As a self-described geek, I often have friends and colleagues ask me for advice on what tools they should be using. For example, when someone sets up a new computer, they often need some sort of tool for working with zip files, because the tool built into Windows XP leaves much to be desired.
WinZip is probably the most popular file compression utility, and WinRAR is also really common. My favorite though, without a doubt, is an open-source tool called 7-Zip.
7-Zip does everything you’d expect it to and more! And it does it better than WinZip in most cases. Not only does 7-Zip allow you to work with it’s own compression format (7z) but also ZIP, GZIP, BZIP2, and TAR for both packing and unpacking, and RAR, CAB, ISO, and a whole bunch of others for unpacking only.
The install is really quick and painless (the setup file is a mere 840 KB). What you end up with is the 7-Zip File Manager, a command line interface, and most importantly – Windows Shell integration! I use 7-Zip exclusively through the Windows Shell. For instance, to add a file or files to a new archive, just right-click and go to the 7-Zip menu:
If you choose “Add to archive…” a little window pops up that lets you configure the type of archive, as well as compression settings. Usually though, it’s easier to just pick the “Add to filename.zip” option. It’ll create the zip file right in the same directory.
Unpacking archives is just as easy. Simply right-click on any archive file, and go to the 7-Zip menu:
Again you have a bunch of options, with “Extract Here” and “Extract to folder” being the two most useful. As you can see, in most cases the only 7-Zip interface you see are these context menus.
That’s my favorite part about 7-Zip: it does one thing and it does it well. It’s fast, and mostly stays out of the way. If you are sick of WinZip or WinRAR, or if you *gasp* use the Windows XP zip functionality, I strongly urge to you download and install 7-Zip!
Here is the 7-Zip website, and you can get the latest download here. Developers – you may be interested in the LZMA SDK (so that you can take advantage of the 7z compression format in your own applications).