Review: WinZip for Windows 8 is what you'd expect from a Modern app

At a Glance
  • WinZip Computing WinZip for Windows 8

    PCWorld Rating

    If your computer can run full-fledged Windows applications, don't use WinZip for Windows 8: Go with the full WinZip instead.

Metro, or Modern, or whatever you'd like to call the new style of applications that debuted with Windows 8, is problematic. It's problematic because it's built for touch, but forces itself on your non-touch computer, too. And because of its expanse of white (or blank, for it's often in some intense shade of color) space and very low information density. And because it relies on hidden gestures you somehow have to guess would bring up toolbars you never knew were there to begin with.

To get you started, WinZip for Windows 8 asks you to "use the app bar" without hinting what that might be.

I could keep counting the ways, but the point is that it's very difficult to make a Modern app that actually feels "right" on a modern desktop computer. That's the context in which I tested WinZip for Windows 8, and it proves designing a decent Modern app is a serious challenge even for a software company as established as Corel, and for a brand as iconic as WinZip.

Once you find the app bar, WinZip for Windows 8 lets you add files from your local storage, or from a cloud file storage service.

When you first launch WinZip for Windows 8, it takes over your entire screen, of course. But it presents no buttons or menus: Only the cryptic line, "Use the app bar to start adding files/folders to a new Zip file or to Open an existing Zip file," and a vast, soothing expanse of color. That's great, if you happen to know what the "app bar" is. If you dontt, you may find yourself randomly clicking around until you happen to right-click anywhere on the screen. This is what you need to do to pop open a toolbar that's hidden at the bottom of the screen—and that's the toolbar you need to get anything done with WinZip for Windows 8. Hiding the toolbar like this is a standard Modern UI convention, and it's just as terrible on WinZip for Windows 8 as it is in other applications.

The file browser is simple to use, as long as you don't try removing a folder you've asked to add.

The toolbar has six buttons: Add Files, Add a Folder, New Zip, Open Zip, and all the way to the far right, ZipSend and ZipShare. You can add files and folders locally, but WinZip for Windows 8 can also plug into Dropbox, Google Drive, and SkyDrive, letting you pull files from those cloud services into your archive. Once you tell it where you want to look for files, a file browser fills the screen. Everything is enormous and touch-optimized, but the interface works. It's not without its Modern quirks, though: If you add a folder and regret it, you need to right-click the folder's name at the bottom of the screen to remove it. There's no indication that's what you're supposed to do (I just had to figure it out by trying), and I have no idea what you'd do if you had a touchscreen with no way to right-click anything. Such perplexing moments are par for the course in most Modern apps, though.

Opening a zip archive is easy in WinZip for Windows 8.

Once you add files and folders, WinZip crunches some numbers and shows the archive's vital statistics in the right sidebar. You can see its name, how many folders and files it contains, and how big it is. You can also opt to encrypt the files, and finally, you can save the file or send it to others using WinZip's ZipSend and ZipShare services. Feeling particularly savvy, I brought up the Windows 8 Charms bar and clicked Share, only to find out that I "don't have any apps that can share this content." So, instead of using the much-vaunted sharing built into Windows 8, you have to use WinZip's own solution.

The sidebar displays statistics and information about the currently open Zip file.

If you own a conventional desktop or laptop computer, there is absolutely no reason to use WinZip for Windows 8. It's not because Corel didn't create a good product – it's because Modern is basically unusable for any sort of real work, and archive management counts as "real work" in my book. I can hope WinZip for Windows 8 works better on a tablet with a touch interface, but as long as I have a plain old desktop, I remain grateful for the desktop version of WinZip.

Note: The Download button on the Product Information page takes you to the Windows 8 store, where you can download the latest version of the software.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    If your computer can run full-fledged Windows applications, don't use WinZip for Windows 8: Go with the full WinZip instead.

    Pros

    • A touch-optimized interface

    Cons

    • Adheres to the Modern UI, resulting in a confusing experience
    • Has hidden toolbars, and no clear onboarding procedure
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