Unless you just turned on a computer for the first time this morning, you’ve probably used ZIP files. Since the days of DOS, ZIP files have been used to compress data files on computers. Useful for both archiving and organizing collections of files, ZIP files can squeeze data files sometimes as much as 90 percent, saving valuable space. Being a universal file format, ZIP files can be viewed on Macs, Windows PCs, Linux machines, and even OS/2-based PCs.

Traditionally however, if you transfer a ZIP file to a Pocket PC, you discover that although you can store a ZIP file on a Pocket PC, there’s not much you can do with it after that. That’s where CrunchIt comes in.

What’s CrunchIt and where can I get it?
CrunchIt is a shareware utility from NSC that allows you to compress and decompress ZIP files created on your desktop by programs such as WinZip. In addition to ZIP files, CrunchIt can also work with the following file compression formats:

  • base64
  • BZIP2 (.bz, .bz2, .tbz, .tbz2)
  • GZIP (.tar.gz, .tgz)
  • JAR
  • SFX
  • TAR
  • UUE

CrunchIt integrates with File Explorer to allow you to open compressed files with just a few taps. You can also create self-extracting ZIP files that you can synchronize back onto your desktop to distribute to others.

You can obtain CrunchIt directly from the NSC Web site. NSC supplies a free version of CrunchIt that you can use to familiarize yourself with the program. The free version is identical to the registered version with two exceptions. First, the trial version waits 10 seconds before performing any action. Second, the registered version includes a benchmarking program that you can use to gauge the speed of your Pocket PC. Registering CrunchIt costs $24.95.

To obtain the trial version, click Try It. You’ll then download the CrunchIt410-TRY.ZIP to your desktop workstation. The file is a little bit under 2 MB in size, so it won’t take long to download.

Author’s Note

CrunchIt works with any Pocket PC device running Pocket PC 2000, 2002, or Windows Mobile 2003. It supports ARM, MIPS, SH3, and XScale processors. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be running CrunchIt 4.1 on an HP Jornada 545 with an SH3 processor and Pocket PC 2000.

Installing CrunchIt
After you download CrunchIt410-TRY.ZIP, extract it to a temporary location on your workstation. Dock your Pocket PC and double-check ActiveSync to make sure your Pocket PC has a connection to your desktop. Double-click the Setup program to start the installation. You don’t need to worry about knowing the version of Pocket PC you’re running or what CPU the device uses. Setup will automatically detect and install the proper version of CrunchIt.

CrunchIt installs using a typical Pocket PC installation wizard. The first thing you’ll see is an NSC splash screen. Click Install. After that, all you have to do is follow the wizard. There are no gotchas to worry about. Setup will copy the program over to your Pocket PC and make all of the adjustment it needs automatically.

Running CrunchIt
To start CrunchIt, tap Start | Programs | CrunchIt. This will start a blank CrunchIt session. From here you can add files and create an archive.

To get a better idea about what CrunchIt looks like in action, let’s look an existing ZIP file. For this example, I’ve copied a ZIP file from my workstation to my Pocket PC. If you open File Explorer, you’ll notice that ZIP files are recognizable by a green cube icon. Tapping the icon will open the archive and start CrunchIt. You’ll see a screen similar to the one in Figure A.

Figure A
CrunchIt lets you open ZIP files on your Pocket PC.

As you can see, CrunchIt lists the files in the archive in alphabetical order. You can quickly determine what kind of files are in the archive because CrunchIt displays the program icon for each data file.

You can single-tap individual entries in the file list or select multiple files by tapping them one at a time. After you’ve selected the files, you can extract them, launch them or view properties for them.

To view the properties for a file, select it and tap Edit | File Properties. You’ll then see a screen similar to the one in Figure B. The Properties page will show you when the file was created, file type, the compressed size of the file, the expanded size of the file, and the compression ratio.

Figure B
You can view information about the files inside of the archive.

You can quickly launch a data file from inside of the ZIP file by double-tapping it. The trial version of CrunchIt will display a nag screen reminding you to register the program for 10 seconds. After that, the data file will extract from the archive and launch the program associated with it.

If you just want to extract the data file rather than launching an application, select the data file and tap the green arrow at the bottom of the screen. When the Extract Files screen appears, select a file location for the data file and click Extract.

You can add a file to the archive by clicking the blue plus sign at the bottom of the screen. When the Add Files screen appears, select the file you want to add to the archive and click Add.

If you want to add some security to your ZIP file, you can do so by setting a password for the file. Tap File | Set Password. When the Lock File screen appears, enter a password and click OK.

Passwords you enter here will remain when you copy the file back to your desktop. If you subsequently open the ZIP file using WinZip on your desktop, you’ll need to enter the password you entered in CrunchIt. Likewise, if you copy a password-protected ZIP file to your Pocket PC, you’ll need to enter the password you originally used in WinZip.

Crunching the results
If you support users on your network who use ZIP or other archive file types and have a Pocket PC, CrunchIt will be an invaluable utility to introduce them to. It will add a new level of usefulness to the mobile devices that will leave users wondering why you didn’t find it for them sooner.