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Re-evaluated 5 February 2011:

Review of PowerDesk Pro version 8

Now that the dust has settled, what do I still think of this program?

Critique Update

1. Parallel versions not possible. Probably still true

2. Installation problems I hope these have been sorted out but I have no way of checking

3. Information is lost when upgrading Probably still true

4. pdfhookserver.exe needs disabling The website does not say this problem has been fixed. It needs a question in the installation package and a switch in the preferences so people can easily change their minds

5. Opening zip files This does seem to be working normally now

6. Fast searches They are NOT noticeably faster than before.

Conclusion: This was a very minor and buggy upgrade. The opportunity was lost to add some useful features. It is still on my list of essential programs, but only just.

Original review

I have always been a fan of Powerdesk, ever since version 5 and the free version. As I remember it, version 5 was stable, but not version 6. Version 7 was reasonably stable. It sometimes crashed - usually when I tried to do too much with it. I have come to rely on Powerdesk. It is one of the paid for utilities I cannot do without.

But, I am very skeptical of upgrades. I run old versions of software because I know them and they do what I want them to and they are stable. Of course I update regularly with Windows Update, and File Hippo - which speedily lists the main programs that need updating. But Powerdesk definitely falls into the category of, 'if it ain't broke don't fix it'.

I therefore scrutinised heavily the publicity for Powerdesk 8. I was attracted to faster file finding, the possibility to colour code my file types, and more advanced file preview mode to cope with the new file types and versions.

So when a new version was offered at a very attractive upgrade price of 15 pounds, I was bitten. Perhaps I should have bought the upgrade, but NOT installed it until version 8.1 was available.

Major error 1- Parallel Versions  are not possible

I thought you could install PowerDesk 8 as a separate program. The initial installation dialogue seemed to suggest I could by offering a separate directory. It then insisted on uninstalling the previous version. This is always a bad sign. I already had PowerDesk working along side Windows Explorer, so why not Powerdesk 8 alongside Powerdesk 7 and Explorer?

Major errors 2 - installation. Note I am running XP Pro SP3 32 bit

Then at an early stage it asked me for my serial number, and I could not copy and paste it into the boxes. Next, the old version was uninstalled and it asked for a system restart. I agreed, and nothing! I had to do the work.

After a reboot - nothing! No sign of any Powerdesk product. In other words, the installation routine did not then go on to install PowerDesk8. I restarted the installation, typed in my serial number again, finished, it asked me to reboot, but again, I had to do this manually.

After the second manual reboot, on starting the program, I was asked questions about a few major file associations - mainly zip related. Beware! It is difficult/impossible to go back since unlike respectable programs, you cannot re-initialise the setup wizard!  I was asked to register, and given a code for 30% off anything on their site.

Major errors 3 - information lost

Running Powerdesk 8, right clicking on a file, I found that the menu was much shorter than before. Possibly there had been a cleanout of right click items persisting after their programs had been deleted. This is fine, but I would like to have been warned about this in advance, so that I could have made a list of them, and recovered them if need be.

More important, the list of 'favourites' had been reset - in other words, deleted. The program should have offered to save my favourites and keep them in version 8. If that is not possible, I should have been warned in the installation process to go back and make a list of them.

Now, admittedly if you use PD8 you are probably not a beginner, but these installation problems put the program back in the beta stage.

Major error 4: PDHookServer.exe. I noticed that this is included in startup. When I googled this file, there was no information anywhere on the web (early June 2010). Here is what technical help say.

PDHookServer.exe is a process that runs in the background that enables the option to double-click a blank area of the Desktop to launch PowerDesk.  If you do not need that functionality, there is no need to have the process running.

So, no problem, I have deleted this from startup, using the program Startup Inspector.

Major errors 5: opening zip files.

a. The program crashes, gives the microsoft bug report, and debloc report hangs.

b. Worse, Powerdesk has forced even Explorer and other Windows file programs to handle zip files with Powerdesk. Therefore there is a long pause, then a crash. There is no way to undo this file association from within Powerdesk. If you go into the settings via Options > Preferences > Zip/UnZip

c. Beware! Associate Archive files cannot be used to un-associate! If you click on this button you have one last chance:

d. After the zip files problem, when I exited the whole program, the program tends to hang around in memory. After several attempts to trouble shoot this, several programs are in memory and you cannot restart PD8 without first getting rid of them. For this I use Sysinternals Process Explorer.

The workarounds are:

1. Right click > 7-zip > Open archive. I am glad PowerDesk crashed because the workaround is much better than the original way of working.

2. In Windows Explorer, right click on a zip file > properties> 7-zip. If it is not there, search for it under the folder 7-zip. You want the 7zFM.exe file.

3. I have recently seen on Wilder Forums an interesting thread. http://www.wilderssecurity.com/showthread.php?t=273529 Various alternatives are discussed. Mike had an answer: View > uncheck the option “show generic icons”. You can turn this on and off with Shift+ Ctrl+ I.. In my limited testing this seems to work.

Major error 6: Colour coding of files is limited to the point of deception

I confess I was attracted to this idea - though I usually describe myself as ‘colour indifferent’ rather than ‘colour blind’. I frequently work with five file types: wpd, doc, pdf, rtf, and txt. I thought it would be worth a try to see if colour coding improved my productivity. But, as you can see there are only six broad categories. You cannot create your own categories let alone have sets of categories so that you can play with them, and apply the set you want for your project or folder.

Major error 7: Where is the Hard Drive Indexing?

The publicity promises faster searches because of hard drive indexing. But there is no information about this in the Help file or the manual. I have not noticed any indexing activity going on behind the scenes. I do not know how to initiate the indexing, or more important, how to stop this indexing let alone how to restrict the drives and directories to index as you can in for instance Copernic Desktop Search. I have not noticed any speeding up of my file searches.

One good thing!

The program has kept the the old interface. Top marks! There is no learning curve.

Initial conclusion

I see very little improvement over the previous version, and as expected, version 8 is effectively still beta. I have not tested the advertised file preview which is supposed to be ‘enhanced’.

Revised and expanded on 24 July 2010