Zip files. Aren't they great? Those essential adjuncts to the internet, without which downloading anything would be an unbearably long-winded process (well, even more so than it is already). It's probably not exaggerating things to say that a zip file manager is one of the most useful programs you will ever use. Except that (why does this seem so inevitable?) Microsoft hasn't thought fit to provide a decent one with Windows, the built-in program bundled with XP being utterly feeble, though at least it's there, which is more than you can say for Win98 and earlier. This is where PowerArchiver comes in. Something to get out of the way before we start is this: PowerArchiver versions up to 6.11 were freeware, but the current version (7.0) is shareware, and costs $19.95 (for a lifetime single-user licence including updates) after the usual 30 day trial period. The one I've got, being a renowned cheapskate, is the free version, so that's what I'm reviewing here. There really isn't much difference, in any case - more on this later. The freeware version has been removed from the official website in favour of the shareware v7.0, but is still possible to find if you're prepared to do a little bit of searching. Be careful - even some of the major sites wrongly label v7.0 as freeware - but there are some genuine links to v6.11. Try here, for example: http://126.96.36.199/workstation/compression_3.html The above link seems to be pretty reliable, but if it doesn't work and you can't find a working one, your best bet is probably to ask on the alt.comp.freeware Usenet group, which contains several members who are expert at ferreting out obscure URLs. Assuming you do find it, though, the download is around 2 megs in size. (If you do want to fork out for the new version, by the way, http://www.powerarchiver.com is the place to go.) So, what's PowerArchiver like in practice? The answer, happily, is &qu
ot;very good". First impressions are positive - the program installs without any problem (and, unlike certain other programs I could name, will also uninstall cleanly). Run the program, and you'll be faced with a screen extremely reminiscent of a certain zipfile manager beginning with "W". There are the big friendly speed buttons, there's the option to view in Classic or Explorer modes (in Explorer mode, a directory of the drive's folders appears down the left hand side of the screen). There's the Tip of the Day on opening (yes, you can turn it off, thank heaven!). And so on. So, why use PowerArchiver ahead of the zillions of other zipfile managers, whether freeware, shareware, commercial or whatever? (Actually, I've never seen a program described as "whateverware", but it's an interesting idea...) Let's go through the features that make PowerArchiver such a fine program. Firstly, and probably most importantly, is its large range of supported formats. Here's the complete list of what PowerArchiver can handle: Read, extract, create new archive, add to archive: ZIP (duh!); CAB, LHA (LZH), TAR, TAR.GZ, TAR.BZ2 and BH (BlakHole). Create self-extracting archives: ZIP, RAR, ACE, ARJ, LHA and BH. Read and extract only: RAR, ARJ, ARC, JAR (Java Archive), ACE, ZOO, GZ and BZIP2. It can also deal with internet encoded files of the XXE or UUE type (whatever they may be...!). As you can see, there's a fair amount here to be going on with. The program doesn't support Macintosh SIT or HQX archives - to unzip those you'll need Aladdin Stuffit Expander (which is, thankfully, freeware, though it won't help with making those archives in the first palce) - but as far as DOS, Windows or Linux archives are concerned you're unlikely to come up against too many brick walls. Another very useful feature is the ability to manipulate files without removing them from an
archive. You can add files to the archive, delete them from the archive, rename them, view them if of a suitable format (a built-in viewer can handle TXT, RTF, BMP, ICO, WMF, EMF [huh?], GIF and JPG files), add comments, and check them for viruses (a virus scanner isn't built in, but you can tell PowerArchiver the location of one of your own and it will utilise it). You can also check archives for corruption, and repair many of them with a built-in tool. One very handy feature, especially if you're going to be sending your zipfiles by floppy (or email), is the Spanning capability. This allows you to split a large file up into several smaller ones, which can then be reassembled by the recipient. This is, of course, quite a common feature in programs of this nature, but PowerArchiver implements it very well - there are eight possible span sizes to choose from, ranging from 100K to 2800K, which should give something for everyone. There's also an Auto option, which fills each disk to capacity The cosmetic appearance of the program, as mentioned earlier, is quite like that of WinZip, and this similarity in "look and feel" will help users of that program feel quite at home. I'm not entirely happy with the design of the icons on the toolbar - they're rather large and garish - but it's a minor quibble, and in any case you can turn them off if they irritate you that much. Personally, I prefer the Classic interface without the folder display down the side, but that's just my own prejudice - both work well. As one might expect after six major versions of a program, most of the bugs and annoyances have been ironed out long since, but there are one or two negative points worth mentioning. Firstly, PowerArchiver is something of a resources hog, taking anything up to 10% of Windows System Resources. This isn't usually a problem so long as you have 64 megs or more of RAM, but it's worth knowing, I feel. Anoth
