Review: 7-Zip file compression application

7-Zip is a high quality, open source file compression tool that can uncompress a large variety different formats.

7-Zip has been quietly revolutionizing the file compression market. How? It is a high quality, open source file compression tool that can uncompress a large variety different formats.


Who's it for?

Some users want file compression functionality above and beyond what the Windows OS comes with, but do not need all of the features that applications like WinZip provides. Other users might prefer free or open source software to commercial software. People who do a lot of downloading probably could use an application that handles the RAR format in addition to the popular ZIP format. For these users, 7-Zip is a good choice.

What problems does it solve?

Windows comes with its own file compression tools, but they are very limited in functionality and only handle the ZIP format. Most of the big name compression utilities out there such as WinZip and WinRAR cost money. 7-Zip fits a nice niche in between the built-in Windows capabilities and the features of the paid products, and it is able to handle a large variety of file formats in the process.

Standout features

  • Supported Formats: 7-Zip can extract a very large number of compression formats including RAR.
  • Open Source: 7-Zip is open source. This makes it free, and some people prefer open source software on principle.
  • Archive Options: 7-Zip gives you low-level control over how it compresses files, which some users will appreciate.

What's wrong?

  • Limited Advanced Functionality: If you are looking for the advanced functionality of WinZip or WinRAR, it is not to be found in 7-Zip.
  • Most Formats are Read Only: While 7-Zip can decompress a large number of formats, it can only create archive files in three formats: 7z, TAR, and ZIP.
  • Arcane Compression Interface: When compressing files within the 7-Zip manager, you are presented with a range of options that make little sense without learning an awful lot about file compression.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

7-Zip treads the line between the "kitchen sink" functionality of WinZip and the bare boned capabilities of the Windows OS for compression duties. It opens up a large number of file formats, which frequent downloaders will appreciate. It integrates a lot of functionality into the Windows shell as well. When operated through the Windows shell, 7-Zip is very simple to use. And of course, it is hard to argue with its price.

On the other hand, 7-Zip lacks most of the advanced features that a product like WinZip has. While this keeps the interface clean, it will disappoint some users. In an odd contrast, the file compression dialog is chock full of parameters which will confound most users, although some may appreciate having the options available.

Is 7-Zip right for you? If you do not need the really advanced functionality of an application like WinZip or WinRAR (and the majority of users do not), then it is a great, free addition to Windows. If you are a power user when it comes to file compression and archiving, 7-Zip probably will not interest you, although you may still be tempted by the number of formats that it can decompress.

User rating

Have you encountered or used 7-Zip? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.

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