For those of you hooked on (or thinking about using) WinZip's file backup features, v12 offers some new functions which will come in handy. While command line support is of more interest to people who use other software to call WinZip in the background for compression tasks, the enhanced task automation features will be of greatest interest to the rest of us. The only complaint I have about backups is that WinZip still breaks up files even if you set a backup job to make fixed-size archives. In other words, if you set the maximum file size per archive to 4.7GB (in case you want to burn copies to DVD at some point) WinZip will maximize the archive by splitting a file across the next archive in sequence instead of closing an archive short of the full 4.7GB before starting the next one. With hard drive space being cheap enough to sell in vending machines these days, there's really no more need to worry about absolute maximization of storage space. This file splitting feature is extremely useful when using WinZip to burn backups directly to CD or DVD, but there should be an option to turn off file splitting when burning to high capacity fixed media such as local hard drives, file servers and network storage drives.
Speaking of backup to DVD, we've always been able to stump WinZip (at least v10 & v11 anyway) with oddball optical drives. We couldn't this time, even on Windows 2000. Backups to DVD running on Windows XP and Windows Vista in particular are faster than WinZip 10 & 11 although WinZip 11 remains quite speedy. WinZip 12 offers an incremental speed improvement over v11.
Every compression format under the sun appears to be supported in WinZip 12 — 7Z, IMG, and ISO, RAR, BZ2, CAB, LHA, legacy and advanced ZIP and dozens of others. I got bored trying to find an archive format to stump WinZip 12. The software now supports LZMA (the Lempel-Ziv-Markov algorithm used in 7Z). Archive encryption strength has been improved to FIPS-197 Certified AES Encryption (128- and 256-Bit) levels, which is insanely secure. Choose a smart password and nobody will ever crack your archives — at least not in our lifetime. Password security is enhanced by a nifty little configuration dialog in which you can set requirements for a minimum number of specific unique characters in your passwords. It's a thoughtful inclusion which perfectly compliments the encryption capabilities.
WinZip 12 Pro offers some improvements in FTP file transfer and email file transfer of ZIP archives. Selecting individual files from within and image or photo archive for FTP, and resizing them on the fly, is another thoughtful feature which a lot of people will find quite handy when it comes to sending sample shots, providing smaller files to relatives, family and business associates and so on.
As usual, WinZip 12 integrates seamlessly into Windows. All of the ZIP archiving features are available in Windows context menus so that you have access no matter what you happen to be working on.
Cons: Although it's true that WinZip 12 can be used to compress JPG files into a smaller archive, it only works with unmixed file collections. That means the file compression analysis algorithm isn't quite a selective as it could be, so if there are any other random data files (e.g., RAW image files), overall compression is unlikely to be any more than 2%-4%. Select a list of JPG-only files and compression results improve dramatically. FTP was occasionally problematic during the review period mainly because if a server resets for any reason or if the FTP connection is reset or times out, there's no way to automatically resume the FTP session — you have to log on and start over.
Pros: The steady stream of new features and capabilities means that the formerly (and blissfully) simple WinZip user interface is much more detailed than it used to be. However, the WinZip 12 Pro designers have stuck with a familiar shell and a familiar control and function layout in order to make learning (and more important) using new features and functions quite easy. Somebody at WinZip has been focused on speed too. We're getting measurably faster compression times on a variety of different sizes of file collections compared to WinZip 9 & 10 running on the same Windows XP Professional computer and slightly faster times compared to WinZip 11 running on the same Windows Vista Ultimate computer. Whether or not you personally care about saving a few seconds here and there is almost secondary to the fact that the WinZip team continues to carefully tweak and improve the software. Selective on-the-fly JPG image resizing prior to ZIPing is a wonderful feature because I can't recall how many times I've started an email attachment of images realizing only belatedly that I had created a 50MB ZIP (or something equally huge and impossible to email). I have a short list of software utilities that I install on every new computer (netbook, sub-notebook, laptop, desktop and workstation) before doing anything else, and WinZip is first on the list and has been for many years. Although the company has gone through several corporate changes, the quality of the software, and by implication the development team, remains very high. Don't leave home without it. Still the best. Highly recommended.