10 September 2006

#2. We Don't Pay for Zip

Welcome back to the new Tool Bar & Grill, where twice a month I'll present my discoveries in Windows utility software and Web sites that can save time, enhance your computing environment, do something new, or maybe just raise a chuckle. I'll recommend both free and shareware utilities, but will favor freeware wherever it is available.

I can only report to you on the tools that I have encountered and tried. Do you hate a featured utility? Do you have a better one? Please feel free to post your comments and suggestions below. And if you like a shareware or donationware utility and use it beyond the trial period, please pay its publisher.

Free from Compression Oppression

With the plethora of free compression utilities out there, one might wonder why anyone would pay for a zipping program – and I imagine that very few do. A cursory search can turn up a couple of dozen pretty good free utilities for compressing and extracting files. (Most such utilities are free only for private, individual use, so organizations generally buy commercial utilities such as WinZip.) I haven’t tried them all, but among those I’ve tried or read about, my favorite is ZipGenius 6, a Swiss Army Knife of compression utilities.

Like every normal zip utility, ZipGenius compresses files in the standard ZIP format and extracts zipped files. Like most others, it offers shell integration, so that the zipping and extraction options appear on the right-click menu in Windows Explorer and compatible file management utilities. And like most others, ZipGenius also can encrypt compressed files and span disks (that is, save a large zip file in pieces on multiple floppy disks, flash disk keys, or other media of limited size). However, ZipGenius’s functionality goes beyond most of its rivals’.

ZipGenius saves to a large number of compressed file formats in addition to ZIP, including the new 7-Zip format (with significantly higher compression ratios), CAB (for distributing software), JAR, TAR, LZH, and more. It can create encrypted CZIP files using either the ZIP standard or the more advanced BlowFish, TwoFish, or AES algorithms. It reads and extracts a wide range of additional formats, including RAR, ARJ, ACE, and even CD and DVD image files in ISO9660 format.

ZipGenius presents a clear, helpful GUI, including wizards for common activities, and supports drag-and-drop operations. It also provides a built-in backup utility that creates a compressed backup file of the folders you choose.

ZipGenius can test and repair archive files, and can automatically add your signature (such as personal contact information) to every archive. It can acquire images from scanners, cameras, and other TWAIN devices and either compress them into an archive or create a self-playing slide show from them. You can view archived images as thumbnails. And ZipGenius integrates with your antivirus software to scan archives for viruses. ZipGenius is also highly configurable, and I have found it to be entirely reliable and trouble-free.

ZipGenius is donationware: It is completely free, but the publisher (M.Dev Software of Italy) welcomes voluntary contributions through PayPal. You can download ZipGenius at http://www.zipgenius.it or other software distribution sites (like Download.com, Tucows.com, MajorGeeks.com, and others, where it has earned high ratings).

P.S. In researching this column, I came across two other highly recommended compression utilities. IZArc’s compress and extract functions appear to be very robust and it handles the widest variety of formats, though it seems to have fewer extra features and a somewhat less friendly GUI than ZipGenius. 7Zip originated its eponymous tightly squeezed format, but it lacks many of ZipGenius’s bells and whistles.

That zips up this column. Check back here in two weeks for another cool utility!

This column first appeared at http://www.elephant.org.il/jonathans_tool_bar_grill.

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  1. Zipgenius' context menu causes a problem when you right click on a Chinese mp3 file.

  2. Thank you for your comment, dal987. I was quite unaware of the problem. Perhaps you could send a more detailed description of the problem to the ZipGenius publisher. Their contact information is at http://www.zipgenius.it/eng/?page_id=26.