WinZip Self-Extractor v2.2

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, send e-mail
Published by: WinZip Computing, Inc., go to the web site
Requires: Any Windows from 95 to XP, almost any PC running Windows, any WinZip file
MSRP: $49.00 (single user license)

If you not only have to send a Zip file to someone, but also have to provide the means to make the Zip file extract itself to a certain location, the WinZip Self-Extractor is an easy to use solution. Operating as both a plug-in to WinZip and a stand-alone program, the WinZip Self-Extractor is a simple, stable way to distribute everything from installable content to individual images for people who can't use or don't understand the vagaries of Windows file managers.

At it's simplest, WinZip Self-Extrator allows you to load an existing Zip file and turn it into a self-extracting file with an "exe" extension. The program will alter the Zip so that when it is double-clicked it will automatically extract itself (decompress, inflate, unzip) into its component files even if - and this is the main point - WinZip is not installed on the computer. There are additional features however, which let you add instructional text, copyright information and other details which may be of importance to anyone receiving and using the self-extracting file.

We actually have a regular use for this little utility. The Kickstartnews store features PhotoSuite template content (among other things) which we supply via self-extracting files. When someone orders a template pack, they receive the self-extracting exe which, when double-clicked, opens up and tosses the templates into a specified folder that is clearly named and easy to find. It's a very handy solution which neatly and elegantly avoids the need for a complicated installation program. The WinZip Self-Extractor also has a provision for adding an icon to the files in the archive, making them easier to identify once they been unpacked.

My second order of business for the program, specifically for this review, was to create a self-extracting file containing photos for my mother. She has a computer and writes e-mail like a champ, but that's where her computer skills end. The aforementioned vagaries of the Windows file manager usually mean that she can't find anything I send her via e-mail attachment. The self-extractor I sent her however was set to decompress the image files, then toss them into a specified folder on her hard drive. The folder didn't exist, so the WinZip Self-Extractor created it. Nice. She found all the photos of her grandchildren. The long distance phone calls that begin with "I got those pictures you sent but I can't find where I saved them" have ceased.

Last and certainly not least, when I mentioned to a local computer store owner that I was reviewing WinZip Self-Extractor, he told me that it was a regular part of his service kit. He carries around an enormous library of software utilities, diagnostic tools and reference documents on a single CD. Uncompressed, he'd need about 3 CDs to hold everything. Compressed, everything fits. Because he continually runs into home service situations in which a client does not have WinZip installed (or a working Internet connection either), the self-extracting files come in very handy.

Cons: The ability to add an icon to the self-extractor that you create is just great, but it's limited to 32x32 pixels and 256 colors. That's a Windows icon restriction which we don't like. The custom text dialog size in the self-extractor (the dialogs seen by someone who has double-clicked a self-extracting file) is too small. We'd like to see a resizable dialog and a much higher word limit - right now, one of the dialogs is restricted to 256 characters.

Pros: Works well. There are dozens of other uses for the self-extractor including sales demo distribution, advertising and sending files to people who simply don't have any basic computer skills or to people who are confused by WinZip itself. Lots of interesting information distribution uses. Fast, easy operation. Highly recommended.

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