GCN LAB REVIEWS

WinZip 15 Pro: A classic that keeps getting better

Upgrades to the user interface and a new compression engine help WinZip stay ahead of the competition

File archiving and compression have been around since even before the days of DOS and the Apple II. Back then, when files were tiny compared to today’s, but they would occasionally get too big to conveniently store or transfer. File compression was a logical next step, as there are unused bits in all files, like the spaces between the molecules of matter.

WinZip Computing, a Corel company, has been a leader in this field for 20 years, and it is still going strong. Now it has come out with a new version, WinZip 15 Pro, that continues to provide standard-forging file compression. In addition, it has made improvements to the user interface that make it a bit easier to deal with.

With the newest version, WinZip has integrated a brand new compression engine, which has marked improvement compared with the previous one. We found that although text-only documents typically were made only 2 percent smaller on average — indicating that this might be the theoretical limit for these files — many other types had better results. For example, a typical 90K spreadsheet file would compress 77 percent as a .zip file, and 84 percent as a .zipx file. It even performed better with .jpg files, the bane of any compression program. They would pack together by 30 percent, which was 10 percent more than the old way.


WinZip 15 Pro
Pros: Excellent compression rate; legacy compression available.
Cons: Interface still has some non-user-friendly bits.
Performance: A-
Ease of Use: B
Features: B+
Value: A-
Price: $49.95 (government pricing available)

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But the largest gain was from one of the GCN Lab’s most cherished testing tools. The 4.5M, 30-page photo-laden Word document that we at the Lab use to put printers in their place only compressed 3 percent using the old Zip engine. But the company must have done something awesome for documents with graphics because this file in particular went from 3 percent compression to 60 percent between versions. Although this might not match most documents, we felt this result was worth mentioning. Like those weight loss commercials on TV, your results might not be typical.

There is a cost to this higher level of compression, of course, and that is backward compatibility. The new .zipx files are not readable by older versions of WinZip. However, for users sending files to people who haven’t updated, WinZip 15 allows you to create the older .zip files. Although these won’t achieve the compression of the newer type, they are as usable by general users as any other .zip file.

There are decent improvements to the user experience as well. When you add a file to an archive, a window pops up with the statistics of the total archive file, including a little bar chart that shows the overall compression. Although this information can be useful to know, the window is set to pop up every time files are added, so eventually you will do what we did and disable it.

For Windows Vista and 7 users, there is now a ribbon-style menu that has things laid out for much easier access. We have to admit the new interface took a bit of getting used to, having worked with the same old menu system for longer than we would like to remember.

Many of the function screens that pop up are still less than intuitive and could use some help. However, WinZip has probably avoided doing a complete overhaul in this area for two reasons. One, it largely works fine, and two, people have been used to how these work for such a long time that any major change could be met with a riot or something otherwise terrible.

The Pro version that we looked at includes a backup feature that will e-mail a Zip file to a certain address once it’s completed. This can be a quick-and-dirty fix where an off-site backup policy is needed. Although not specifically designed for this purpose, it might be a nice way to add one that works fine to your agency for a tiny fraction of what a full system would probably cost.

WinZip Computing is retailing WinZip 15.0 Pro for $50. We felt that to be a bit high, especially when you consider the standard version, which has everything Pro does except the backup feature, costs $30. Multiuser pricing is available for government organizations through the Winzip website.

Winzip 15.0 Pro is a definite improvement over its predecessors and worthy of the proud WinZip tradition.

WinZip Computing, Corel, www.winzip.com

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