Windows has included its own file manager since Windows 3.0, named Windows Explorer since Windows 95. With the introduction of Windows 8, Microsoft now calls it File Explorer. To sell a different file manager, and expect people to pay for it, you have to offer a good deal more than Microsoft. See all software reviews.
PowerDesk Pro 8.5 is a two-pane file manager, meaning you can view and work between two folders in one window, making tasks like copying and moving files and folders more straightforward. The arrangement of panes and the folders that are open in them can be saved, so if you often manipulate files to and from particular places, you can move there with very few clicks.
There’s an integrated FTP client, which now supports Secure FTP, so you can move and copy files in both directions, just as if the remote site was one of your local drives. Also integrated is read support for various compression standards (over 30, according to Avanquest) and creation of zip archives.
The Sync function syncs the contents of two folders to keep them the same. This is useful for keeping the same file versions on a desktop and a laptop, for example, or for instigating a simple backup regime. The sync manager is a small pop-up window which enables selection of the folders you want to sync and shows at a glance which files differ between the two. You can select which files take precedence, using a number of filters, mostly based around syncing to the newer version.
There’s a file viewer built in, which copes with most common filetypes, including document, image, audio and some video. Sometimes the program uses its own code, sometimes it calls on Windows facilities, such as using Media Player for playing MP3 files. If it can’t cope with a filetype, for example with Microsoft Publisher files, it shows the ASCII content, which isn’t much help. There’s a hex editor in there, if you want to get down and dirty.
The Size Manager is a strange beast. It’s another pop-up window which shows storage use on all your drives as small, horizontal bar graphs. The idea is that it helps you balance out the storage load should you want to shift files around between partitions.
In our experience, people organise data for their own convenience, not for the need to balance space between drives.
Several forums have complained about the speed of PowerDesk Pro 8.0, but 8.5 seems to have remedied most of these complaints. It was quick in most of its workings under test, although we did have a couple of problems, with occasional slow refreshing of file lists and one instance when Size Manager appeared to freeze and could only be recovered by a system restart.
The 0.5 version increment indicates that apart from a code speed-up, there aren’t that many new features. There’s what’s called ‘path breadcrumb’, which enables you to check where you’ve been when working with your files, and pane lock, which synchronises the view in both panes.