WinZip Computing WinZip 11 (standard)
At a Glance
Name recognition alone makes WinZip the compression program with which all others must compete. Though it's no longer the must-have utility it was in the 1990s, it's still the program people think about when Windows XP's file compression isn't enough.
But fame and age have bred problems. You can make only so many improvements to a file format without sacrificing backward compatibility. All file compression programs face this dilemma, but it's especially acute when the word zip is in your name. One of the best new features of version 11 stumbles on this issue.
When you create an archive, version 11 offers an option to let WinZip pick the best compression method for each file. The result is a significantly smaller archive. For instance, .wav files, which lose only about 14 percent of their size with traditional .zip compression, shrink to just over half their original size with Best Method on.
Only WinZip 10 or 11, however, can extract files from the resulting archive--which could be confusing, as such archives continue to use the .zip extension for their improved-but-incompatible files. To WinZip's credit, the program warns you about the incompatibility. And the company has posted the technical specifications for these changes so that other compression vendors can eventually make their programs compatible.
Other improvements create no compatibility issues. The best of these include thumbnail views of pictures inside an archive, presented in a window that looks more like Windows Explorer with every update; and the ability to extract from .bz2 and .rar files.
You're still able to create split-volume archives (a ZIP archive split into multiple files of user-definable size).
It feels like WinZip International isn't all that interested in this standard $30 (as of 12/6/06) version of WinZip that I looked at. They'd rather sell you the $50 (as of 12/6/06) WinZip Pro. Even features that were once available to every WinZip user, like command-line support, are now Pro exclusives. WinZip Pro 11 gives you not only thumbnails, but a full image viewer. It also now lets you zip directly to CD, DVD, and FTP, and automate your backups.
This standard version of WinZip is still a good program, but it's not the stand-out it once was.