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Review: WinZip Self-Extractor 4.0

WinZip Self-Extractor 4.0 has many powerful features for creating automated archives, but does that justify the asking price?

Anyone who knows a thing or two about file compression software probably has utilized the self-extracting archive option at some point. Depending on what the package will be used for, a self-extracting EXE takes any archive management software out of the picture by doing a quick decompress job within a self-contained application. As an example, setup programs can use self-extracting archives in order to keep their overall file size down for online delivery purposes while eliminating the need to manually "unzip" the setup files to disk first.

WinZip can handle it

WinZip, a utility known as the grand-daddy of all archive software for the Windows platform, has two options available to anyone wishing to create a self-extracting archive. Either use the personal-edition SFX creator that comes with WinZip proper, or pony up for the WinZip Self-Extractor companion program. According to Corel, the current developer of the WinZip family of tools, WinZip Self-Extractor goes above and beyond what the personal edition is capable of doing, by allowing for added features like AES-encrypted archives, launching an included setup program automatically and deleting the temp files after completion, using custom icons for the compiled EXE, specifying whether or not Administrator rights are required, and more.

The interface for building an EXE is simple to navigate, since it works along the same lines as a step-by-step wizard. I was able to create a self-extracting archive that looked professional and clean, complete with a message that would appear before extraction. I can see the message part being used for simple notes, warnings and even a simple "click-through" license agreement, so long as the message stays within 512 characters. Once finished, you get an opportunity to look the archive over to ensure that it was created the way you want it.

Bottom line

Now comes the hard part of this review - the verdict. If I was to have reviewed WinZip Self-Extractor less than a decade ago, I would have said this software was the best for what it does. However, with perfectly capable alternative products out there that can do what WinZip's solution does, sometimes even for free, I can't see the point to this program, unless you have a dedicated usage situation that ties you to WinZip. If you take a look at 7-Zip for instance, the program can create self-extractor archives easily. Granted, you don't get fancy bells and whistles like changing the icon of your package and auto-run, but when you go to look at WinZip Self-Extractor's hefty $49.99 price tag, it makes absolutely no sense in my mind to purchase.

If Corel could come out with something new and fresh in this space, perhaps something that can cater to the new Windows 8 UI (formerly known as Metro UI) or even provide the ability to "secure" the EXE with a certificate (much like PKZIP's SecureZip does), it would better justify the $49.99 price tag. Personally though, considering that Corel has made zero improvements to the software since the late 2000s, it's unlikely to get updated anytime soon and I wouldn't recommend buying this software, at least for now, considering its limited features and user appeal. My recommendation is to stick to freeware solutions instead.

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About

An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Cus...

3 comments
ephsiung
ephsiung

I used to use WinZip exclusively for creating archives and self-extracting installers but not any more. The new ownership seems more interested in milking a cash cow than innovating, and it's difficult to justify the $50 price tag. 7-Zip is a great alternative and Inno Setup is wonderfully simple installer.

kirkbubul
kirkbubul

I licensed and used WinZip back in the day when all updates were free. That went on for a number of years until they came under new ownership and started selling annual updates, whether they were needed or not. That was when I started depending on PKZip or freeware like Zip-7.

Matt Nawrocki
Matt Nawrocki

WinZip products have taken a turn for the worse once version 8.0 came to town. Nico Mak Computing pretty much got swallowed by Corel if memory serves me correct and they milk the products without mercy. Btw, I wrote a review on Inno Setup last week if you are interested. It's a nice piece of software like you mentioned.