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WinZip
Reviewed by Victor Lage de Araújo


I have accompanied WinZip since a very early version for Windows 3.11, when Windows 95 was yet to be released. It is now on version 6.3 and has evolved a lot. It is one of the shareware programs that presented great disclosure since the release of Windows 95 and the Internet.

Description: WinZip is a flexible compressing / decompressing utility, fully compatible with pkzip, that also supports the more common compressing formats in the Internet.

Cost: WinZip is shareware and costs $29 to register. WinZip page: http://www.winzip.com

Platforms: Windows 3.11, Windows 95 / NT. It will work on any system able to work on the above platforms. External programs are needed to access file formats: arj, arc, and lha. It is possible to make self-extracting files wit the built-in add-on, with pkware's zip2exe or with WinZip Self-extractor. Special Recommendation: Due to incompatibilities in the Windows 3.1 emulation of OS/2, some WinZip features do not work in this environment.

Installation: The program comes on a zipped file, and is reasonably easy to install. Just run winzip95.exe (if you got it as a self-extracting exe file) and follow the instructions. If you got it in a common zip file, just unzip all the files into any temporary folder anywhere on your computer, and run setup.

Tips: Download also the Internet Browser support (free ad-on) and WinZip Self Extractor (Shareware utility, cost $49, for advanced making of self-extracting zip files) at the WinZip site. You can try also their Beta page. Add yourself to the mailing list to know when updates are released.

Features:

WinZip is a very flexible compressing utility. It allows you to choose between 2 different interfaces, the "Classic" interface and the "Wizard" interface. This last one has a similar design to Windows wizards, making its use easier for the beginners. The interface is also much easier then the classic "dos" programs (pkzip and others).

WinZip "Classic" interface.

WinZip "Wizard"interface

What you can do with WinZip:

  • Compress/uncompress (extract) any files in a zip format fully compatible with pkzip 2.04g. The compression rate can be chosen (I always choose maximum) and the resulting compression ratio will vary, according to the type of file you're zipping;
  • Add/delete programs from and to zipped files;
  • Move, copy, rename, delete and mail archives directly from WinZip;
  • Scan your zipped files: you can configure WinZip so that it will unzip a zipped archive into a temporary file, then "call" your anti virus and scan all the files, clean them if necessary, and zip it again after the process;
  • Install feature: using this feature, WinZip will unzip the files into a temp, install the application, then zip the files again.
  • Select / unselect files for unzipping using the same interface (control and shift keys for multiple selection) of Windows explorer;
  • Make compressed backups to any folder in your system, including a zip drive or other backup utility;
  • Use the drag-and drop interface and right mouse pop up menu for easier operation: When you drag any file to a WinZip open window, Winzip automatically opens it - if it is a self-extracting exe file - or opens the "add to zip" dialogue box - if it is a file compressed in any of the supported formats. When you drop any files into the icon of a zipped file, WinZip will open, add the file(s) you dropped, and then close it again. (Be careful with that option, though: you don't want to add files to a zip by mistake, just because you accidentally drop them on a zip). If you drop any file into an exe file made through the use of WinZip, using WinZip Self-extractor Personal edition or its companion program WinZip Self-extractor, it will open the "extract" dialogue box. (you can't add files to a self-exrtracting archive without corrupting it). WinZip also adds interesting options to the right mouse click contextual pop up menu.
  • Use DOS programs for arj, lha, and arc compression through the friendlier Winzip interface (this option needs external programs like arj.exe, lha.exe, and pkxarc.com).
  • Use the free add-on Internet Browser Support. This is a handy small utility, that will help make your life easier with Internet Explorer and/or Netscape. It will open the files you download in WinZip, as soon as the download is finished; also, it will save your zip files in a customizable Windows folder (like c:/downloads), allowing you to better organize yourself and and avoiding have your files lost.
  • Make an exe file for distribution to people who don't understand zipping or don't have a compression-decompression utility. WinZip comes with WinZip Self-extracted Personal Edition, actually a small external program in itself that makes it possible to make 16 bit and 32 bit self-extracting files. If you want, you can also make a DOS self exe file (zip2exe.exe required) or make a more customized self-extracting exe with WinZip Self-extractor (also available, at $49 the registered version, at the WinZip Site)
  • Make a diskette backup that spans several diskettes: When you try to make a backup zip archive that is bigger than a diskette, WinZip automatically activates the spanning file dialogue box, prompting you to insert a new diskette. It also asks each time if you'd like to erase all existing files on the diskette. All the diskettes are sequentially named in a "pcback#..." format, so that Winzip will later be able to tell which one is the last in the backup set, and offers the user easy information on what should be done when he tries to restore them. Be careful though: you should use only preformatted and flawless diskettes, to avoid problems. (one bad diskette may corrupt part or the whole backup set!) Also, you have to select all the files you want to compress in a spanned zip and add them at the same time. WinZip won't be able to add files later (it would destroy the zip archive structure and again corrupt the file). Don't get mixed with the sequence of the diskettes, as it is important when you're going to restore your files.
  • Test your compressed files for signs of data corruption
  • Checkout option: WinZip extract the files to a temporary folder for you to run/examine them, then optionally delete the folder after you finish. This feature allows you also to view zipped files using the Windows default application for that file.
  • Zip zipped files for archiving or other purposes (it won't add to the compression already obtained, though)
  • Zip files in a way that preserves their original folders (you store the files and the info on which folders they where originally in, for later decompression into the same folders)

What you can't do with WinZip:

  • Try to repair damaged zip files. The only software I know that is able of that is Pkzipfix from Pkware.
  • Directly zip files from your favorite programs, like Word, using an easy icon ot menu like File | zip... or something like that. I have a "fantasy" of making that, sometime, but that would require some programming or macro building.

Ease of use: WinZip offers 2 separate interfaces that can be interchanged anytime, an easy drag and drop interface, and right clicking facilities. It also has an extensive online help. It should be easy to use, even for those who never heard of compressing software. The more advanced features may require some understanding on how the zipped files work.

Problems: I have encountered very few problems with the current version of WinZip. Some files I downloaded were corrupt, and I used my copy of pkzipfix to fix them, but most of the times it didn't work. Also, some multi-spanned zips I made for transportation of files didn't work well, but I finally found out the problem was in my floppy drive. It seems (and is logical) that zipped files are more sensitive to hardware failure.

Final Comment: Compression / uncompression facilities are absolutely necessary nowadays, if you are to access the WWW. If you like keeping your images stored, or are involved in distributing images, they are very useful for a variety of tasks. WinZip offers an easy way to store and manage, as well as distribute, compressed files in the most popular formats, with an easy interface.

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