PowerZip v5.2

Reviewed by: Howard Carson
Published by: Trident Software
Requires: Requires: Windows 98 through XP; 16MB RAM recommended, 5MB free disk space
MSRP: US$20 single user (volume and academic license discounts available)

PowerZip is a feature-rich archiving, compression, decompression program and shell for Windows 98 through XP. PowerZip is a direct competitor to WinZip (from Niko Mak Computing - now WinZip Computing) and the top-rated ZipMagic 2000 (from Mijenix Corporation - now V-COM). PowerZip supports the ZIP, ARJ, RAR, ACE, CAB, TAR, GZ, HA, Z, and LZH archive formats. The software combines a convenient, intuitive user interface with flexibility and advanced options such as ZIP encryption (password protected ZIP files), ZIP comments, and multi- disk ZIP support.

PowerZip was tested on two computers: a PII/350MHz with 128MB RAM running Windows 98SE, and an older Dell Dimension XPS P166s with 64MB RAM running Windows 95b. Installation was flawless on both machines. Basic tests of PowerZip included compression and decompression speed comparisons with WinZip and ZipMagic 2000, as well as ZIP, CAB, TAR, and Z file compatibility.


PowerZip's speed test results were competitive - barely. Have a look at these comparisons:

  1. 16 files (EXE, ZIP, and TXT) PowerZip timing = 20 seconds to create a 12.2MB ZIP WinZip timing = 14 seconds to create a 12.0MB ZIP
  2. 184 files (EXE, ZIP, and TXT, some in sub folders) PowerZip timing = 140 seconds to create a 95.7MB ZIP WinZip timing = 90 seconds to create a 93.4MB ZIP
  3. 240 files (TXT, DOC, Quark, BMP, etc.) PowerZip timing = 115 seconds to create a 50.1MB ZIP WinZip timing = 120 seconds to create a 49.9MB ZIP

Note that PowerZip did not do anywhere near as well as WinZip timing-wise, when archiving already compressed files. PowerZip was WinZip's equal at archiving uncompressed data however. It provides similar results with CAB files (although WinZip can't create CAB files; it only reads and decompresses them). We used WinZip and ZipMagic 2000 to decompress ZIPs created with PowerZip (and vice- versa). There were no problems or incompatibilities.

PowerZip provides an option which registers it to handle its archive formats within Windows, to extract files from within Windows Explorer. It also adds a selection to Explorer's context menu for automatically extracting the contents of an archive to a new folder. PowerZip acts as a GUI shell for a variety of command-line programs which handle other compression formats (separate LHA, ARJ, and HA executables are required for LHA/LZH, ARJ, and HA compressed formats respectively). PowerZip can create Win32 and MS-DOS self-extracting ZIP files, which makes it a good utility for assembling distributable ZIPs. You can create both 16 and 32-bit files, select a default unZIP path, add comments, and run a program or display a file once the operation is complete. Other features include multiple disk spanning (e.g.: creating a 250MB archive stored on 3 Iomega Zip disks), encryption, and password protection.

Cons: PowerZip does not store file size data accurately - its ZIP files are sometimes read incorrectly by Windows Explorer (a 50MB test ZIP created with PowerZip and consisting of DOC, TXT, Quark, and other data files was reported as 18.MB in Explorer, while the identical ZIP created with WinZip was reported accurately). This is a serious bug because it provides users with inaccurate, favorably smaller file size data. We also found a bug when creating new test archives - drag & drop worked perfectly, but using the normal file selector dialog to select more than about 30 files/folders at a time always turned up a "Cannot read file" error. The UI is easier to use than WinZip (the New and Add archive functions in WinZip often confuse users), but PowerZip could still use tweaks in the Settings dialog (context sensitive Help would solve the problem for users unfamiliar with many terms used in both PowerZip and WinZip). Utility software makers could also take a hint from Adaptec (and others) that use long ToolTips or Guide text in the UI, rather than full blown Help files or Microsoft's 'What's This?' context Help. There's no support for UUencode or UUdecode which is a drawback for Usenet fans. No support for MIME and BinHex files (which is a problem if you regularly receive e-mailed files from Lotus Notes or Mac users). In Online Help the ARJ file link to the University of Oakland's FTP server is no longer accurate. Use the following FTP link instead: <ftp://oak.oakland.edu/ pub/ simtelnet/msdos/ arcers/arj260x.exe> (remove the angle brackets and extra spaces).

Pros: Very easy to use. Trident Software provides an easy to access bug report page and form on its Web site, as well as the usual Suggestions page. Immediate online support is also available through Frequently Asked Question files (FAQs). Single user licenses for PowerZip are US$9 less than WinZip and nearly US$20 less than ZipMagic 2000. PowerZip appears to match WinZip feature for feature and is slightly easier to use too, although it doesn't achieve the overall speed of WinZip or the speed, huge feature count and usability of ZipMagic 2000. PowerZip is reliable and comparatively inexpensive and is recommended for anyone who has occasional use for a solid archiving utility.




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