New Compression Software: Zip It Good
Heavy users of compressed documents and any users who would like to preview zipped files before opening them will be interested in the new versions of PentaWare's PentaZip and Aladdin Systems' StuffIt Deluxe. Both packages let you automate and schedule file compression chores, so you can archive the contents of a particular folder with a single click--or at a set time every day. I looked at shipping versions of both, which also handle compression basics, allowing you to create and restore archive files in .zip and other formats, either within the programs themselves or via Windows Explorer's right-click menu. Unfortunately, flaws make each application less than perfect.
At $60 ($50 for a download version),
But PentaZip behaves in some annoyingly odd ways. For instance, it--like most compression programs (including StuffIt)--lets you zip and mail one or more files from within Windows Explorer, but you can't always opt to have an archive automatically deleted once your mail is sent.
In addition to handling .zip and other common PC files,
The $40 StuffIt Deluxe also includes a Microsoft Office add-in that provides easy compression from inside Office 2000 and Office XP applications.
Both PentaZip and StuffIt offer scripting and scheduling--rare features in archiving tools. By permitting you to define in advance what you want compressed and when it should happen, both packages seem to have potential as reasonably useful backup tools.
Unfortunately, neither program can do a proper incremental backup of files created or changed since the last backup. Both programs can perform date-based incremental backups--replicating files that were created or changed within the last x days--but such backups can be unreliable.
For the record, PentaZip's automation is easier to set up, but StuffIt's is more powerful. Each program comes with a terrific self-extraction utility for turning an archive into an .exe file. Both, for instance, allow you to specify what folder the files will expand into--they also let you turn that control over to the recipient.
If you don't need a powerful self-extractor, however, you can spend less. Despite lacking automation and self-extraction features, StuffIt Standard, $25, is worth considering if you exchange files with Mac users or need very secure encrypted compression.
But otherwise, WinZip is the best all-around compression tool. Though it doesn't offer automation or scheduling, a free add-on called WinZip Command Line does--provided you have the time to learn how to use it.