WinZip 12 Pro review

£17
Price when reviewed

On the surface, little looks to have changed for this latest version of WinZip – in fact, the interface has altered little for many years. That’s no criticism; few applications are this widely familiar or straightforward to use. Compressed archives can be created with just one click, and files simply dragged and dropped into it.

Its developer does make some bold new claims about performance, though, such as squeezing the size of collections of JPEGs down by a quarter. Considering the already highly-compressed nature of the format this is quite a goal, and one that previous versions haven’t even come close to achieving.

Taking just under 100MB of JPEGs and compressing them with the default settings squeezed out only 1% of unnecessary data, but by tweaking the settings to work with the optimal compression algorithm for each individual file we managed to reduce the archive size to just under 77MB – a reduction of more than 22%. That’s impressive, and better than the best compression we managed with WinRAR on the same data set (94.6%), but be warned: using anything other than the default algorithm means that others may not be able to open your files – Windows’ XP and Vista tools certainly won’t extract them.

There are also several other new features, such as support for 7Z archives and CD/DVD .ISO and .IMG file plus there’s the ability to compress files to an archive straight from a connected camera. The latter may prove useful for some users, but in reality could be done with previous versions with any camera that shows up as a storage device under Windows. Other tools such as self-extracting files, file splitting, encryption and scheduled backups to archives remain from previous versions and make WinZip a flexible and powerful compression tool.

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Although the interface is simple and the compression and features impressive, there are problems. The main issue is that WinZip seems to be occupying a niche that is becoming less and less important. With the cost of data storage falling dramatically, and bandwidth on the increase, the need for file compression is not as critical as it once was. And the fact that Windows offers more-than-competent and free compression tools doesn’t help.

Despite this, Winzip continues to be enormously popular. And we have to admit that having all these features in one place, operated by such a slick and highly-refined user interface, just about justifies its price.

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