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A new year, a new chance for the makers of file compression software to try to convince us that we need to upgrade despite the fact most of the formats we use haven't changed since the first President Bush. I've looked at the latest Stuffit Deluxe, so now let's look at BitZipper ($25, 30-day free trial).
BitZipper's claim to fame is that it supports a lot of formats. A lot of formats. Forty-four in this version, from the well-known .zip and .rar to newer ones like .7z and ancient relics like .tar. The only major format I don't see on the list is Stuffit (.sit), which WinZip doesn't support either. By comparison, Stuffit and WinZip each support about 30 formats (to be fair, each of them includes some extra functions that can be useful).
BitZipper opens a lot of things other compression tools will not: Want to peek inside a Java .JAR file? BitZipper will show it to you. BitZipper also supports some aging features like UUEncode, once used to send binary files across the text-only USENET. Ah, the work we used to have to do get our Simpsons .wav files... I mean, Linux distributions.
The interface is pretty standard: tabs for showing multiple archives, an "Explorer" pane to let you root through your hard disk looking for forgotten files, and so on. One minor annoyance is that the only way to close a tab is to go to the "File" menu--there's no close box or right-click menu.
I would recommend BitZipper for anyone who regularly uses, or needs to open, a variety of archive formats. It's a lot better than having several different tools, and its ability to convert archives from one format to another is nice. It cannot create nearly as many archive formats as it can read, but it does support a lot of outputs, which is something its competitors do not do. It's also cheaper than either Stuffit Deluxe or WinZip (either Pro or Standard)--and the same price as Stuffit Standard--with comparable general-purpose compression functionality.
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