WinZip Computing, Inc. announced the release of version 8.0 of its popular WinZip software on April 25, 2000. For those not in the know, WinZip is a file compression utility that has many uses. WinZip allows users to “zip” up or archive seldom-used files to save hard disk space. Files can also be zipped up and sent to coworkers or business associates or posted on the Internet for download. By the same token, WinZip can be used to extract these zip files received or downloaded.

My WinZip
I use WinZip almost daily to extract downloaded files off the Internet, to archive old data, and to send multiple files as one zip file to coworkers and business associates. If you are a pack rat like me, WinZip is a must have. You just never know when you might need those files again.

In addition to saving me precious hard disk space, I particularly like WinZip’s drag-and-drop feature as well as its ease of use with Windows Explorer. The expected transparent upgrade installation of version 8.0 from my previous version was completed flawlessly. All my recently used zip files, favorites, configurations, and classic interface preference stayed intact. Here’s the scoop.

All the bells and whistles
The new version boasts many significant enhancements for its users. I think you’ll like what’s been done.

Zip and E-Mail
One major enhancement that is sure to win immediate popularity is WinZip’s new Zip and E-Mail feature. From your Windows Explorer, right-clicking on the selected file(s) you wish to send displays a new Zip and E-Mail menu option. WinZip creates a temporary zip file and launches the user’s default e-mail program. No new file is created on the system hard disk.

This feature is even available for open files, but not without a warning. If the program in which the file is currently being used writes to the file while WinZip is processing the Zip and E-Mail function, the zipped file could become corrupt.

I challenged the unknown limitations of this new feature with an 880-MB file containing multiple subfolders, scores of files, a few databases, and dozens of digital pictures. While it took over an hour for the wizard to run on my PII-400 NT box, the process completed without a hitch. I was amazed. I thought for sure the process would error out. All of this can be done from Windows Explorer without ever launching the WinZip program.

The Wizard of Zip
For WinZip wizard users, there are now three options to choose from its new Select Activity panel. You can Unzip or Install from an existing Zip archive, Update an existing Zip archive, or Create a new Zip archive. While I’m not usually a wizard user, I tried the update option. My engineering department downloads a lot of data from the Internet on a weekly basis. I am personally responsible for keeping an archive of this data. I liked the update feature, which provided several options for finding the zip file that I wanted to update. A nice surprise I encountered was that, when the update function was complete, I was given the option to e-mail the updated zip file.

Theme and screen
WinZip has also added a feature for quick installation of desktop themes and screen savers. Each theme or screen saver zip file that I downloaded off the Internet and opened up with WinZip activated the Install button on the toolbar. A click on the install option launched the theme or screen saver setup application. At the end of the setup, the Display properties applet from the Control Panel was available for settings configuration. Very nice. Very easy.

Other improvements
There are many other improvements that are included in this latest version—far too many to mention here. A few that I particularly liked were:

  1. The option to switch to an Explorer-style toolbar.
  2. The Tooltip feature that allows you to display how many files/folders are contained within the Zip file by placing the mouse pointer over the Zip file in Windows Explorer.
  3. The customizable toolbar you can use to add more buttons. I added the Close button to my toolbar for quick exiting of zip files.

Final analysis
I definitely liked the enhancements added to the latest version of WinZip. Like a good reviewer, I did try to find WinZip’s weaknesses and shortcomings. However, I honestly could not find any. There are many other niceties that have been added to WinZip that were not covered here. Check it out for yourself at the WinZip Web site. Registered WinZip users of previous versions can get the standard free upgrade. New users can obtain their own copy for a nominal price of just $29, including postage and handling.

Todd LeFort is a contributing author for TechRepublic. He works as a network administrator in Northwest Florida. Todd is planning to relocate to Connecticut in the summer of 2000 and is currently looking for employment opportunities there.

To comment on this article, please post a comment below or follow this link to write to Todd.