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The basic functionality of file-compression software is both rock-solid and slow to change. New iterations of these essential, but somewhat workaday, utilities must focus on everything around the central function of "making big files small." It was roughly a year ago that WinZip 15 was released and reviewed, and here we are again with a new iteration. This time, WinZip 16 ($30, 45-day free trial) adds a more powerful engine and better support for the plethora of second- and third- tier compression formats that can be found around the net. It also provides a valuable block in this year's buzzword bingo, support for cloud computing.
WinZip 16 upgrades its core compression algorithm to 64 bits (though it still works fine on 32-bit systems), increasing performance. In addition, encryption algorithms have been fine-tuned to use chipset-specific features when available. This is under-the-hood stuff that's hard to see until you use it, but easy to notice if you do a lot of compression of large files.
Once you've compressed a large file, though, you need to do something with it, and that's where the major new feature of WinZip 16 comes into play. WinZip 16 now has built-in support for tight integration with WinZip's ZipSend cloud service, which you must create an account for in order to use these features (there are both free and paid options). If you've ever been stymied by email gateways that won't let you send files of any significant size, this could be a killer feature for you. Just create your email as usual, attach "200HoursOfHDFootageOfMyVacation.zip," and click "send." The WinZip Courier program, which is separately installed but which can be downloaded for free once you've set up a ZipSend account, will notice the large file, upload it to ZipSend, and place a link in your email message so the recipient can click to download it. At least, this will happen if you're using Microsoft Outlook, or (in theory) Gmail or Hotmail in Firefox, Chrome, or Explorer.
If you're using Thunderbird as your mailer, or Opera as your browser, the ZipSend integration is not supported, and that's a shame, because it's a good idea and it works beautifully if you've got the right configuration. Really, though, the "right configuration" for anything but the most casual use is Outlook. While it worked correctly in Firefox, it locked the browser while loading the file to the ZipSend servers, and files large enough to need this feature can be slow to upload. I have confirmed with WinZip that this is not a bug but is working as designed.
ZipSend Lite is free, and allows you to send files of up to 50MB, and will store them for seven days; ZipSend Pro lets you go to 2GB per email and will store files indefinitely, but costs 10.00 a month or 50.00 a year.
A word of caution: When installing WinZip, you'll be given the option of also installing several other programs, all helpfully pre-checked to be included. Go through the installation screen slowly to be sure nothing is installed which you did not wish to be installed.
If you're an Outlook user frequently thwarted by email gateways with size limits that might have made sense in 1995, WinZip 16 Standard is a no-brainer. Even if you don't need the ZipSend feature, the improved compression engine and better support for other archive formats makes it a winner. Before deciding completely, though, check out PCWorld's review of WinZip Pro.