Top Compression Utilities for Windows and Why You Need Them?

Compressed Folders in Windows Vista

Windows has provided its own compression options since XP days. In Vista these functions can be very slow. Vista will support only the most basic file formats, and personal experience shows that the compressed folders that are produced are not always recognized as a valid compressed archive in other environments. To read more about performance comparisons, please see 7-zip File Extraction and Compression: Improving on Windows Vista here at Bright Hub.

Judged accorded to criteria of usability (how easy is it to use?), functionality (how much does it do?), reliability (does it always work without going wrong?) and performance (how quickly does it work?), the internal compression functions emerge as:

Usability (4 out of 5)

The integration of the compressed folders is very convenient, but is flawed because of so many performance problems.

Functionality (3 out of 5)

Vista is limited by its restriction to the .zip format particularly when used with Internet applications which require a wider range of formats.

Reliability (2 out of 5)

The resulting compressed folders are not judged to be valid archives by many other applications.

Performance (1 out of 5)

Performance is remarkably poor, with compression taking a very long time.

Winzip

The most common alternative is probably Winzip. Winzip is a commercial application, now in version 14, coming in two flavors standard and professional. The professional version offers better backup functionality and integration with email. It appears to be reliable and supports a range of formats although some of these require additional applications to be installed.

Judged according to the above criteria, Winzip scores much better:

Usability (4 out of 5)

The interface is more complex but poses little difficulty in use.

Functionality (3 out of 5)

The application has good features but is still limited in its range of formats compared with the best.

Reliability (4 out of 5)

The compressed folders appear much more acceptable to a wide range of applications than those produced from Vista.

Performance (4 out of 5)

The performance is much better than Vista and matches the best alternatives

Coffee Cup Free Zip Wizard

Coffee Cup Software offer a free alternative known as the Coffee Cup Free Zip Wizard. This majors on usability, and it is one of the easiest to use. It only supports the traditional .zip format but does offer in built email and FTP facilities which make it particularly attractive if this is the context in which you need to compress files.

Judged according to the same criteria as the other utilities, Coffee Cup Free Zip Wizard scores best for usability:

Usability (5 out of 5)

This application has a very simple interface which is easy to use.

Functionality (3 out of 5)

This application offers little more than Vista in terms of functionality.

Reliability (4 out of 5)

This application appears to produce compressed folders than be reliably read by other applications.

Performance (4 out of 5)

Thsi application offers much better performance than Vista.

7-zip

My personal favorite remains 7-zip. It handles the widest range of formats of any of these utilities: it will compress in 7z, ZIP, GZIP, BZIP2 and TAR formats and extract from RAR, CAB, ISO, ARJ, LZH, CHM, MSI, WIM, Z, CPIO, RPM, DEB and NSIS formatted archives. This range of formats is particularly important when working with Internet applications developed in UNIX or Linux environments such as content management systems or virtual learning platform. It offers excellent performance and has proved to be highly reliable. More detail is available at https://www.brighthub.com/office/home/reviews/10118.aspx.

Judged according to the same criteria as the other utilities, 7-Zip scores best overall:

Usability (4 out of 5)

This application provides a good interface to the widest range of options.

Functionality (5 out of 5)

This application offers the widest range of functions and formats.

Reliability (5 out of 5)

This is my application of choice and it has never given problems.

Performance (5 out of 5)

This application provides some of the best performance across its entire range of compression formats.

Conclusions

The compression functionality within Vista has reliability and performance issues and limited functionality. Winzip provides a viable alternative but is a commercial application with licensing costs. 7-zip provides the best free alternative and the widest choice of formats. It is therefore the recommended solution to overcome the problems with Vista’s compression functionality and is the best compression utility for Windows