No matter how powerful your computer is and how much room there is on your hard drive, be sure you still need an archiver. Because as soon as you open your email and decide to send a batch of files you’ll realize that sending them as they are will require you to attach every file one by one. After that you will have no choice but to resort to using an archiver. Compressed files are easier to share, irrespective of the sharing medium.
So here it is once again. No matter how rich you are and how often you light a cigar with a banknote, it is still a sheer waste of money to pay for commercial archivers if there are plenty of free tools on the market which will do the job for you. So in the name of sanity and good sense, I’ve come up with an overview of top 10 free archivers with all their pros and cons.
7zip remains one of the most prominent compression tools which stepped on a thorny path of being a free compression software for everyone. 7zip supports most popular formats (like ZIP, 7z, RAR, GZIP, TAR) and has proved itself to to be fast and effective. With the help of this tool you can create self-extracting archives – just pack files and you are free to send them even to someone who doesn’t have any compression software installed on his computer. Such an archive unpacks automatically as soon as you click it.
Geeky lads will appreciate plugins for Total Commander and FAR Manager. However, 7zip has one very noticeable drawback – its interface looks like some crazy programmer’s paradise. So if you really don’t want nothing more from software but just a 1-minute interaction from time to time – prepare to fight.
B1 Free Archiver is a relatively new piece on a great checkerboard of free archivers but continues to make its way towards checkmate, especially with its Android version. B1 pleases us with its online archiver which quickly unpacks your files and automatically deletes them in an hour in case you forget to do it yourself. It works with the most popular formats as well as with its own B1 format.
Unlike its preceding colleague, it has an exceptionally friendly user interface and is very handy – most actions are performed in 2-3 clicks. B1 has localizations for most popular languages. Its high speed is achieved due to “Smart” compression mode which chooses the best method of compression for each piece of data depending on its type. The “cons” part is that B1 can create archives only in ZIP and B1 formats, which is enough for most users though.
BandiZIP is quite popular among free software admirers and unlike most other compression utilities it offers a nice portable version of its archiver. This means you can carry BandiZIP along on any portable device and use it on any computer without prior installation. BandiZIP unpacks around 30 file formats.
Following the pace of 7zip its Settings window is stuffed with checkboxes and tabs which offer you lots of choice, which may seem that it’s making you think too much. However if you are the one who knows exactly what he wants from software you will appreciate BandiZIP benevolent intentions towards better customization. For example, users can manually choose to use multi-core processor function to increase compression speed on their own. They can choose practically everything if they are familiar with terminology.
FreeArc is an open source project distributed under GNU General Public License. FreeArc doesn’t yield to none of its competitors in speed or efficiency. Software authors proudly talk of their smart file sorting technology which they call a key success of FreeArc’s high speed. It can test archives before and after any operation which saves your time significantly.
The program can also choose files by their size, time of creation, name and attributes. So practically FreeArc could be almost perfect. Unfortunately the archiver’s market is too real to be a fairy tale. FreeArc’s weakness lies within its really poor design and interface in general.
HaoZip archiver never gets tired of telling everyone about its enormous popularity in China. So now it’s kind of expanding its market. Whether it’s true or not, HaoZip indeed copes with all basic archiving functions. It supports compression into 7z, zip and tar formats, decompresses archives of practically all popular formats.
The archiver has a built-in image viewer and image converter which means you don’t need any image-viewing software on your computer to see images in archives. HaoZip has custom skin support which you can enjoy to the full, only if you are connected to Internet though. And, about the approaching a traditional “bad” part: a lot of declared features are available only through connection to Internet.
IZArc has its popularity share already, it supports many formats and CD image files. You can archive any type of data and encrypt archives with the help of one of 4 encryption algorithms the program offers (provided you know the difference between all of them, of course). Another pleasant feature of IZarc is that it can convert archived files from one format to another.
It means you don’t need to unpack an archive in order to pack it again in desired format. According to the software authors you can configure IZarc so that each time you open an archive an antivirus scanner will check the files in the archive. You can choose the antivirus scanner according to your taste. But without antivirus installed on your computer the antivirus scanning function doesn’t work.
jZip archiver provides complete support for the work with Zip, TAR, RAR and 7-Zip archives. The most surprising feature of jZip is that it has a version for Symbian OS – it unpacks zip archives on smartphones which work under UIQ. jZip for Symbian is able to perform practically all necessary functions with zip archives: it can open archives, create new ones, add files (with path name) or whole folders, extract files one by one or all together and delete from archive. After such a nice and exotic feature we are persistently moving to our fly in the ointment: beware of malware which downloads together with the program from time to time.
PeaZip is a cute compression software with a witty name. Just like BandiZip it pleases its users with a portable version. PeaZip can also act as a graphic frontend for other archivers though the intent of this feature is hardly understandable. PeaZip supports data encryption, creation of multi-volume archives, works with several archives at once and is available in console.
The program has its own Pea format which supports compression of multi-volume archives and modern encryption system as well as integrity control. However beware of the fact that it requires special attention during installation process. PeaZip default installation settings lead to installation of AVG Security Toolbar and change your homepage and search functions to AVG Secure Search. So ensure that you uncheck those options.
9. TugZip (Windows)
TugZip is rather an effective tool and a worthy competitor to other archivers considering the fact that its author stopped developing his brainchild back in 2008. That looks like a really sad story aggravated by the fact that the author’s official website is all solemn and black. However people still download TugZip which means its developer was rather long-sighted to compete with its future young and modern rivals.
TugZip supports a variety of archive formats and CD images. It is also able to create self-extracting and encrypted archives. TugZip has a multilingual interface with a decent choice of languages. As for weak points, it’s rather clear from what has been already said – the program, development of which stopped 5 years ago, cannot provide any timely help or customer support.
The last but not the least is ZipGenius – compression tool which works with more than 20 compression formats (we’ve already reviewed it in the past). It provides 5 levels of compression, integrates completely with Windows Explorer, has its own FTP-client. ZipGenius flawlessly creates self-extracting exe-files, enables the preview of graphics contained in an archive just as its HaoZip colleague.
But every user’s smile may fade away as he turns the program down and than sees multiple and really unnecessary shortcuts the program has left on his desktop. Actually those are the most extraordinary shortcuts one may ever come across – like “Follow ZipGenius on Facebook”, “Follow ZipGenius on Google+” and so on. So harness your willpower and be ready to fight against intrusive nature of the software. If you do, it won’t disappoint you.
In fact you’ll hardly find any software – be it an archiver or anything else – that could be absolutely good, though its not so hard to run across absolute crapware. The point is you should think on your own what features are the most important for you and thus make your choice basing on it.
If you are an advanced user who is never frightened away by rough-and-ready interface and unpretentious software design – you can bravely opt for such compression tools as 7-zip or FreeArc. The users who like challenges posed by malware which they can get when downloading some software can go for PeaZip or jZip. Those who like to use the same archiving utility on several devices will find B1 Free Archiver very useful. Free compression tool market of today can offer choice for practically everyone.