Almost everyone using Windows computers finds a need to extract compressed ZIP files. For years, I used WinZip, a very popular ZIP file compression/decompression shareware program written by Niko Mak. I registered (paid for) WinZip more than ten years ago. Since then, I have compressed and decompressed thousands of files with WinZip.
Early versions of Windows had no method of handling ZIP files; so, a third-party utility such as WinZip was essential. Microsoft lessened my dependence on WinZip by releasing ZIP file compression and decompression capabilities in Windows ME and later in Windows XP. However, the Microsoft utility has far fewer capabilities than WinZip. Microsoft's version will not create one ZIP file that spans across multiple floppy disks, nor will it create self-extracting ZIP files or self-installing ZIP files to install programs. In addition, the Windows XP ZIP utility can password-protect a ZIP file, but I always felt that WinZip's password protection was easier to use. Even though ZIP capability is built into Windows XP, I have continued to use WinZip because of its more advanced features and ease of use.
WinZip always offered free upgrades to registered users as new versions were released. I have upgraded WinZip many times. You can imagine my surprise this morning when I tried to upgrade to the new version 10 of WinZip. The upgrade process told me that I needed to pay $29.95 in order to obtain the latest version of WinZip.
The culprit is corporate software sales methods versus shareware methods. It seems that the Corel Corporation recently purchased all the rights to WinZip. Corel then abandoned the concept of free upgrades that had been the policy for well over a decade. Corel wants to earn a return on its investment in WinZip.
I won't argue with Corel. I am disappointed, but it is their product now, and the company has every legal right to charge whatever the company's owners please, even if the new prices drive away customers. I know I won't be paying $29.95 every time there is a new release!
This is a minor problem for Windows XP users. I suspect that most Windows XP users will get along fine with Microsoft's built-in ZIP file utility. However, if you would like to have more functionality, or if you are using an older version of Windows, you may be glad to learn that you have alternatives. In fact, most of the alternatives are available free of charge.
While WinZip has always been my favorite ZIP and unzip utility, 7-ZIP is a close second. 7-ZIP for Windows handles ZIP files with ease as well as many other file compression formats. It will create or decompress ZIP, 7z, GZIP, BZIP2 and TAR files. In addition, it will also decompress RAR, CAB, ARJ, LZH, CHM, Z, CPIO, RPM and DEB files although it will not create those formats.
The best thing about 7-ZIP is its price tag: free. The biggest drawback (in my opinion) is that it is not quite as easy to use as WinZip. Still, I suspect that most experienced Windows users will have no problems using 7-ZIP.
If you are using an older version of Windows, or if you would like to have more options than that provided by Windows XP's ZIP compression, take a look at 7-ZIP at http://www.7-zip.org.
You can also find many other ZIP and unZIP file compression programs for Windows. Some are free while others cost about $30 or so. Here are a few of the ones I know about:
FreeZip is a small, fast and efficient Zip utility for compression and decompression of files and directories. FreeZip integrates with Windows Explorer and uses file associations and context menus to zip or unzip files and subdirectories. If you know how to use Windows Explorer, then you do not have to learn anything new to use FreeZip. The program is available from many places, including http://www.sofotex.com/FreeZip-download_L594.html.
ZipCentral is a free and easy to use zip file manager with all the utilities you need to manage your zip files. More information can be found at http://zipcentral.iscool.net.
PKZIP is available from PKWare, the company that invented ZIP files. However, it is a commercial program that sells for $29.00. You can download a free trial version at http://www.pkware.com.
WinRAR is a powerful archive manager. It can backup your data and reduce size of email attachments, decompress RAR, ZIP and other files downloaded from Internet and create new archives in RAR and ZIP file format. It is a commercial program that sells for $29.00. You can download a free trial version at http://www.rarlab.com.
The above is an abbreviated list; it only shows the most popular unzip programs. Any search engine can show you even more ZIP file utilities to choose from.
Windows users do have choices. There is no need to be locked into Microsoft's or Corel Corporation's offerings.