er bug is that if you click to sort the column displaying "Compression Ratio", any files with 100% compression will appear at the bottom rather than in their correct place at the top. (This "perfect" figure might at first seem to be impossible, but in fact you do occasionally get 100% compression displayed - it's a rounded figure, remember, so a file compressed from 14,404 bytes to 67 bytes will show up as 100% compressed.) Lastly, it's occasionally a little slow to get going, but we're only talking a couple of seconds here. The help that comes with PowerArchiver is one of its strong points. It's provided in HTML format, but within a normal Windows Help file, eliminating the need for a browser. The help is comprehensive and well written, even to the extent of having a tutorial that actually teaches you something, a rare thing indeed. It's easy to navigate and the copious illustrations scattered about the place are almost all genuinely helpful. Customer support is pretty much non-existent at the manufacturer level now that v7.0 has come out, but the official site does have some handy forums on which there is a fair level of knowledge and expertise. Having said that, alt.comp.freeware will probably give you a quicker and more satisfactory answer (and without the "oh, by the way, please consider buying v7.0" nagging, either!). It should be acknowledged that v7.0 does boast quite a few features missing from this free version, but most of them are minor cosmetic changes (flat scrollbar - oooh!). The ones that might be of most interest are the Batch Zip capability and the Auto Backup facility, which works in the same way as similar features on anti-virus programs and so forth. Some people might also like v7.0's ability to zip and e-mail a file with just one click, though that's more of a timesaver than anything really major. It should be pretty obvious by this point that I like t
his program. It's my archive manager of choice by a fair distance, and has remained so for quite some time now. The change to shareware with v7.0 is a shame, but then again it was probably inevitable in the end - freeware programs are rather thinner on the ground than they were a few years ago, as adverts don't tend to pay the hosting bills any more. Still, version 6.11 is more than adequate for 99% of users, and as such it's well worth the extra effort in hunting the freeware version down. Highly recommended.
I'm sure if you regularly download programs from the Internet you will be familiar with Zip compression technology. This is a method of compressing a file so that it becomes smaller and thus quicker to download. Once complete you simply double click the file and providing you have an unzip utility such as WinZip then it will extract the file for you, at it's normal usable size. Sometimes however you may download a file that WinZip seems unable to open, if that's the case then have you ever considered using a different Unzip utility? Of course it is true to say that maybe you don't experience much hassle when unzipping files, if this is the case then Power Archiver won't really affect you either way. If you are one of those people who have copies of WinZip, Winrar and Winace all contained on your computer then this is the utility to use to replace all 3 of them. Basic function ~~~~~~~~~~~ The basic function I hope is abundantly clear from reading my introduction, this program unzips, or to use the correct term decompresses a variety of different file types of formats. File formats it supports ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ZIP, CAB, RAR, LZH+ (.LHA), ACE, ARJ, JAR, ARC, ZOO, BH, TAR, GZIP +. TGZ, BZIP2 (+. TBZ2 +TBZ), UUE, and finally XXE What are all these files and formats? Well that would take more than this opinion to explain them all. They are all compressed formats; the predominant ones used are ZIP, CAB (Cabinet files; Windows uses these to store backups of system files), RAR and ACE. Most of the others you won't ever come across but, this utility will be there for you just in case. Features of Power Archiver ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Power Archiver enables you to not only decompress files, but you can also create your own compressed archives in one of many formats; this is useful for many reasons. Tip ~There is a vast help file contained w
ithin Power Archiver which will help you out with any problems you may have, or if you need explanations about one of its many features~ You can choose exactly how the power archiver interface should look, right down to adding new skins for it. This looks really good, and is a nice though unnecessary touch. Virus scanning files is also a feature of Power Archiver. If you have an External Virus checker to enable virus scanning of Zips etc simply select the program path to your Virus checker from with Power Archives interface; it will then use this whenever it uncompresses a file. Ability to create Spanned sets of disks with easy to use interface. If you have a program of any format and you wish to save it, however it's over 1.44 megs in size (which is standard Floppy Disk size) and you don't have a CD-Writer all is not lost. Simply use Power Archiver to split the file up into several