameras, but PowerDesk Pro 5 lets owners of older Canon, Kodak, and Olympus models connect.
The features that originally put PowerDesk on the map are still there: great file viewers; an easy way to copy and move files to folders that are not currently visible on screen; integrated FTP (file transfer protocol) support for uploading and downloading files over the Internet; and built-in support for .zip files.
It's easier to manipulate files if you know something about them, and PowerDesk Pro 5 puts key information at your fingertips. You can edit and view notes on any file, and display file information in a details-view column. Best of all, when you point to a file, the new FileTips feature pops up a box of pertinent data. It would have been nice, though, if Ontrack had allowed users to set the length of the delay before FileTips pops up.
A separate program, Dialog Helper, adds PowerDesk's file viewer, along with lists of recent files and folders, to many (but not all) of your applications' open and save dialog boxes. Some application dialog boxes aren't entirely compatible. For instance, Dialog Helper can add only files and folders lists to dialog boxes in Microsoft Office.
A third-party file manager is not a necessity. But for $33 ($30 by download), PowerDesk Pro 5 gives you a great deal of convenience. From the July 2002 issue of PC World magazine