When you need to save disk space, backup data or send files
back and forth to others quickly and efficiently, the best way is through file
compression. You can use the ZIP archive utility which is baked right into the
Windows operating system to get the job done. However, the ZIP file format is
fairly limited in compression capability and is lacking in extra options. If
you are looking for a power user style replacement that can support multiple
archive types, there are some gems out there for handling archives in Windows
with great power and flexibility.
Created by Russian programmer Igor Pavlov, 7-Zip has set the
gold standard for file archive utilities. Although the user interface is
probably not the most intuitive for novices, the settings are quite
customizable and the ability to really take full control over 7z output
settings really helps you wring out every last bit of savings possible in your
archives. The software is licensed under an LGPL 2.1 license, making this
suitable for home and commercial use.
Unlike the aforementioned 7-Zip tool, ALZip aims to deliver
a very easy user interface that is more straightforward and WinZip-like in its
arrangement, yet supporting more archive formats in the process. ALZip used to
be a commercial product with a price tag, but it was recently re-released as a
free utility, simply by using the free product key provided on the download
This utility supports over a dozen different archive formats
for opening and creating, just like the other tools I mentioned. An interesting
stand out feature, however, is the password manager, which allows you to keep
track of passwords for archives without the need to memorize them. PeaZip is
licensed under the LGPLv3 and is available as freeware.
Though this product isn’t freeware, however, the trial mode
is quite generous and lets you test out all the features of the utility. Also,
I find the SFX (self-extracting archive) creator to be one of the better ones
available, allowing you to go all out in customizing destination path, package
icon, and a command run area for setup programs. If you do decide to register
your copy of WinRAR, it’s only $29.99, with prices that go down as you purchase
Though not designed to create any archives, Universal
Extractor extracts from many kinds of packages, including InstallShield
archives and binary blobs as well as more exotic formats, using handy deep
filescan technology. The tight integration with the Windows right-click context
menu is superb and you are always just a few clicks away from dumping your
files to a directory.
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