I’ve decided to add content to my blog, and I will be drawing on my experience with all different types of software to recommend ones I like particularly.
In this case, I see lots of people using trial versions of WinZip or WinRAR. Why? It doesn’t make sense, not when there are good, free products out there that don’t have nag screens or trial periods.
My archive tool of choice is 7-Zip. It has a GUI tool, a command line interface, and a shell extension, so you can right click archives to extract them, or right click a bunch of files to archive them. All these are musts for me, and 7-Zip does a good job in all of them. It can also create self-extracting archives which is a plus if you want to compress in .7z format but aren’t sure if your friend has a tool that can open them.
The most interesting feature 7-Zip brings to the table is the 7-Zip file format. It boasts higher compression rates than ZIP. AFAIK, ZIP was originally intended for use with text files, so you get best compression rates with them. I don’t know much about .7z but it was probably designed for modern uses that ZIP is currently used for. At any rate, except for very small files or text files, .7z has always won out for compression ratio in my little tests.
It also supports extracting a number of archives. Unfortunately it can only create a small subset of these, including .7z, ZIP, .tar, .gz, and .bz2, which is still a useful enough assortment.
The only thing it really can’t do is generate RAR files, but fortunately there really is no reason to have to make them anymore… I’m not sure why you still see some around. I can only assume they get better compression ratios in some places than ZIP. However I haven’t needed to make any RAR files for as long as I’ve been using 7-Zip. Considering 7-Zip is a free tool and IIRC RAR creation support requires a paid license I can understand why there is no support.
I would recommend 7-Zip to anyone who is looking for a good desktop tool for extracting or creating archive files, or a good command line tool for the same.