WinZip 15 Improves Interface, E-mail Integration

Since backwards compatibility may be more important in compression software than in any other major category of desktop program, new editions of archiving and compression tools have to focus more on the ancillary features than on their core competency. WinZip 15 ($30, 45-day free trial) continues this trend, with the bulk of new features focusing on ease-of-use and integration with the operating system. This isn't a criticism: When a 1TB hard disk costs about the same as movie tickets for two with drinks and popcorn, a new algorithm that squeezes 1% more compression out of a file is a lot less useful than a new interface option that makes it quicker and easier to use the compression in the first place.

WinZip screenshot
A modern interface is the most obvious change to classic compression workhorse WinZip.

WinZip 15 has a clean, accessible, interface, following the standard "Button Bar" approach started with Office 2007. The icons are large and clear, and it's usually easy to find the commands you're looking for.

The most visually obvious new feature is the desktop "gadget," a large (about twice the size of an icon) drag-and-drop target for your Windows desktop. Drag files onto the "Zip/Unzip" tab to zip and unzip, or to the "Zip & Email" tab to zip and e-mail. It's very convenient to use this when you've got the files you want to work with displayed in your Explorer window... but since this functionality is also available from a right-click menu in Explorer, if you're already at the file to drag it to the desktop gadget, you can access the same function without dragging. If a user doesn't have access to right-click functionality, I suppose this could be helpful, but, otherwise, I don't see what I get by dragging files to the gadget.

A much more useful feature is the enhancement to e-mail. WinZip now supports Outlook, Hotmail, and Gmail handlily, and adding my Gmail account was quick and easy. The settings for these common programs are pre-defined; however, almost any other mail program can be added quickly. You can also define multiple e-mail addresses and accounts.

As a final note, the under-the-hood architecture of WinZip has been modified in version 15 to make it easier to develop add-ons and functionality plug-ins; how this will play out over time remains to be seen.

If the bulk of what you do is unzip files for your own use, it's hard to see how any of the enhancements will dramatically impact you. WinZip 15's cleaner interface and improved e-mail features may both be useful if you do a lot of creating and distributing of .zip files, however. In addition, users of previous versions get a 50% discount on the cost of WinZip 15 as of this review's posting.

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