While attending COMDEX in Las Vegas in 1999, I discovered a new product called PentaZip. It was similar to WinZip, but I liked it better because it had lots of extra features such as file viewers. Nonetheless, I never bothered to check for new versions. This year at COMDEX, I stumbled across the PentaWare booth and found out there’s a new version of the PentaZip software. This product is now called PentaSuite (version 7). PentaSuite still contains PentaZip, but it also offers several additional features to meet all of your file compression or archival support needs.

The heart and soul of PentaSuite is still PentaZip. You can access PentaZip from the Compression section of the PentaWare Manager, as shown in Figure A. When PentaZip launches, you’ll see the screen shown in Figure B. If you simply want to create a ZIP file, just click the New Zip Archive icon, drag the files that you want to archive into the compression area, and then click the Compress Files In A New Archive button. It’s that simple. However, there’s much more to PentaZip than meets the eye.

Figure A
The PentaWare Manager gives you access to all the tools within PentaSuite.

Figure B
PentaZip is the heart and soul of PentaSuite.

You can get a hint of the other features that are available just by looking at the PentaZip user interface. For example, in Figure B, you might have noticed the Protect With Encryption check box or the New CD/DVD icon. These and other features can be accessed individually or from within PentaZip. On PentaZip’s File menu, there are two additional menu options: Repair ZIP Archive Index and Repair ZIP Archive Data. These options are great for reconstructing a damaged ZIP file.

Another nice feature located within the Compression section of the PentaSuite Manager is PentaSFX, which allows you to create self-extracting files. PentaSFX is extremely powerful, and the interface is wizard-based and easy to use.

Before you can use PentaSFX, you must create an archive in standard ZIP format. After doing so, launch the PentaSFX Wizard, and the wizard will ask you which ZIP file you want to convert. After selecting the file, you’re given the chance to create the self-extracting executable on a CD or DVD. Click Next, and you’ll see a screen that asks where the file should be placed when the self-extracting executable is open. You can choose to place the file in a specific folder or a default folder, or you can allow the user to choose where to place the file. You can also run the decompression process silently so that the user will never be prompted to do anything.

By clicking Next again, you’ll open a screen that lets you control how the self-extracting executable handles overwriting. You can choose whether version checking should be used, whether the read-only files should be overwritten, or whether overwriting should be completely disabled.

As you probably know, when you create a ZIP file, you can password-protect the ZIP archive. The next screen you’ll encounter allows you to tell the self-extracting executable what to do about password-protected files. The options are: prompt the user for the password, embed the password within the self-extracting executable, or ignore anything that’s password-protected.

The following screen controls how the end user will view the extraction progress. You can enable or disable the progress bar, the Cancel button, and the successful completion message. After making these selections, move on to the next screen, and you can specify which (if any) program should run when the extraction completes.

The wizard’s last screen allows you to split the self-extracting executable into multiple files. This is helpful if you need to distribute the file on floppy or if it’s too large for a single CD.

PentaView and PentaConverter
PentaView is a file viewer you can use to view graphics files in a number of formats. This utility has a set of icons similar to those used by PentaZip. Using the various icons, you can print the image, add it to a ZIP file, or burn it to a CD or DVD. The lower menu bar gives you the chance to rotate the image, change the color pallet, resize, zoom, or crop the image.

Another application in the Viewer section is PentaConverter, which enables you to convert files from one format to another. For example, you can convert a Microsoft Word document to an HTML, RTF, or a TXT file. PentaConverter can also convert graphic images from one format to another. Graphic conversions are also available within PentaView. As you can see in Figure C, the conversion process is simple. Just drag a file to the working area, select a new format, and click the Convert Now button.

Figure C
PentaConverter allows you to convert files to other formats.

The Encryption section of PentaSuite Manager contains two tools for encryption: PentaSend and PentaPGP. PentaPGP is essentially a key management utility. Using the various icons and menu options, you can encrypt, sign, verify, or decrypt a file. There are also options for importing and exporting the various keys. PentaPGP offers the same basic functionality that you get through PentaZip when you choose to encrypt a ZIP file.

PentaSend, on the other hand, is a lot more complex. Generally speaking, PentaSend is an extension of PentaPGP. Rather than just letting you encrypt and decrypt files, though, you can FTP the file to a designated location and even generate e-mail messages with links to the encrypted file, as shown in Figure D. PentaSend also allows you to download and decrypt files that have been encrypted by others. PentaSuite offers a dedicated FTP program, but if you need to encrypt the files you’ll be uploading, then PentaSend is the tool of choice.

Figure D
PentaSend can send e-mail links to files that you’ve uploaded.

Finally, PentaSuite Manager’s CD/DVD Burning section contains a utility called PentaDVD, as shown in Figure E. Several utilities have included options for burning an archive to a CD or DVD, but this utility gives you a little more control over the process. Basically, PentaDVD allows you to choose whether to use a CD or DVD. You’re then free to drag files to the working area and burn them to a disk with the click of a button. One feature I really like about this utility is that, while it’s primarily designed to make CDs or DVDs, it can also create ISO images—image files you can use to create a CD at a later time through another CD-burning application.

Figure E
PentaDVD allows you to archive files to a CD or DVD.