Hack23.Empower Windows Explorer with PowerDesk Pro


Hack 23. Empower Windows Explorer with PowerDesk Pro

Supplanted by this most powerful utility, Windows Explorer will no longer draw curses or contribute to increased Macintosh sales.

I'm guessing that you have a Leatherman multitool. No hacker worth his weight in solder would leave home without it. In fact, I'll go further and guess that you have at least two. You probably have a large one that you keep in your glove box and a small one that you carry with you at all times, even to weddings (just in case). If I'm corrector if you're wondering where to buy such a useful toolyou will love PowerDesk Pro.

PowerDesk Pro is the multitool of utilities. This beast is no mere Swiss Army Knife. There's no unnecessary toothpick, leather punch, or nail file here; it's a pair of vise grips with four screwdrivers, a strong blade, wire cutters, pliers, an Allen wrench, a corkscrew, and a bottle opener. It's the software those guys on Junkyard Wars would use if they put down their cutting torches and picked up a computer.

OK, maybe I'm being melodramatic, but PowerDesk Pro really is a useful utility for your computer. PowerDesk Pro combines much of the functionality of Windows Explorer, the old Windows File Manager, WinZip, and a host of other programs. If you find yourself with more than one program open for manipulating files, you probably need PowerDesk Pro. While many of the features of PowerDesk Pro are available in Windows XP, PowerDesk Pro puts them all in one convenient location. PowerDesk Pro also runs on older versions of Windows, which might not have the advanced file-handling features Windows XP has.

PowerDesk Pro is available from VCOM at http://www.v-com.com/product/PowerDesk_Pro_Home.html. PowerDesk Pro sells on the VCOM web site for $49.95. You can also download an evaluation version that has fewer features.

When you install PowerDesk Pro on your computer, the installer will ask you if you want to associate zip and other archive files with PowerDesk Pro. If you already use a zip file manager, such as WinZip, you might not want to allow PowerDesk Pro to handle these types by default. After installing PowerDesk Pro, you should not need to restart your computer.

While PowerDesk Pro is a separate application, it is integrated into Windows Explorer, so you have access to many of its features even when you aren't running it. In Windows Explorer, if you right-click with the mouse you will see a submenu called PowerDesk, where you have access to many of PowerDesk Pro's functions.

When you start PowerDesk Pro you will be faced with a window that looks similar to the one shown in Figure 3-10. As you click around PowerDesk Pro, most of the things you see should look familiar. Those that aren't so familiar are grouped well, so they are easy to find and understand.

Figure 3-10. The PowerDesk Pro main window


Each toolbar that shows up in PowerDesk Pro is configurable. Use the Options Customize Toolbar menu item to modify the toolbars as you wish. The bottom toolbar in Figure 3-10 is called the Launchbar and is similar to the Quick Launch area of the Windows XP taskbar. You add programs by dragging icons onto the Launchbar and dropping them.

When you restart PowerDesk Pro, you are placed back at the location you were when you left. I find this to be such a simple, yet useful, feature. If you create a shortcut to PowerDesk Pro, you can force it to open at a specific location by putting the name of the directory after the program name in the Target field of the shortcut properties.

PowerDesk Pro has so many features that we could spend an entire chapter of this book describing them, and even then we'd miss some things. So, I'm going to give a brief summary of the coolest features and leave the rest as an exercise for the reader:

  • Most Windows Explorer features are available from the File and Tools menus. You can open, delete, and rename files. You can map network drives, format disks, and empty the trash.

  • PowerDesk Pro provides Move To and Copy To icons on the main toolbar, context menu, and File menu for moving and copying files to a specific location. You can re-create this functionality [Hack #26] in Windows Explorer without using PowerDesk Pro.

  • The File Finder feature provides many options for finding files on your computer. You can have PowerDesk Pro search for Microsoft Word documents beginning with the word Hack, modified in the last three days, and containing the word wireless.

  • PowerDesk Pro has the ability to find and rename a group of files according to parameters that you define. For example, let's say you have a bunch of digital photographs from your trip to Belize. The digital camera doesn't know you went to Belize, and neither does Windows XP. Using PowerDesk Pro, select the files you want to rename and choose File Rename. PowerDesk Pro shows a list of the files to be renamed and gives you a place to rename the files to something like Belize 2003 Vacation.JPG. The first file will be named Belize 2003 Vacation.JPG, the second file will be named Belize 2003 Vacation (1).JPG, and so on. PowerDesk Pro also has a more powerful group-rename feature that uses wildcards and pattern matching to find files and choose their new names.

  • PowerDesk Pro provides a built-in FTP client for transferring files from a remote file server (much like WinFTP). The connection to the remote server appears as if it were just another folder on your computer. PowerDesk Pro FTP can even resume interrupted downloads.

  • You can convert image files between the numerous available formats with File Convert Picture Format.

  • you from recovering the file, so don't test it out on your favorite photo from the Belize vacation.

  • If you are truly security-conscious, do not use the Encrypt/Decrypt feature of PowerDesk Pro. Details on the algorithm they use are not available. In the security world, it's common practice to describe how your cryptography works and rely on the strength of the key to protect the data. PowerDesk does allow you to choose 56-bit Data Encryption Standard (DES) encryption for your data, but 56-bit encryption is the bare minimum these days. Do you want to trust your financial data to the bare minimum? I didn't think so.

  • PowerDesk Pro manages zip file archives as well as files that are stored using the older UUENCODE format.

  • For copying files between two locations, use the Dual Pane view. This view displays two independent file browsers side by side, so you can easily copy files from one to the other without worrying about other windows getting in your way.

  • If you find yourself managing the same set of files on two different disks, the Compare Folders feature is a great timesaver. Select the folder you want to compare, and let PowerDesk Pro find the other folder and compare the contents.

  • I run a network at home, and some of our computers do not run Windows XP. PowerDesk Pro provides a level playing field between the different versions of Windows so that I can always be assured that I have the tools I need on every computer I use.

There is so much more to PowerDesk Pro than what I've outlined here. If the things you've read here interest you, download the evaluation version and try it for yourself.

Eric Cloninger



    Windows XP Hacks
    Windows XP Hacks, Second Edition
    ISBN: 0596009186
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2003
    Pages: 191

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