pieces that can then be put onto media such as Floppy Disks. However whenever possible I would avoid using this for -very large files- for obvious reasons of using copious amounts of floppies. Also if just one Floppy gets corrupt (which is likely) then the whole spanned set will become useless without some serious file recovery software. You can create self extracting .exe files, this is useful if you need to send a file to someone who hasn't got an unzip utility on there computer. This simply needs a double click and it will uncompress itself. Files such as this are generally a little larger than standard Zip files due to the technology it needs to incorporate to uncompress itself. You can if needs be, change the compression from one format to another. This has limited usage though is useful for example turning an *Ace file which WinZip can't open into a *Zip file which it can. This would be useful in the situation of having to send a file to a user who had WinZip installed but not WinAce or of course Power Arc
hiver. There are many other features, which you can use in this software from creating custom file archives to testing the archives and in some cases repairing damaged archives. Installation ~~~~~~~~ Installation of this software was smooth and went without a single hitch. I have installed this on both Windows 98 and Windows XP both without problems as stated. Where to get this program ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ http://www.powerarchiver.com Also you can obtain this from many Shareware sites, such as http://www.tucows.com, http://www.download.com and many other sites such as those stated. Updates ~~~~~~ Updates to add even more functionality to this great program appear ever month or so, you don't have to download these but often they add something good to the program. Limitations of shareware package ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ There are no limitations, and the program will continue to function after the trial period without any problems. If you wish to show your support for the software you can register it for a cost of $19.95 via the registration screen in software. I do believe that $19.95 is a little expensive for most users and would think that a voluntary donation scheme would help them to gain more money for the wonderful work they have done with Power Archiver. Full support is available from the power archiver website even if you haven't registered the software, so full marks for that also. System Requirements ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ · Microsoft Windows® 95, 98, ME, NT 4.0, 2000, XP or higher · >= Pentium 150 MHz or faster processor (recommended: Pentium 250 MHz) · >= 12MB or more RAM (recommended: 32MB) · A hard disk with at least 10MB free space (recommended: 50MB) · A Microsoft or 100% compatible mouse (recommended) · Microsoft HTML Help Update, Rich Edit Update v3.0 - available on the Power Archiv
er Web site No external programs are required to add or extract files to or from an archive. Summary ~~~~~~~ If as I said at the start of the opinion are needing of an excellent all round utility for making and uncompressing a very wide variety of files, then look no further. In my opinion this beats all comers, this is show by the wide variety of 5 Star awards ***** it has accumulated from many Internet utilities sites. The majority of these awards were user rated also, so that speaks volumes in itself.
After having used WinZip for many years, I found Power Achiever, that same day WinZip was removed from my computer, forever. Power Achiever does almost everything that WinZip did, there are no wizards, but what it does do it does very well. Creating an achieve is a breeze, and you can convert between types easily. There are far more options than WinZip, almost every part of operation can be customised. The toolbar can be ‘skinned’ using downloadable skins from the Power Achiever website. Like most modern zip utilities Power Achiever integrates with the windows shell, so you can right click an file and extract/compress them etc. What options are displayed can be changed in the main Power Achiever interface. The main interface is very crisp and clean and there is no clutter. The context sensitive menu, only displays the commands you recently used, like Microsoft Office 2000 onwards. Development of Power Achiever is very quick, and much faster than WinZip’s, will they ever get a new version out? If you are using ANY other zip utility, go and get Power Achiever NOW!
PowerArchiver is a great product - it does everything that WinZip (or other archivers) can do, but it's freeware. The integration with the Windows Shell is great - right click on a folder, and you'll get the option to zip to a file of the same name, zip with options (different name, passwords, etc). Right click on a zip file, and you'll get the options to unzip here, unzip to folder of same name, or unzip with options. Creating self extracting archives is easy too - right click on a zip file and you'll get an option to create a self extracting archives. It can tell when you've right clicked on a self extracting .exe file, and gives you the option to unzip, open with PowerArchiver, etc. It is also being actively developed, with updated versions available frequently - beta releases are made public, but may be worth avoiding if you don't like the risk. All in all, it's the best archiver i've used, and definitely the best price.