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WinZip Companion saves time, bandwidth when sending big files

Everyone now seems to be using e-mail as a file transfer medium. While the ease of use of most e-mail programs lets you quickly send files to the next cubicle or even to a traveling employee in Europe, the prevalent practice has made it necessary for most network administrators to limit the size of these attachments. At GCN, a file can't be more than 10MB. But what if your file exceeds this imposed limit?

Well, you could always compress it. Just open the compression/archive software, make a new archive file, go find and select the files to be archived, and run the archive process. Then you can open the e-mail program and add the archive as an attachment. While this is not a complicated process by any stretch of the imagination, it can get tedious if you have to do this several times a day.

WinZip Companion for Outlook can practically eliminate this potentially wearisome task. Best of all, the General Services Administration has seen fit to make WinZip part of its SmartBuy program. Depending on the amount of software you buy (and the WinZip folks aren't required to take orders for less than 200 licenses), you can get WinZip software nearly free (up to 98 percent off, specifically, under SmartBuy).

WinZip Companion is a plug-in, so it's open and active when Microsoft Outlook is open. When you send an e-mail, it will automatically zip all the attachments together just before sending. You can set options from Outlook's Tools menu so Companion will give a yes/no prompt before zipping files, or only zip files of a certain size or larger. The plug-in can even encrypt files if desired. It does all this quickly and, most important, invisibly.

Unfortunately, there is no way to make a self-extracting executable as you can with the regular WinZip compression software. This means anyone who receives attachments from a user of the Companion plug-in will need to have WinZip themselves to view and unpack them. This is a bit annoying but not insurmountable, considering how easy it is for agencies to buy hundreds or thousands of licenses.

What is more annoying is the so-called 'explanation file' that Companion offers to send as an additional attachment, presumably to help explain to the recipient what is going on if they're receiving one of these compressed files for the first time. The text file starts out innocently enough, explaining how the zip file was created and how to view it. But the rest is nothing short of a sales pitch for both WinZip and the Companion. A better text file would simply state that the archive is a zip file and if you don't have that program on your computer, offer a link where you can get it. Fortunately, including this file is an option that can be unchecked in the Options window.

WinZip Companion for Outlook adds a new level of convenience to an already convenient product. While it may be seen as an attempt to further monopolize the file compression market, no one can argue with the time and effort Companion will save for those who frequently need to attach large files.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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