Monday, October 03, 2005

7-Zip - The best Archive tool around

I'm sure everyone is familiar with the concept of compressing files. This is where one takes a file, or a group of files, and, using software like the one I'll talking about here, creates a new file that is smaller than the sum of the original files, but still contains all of the information and functionality of the original files. File compression is a popular way of reducing download times and making back-ups easier.

I'm sure many of the knowledgeable readers out there are already asking "Why do I need to download compression software at all? XP has it built in." I'm glad you asked.

7-Zip is open source, released under the Lesser GNU Public License (LGPL). And, just like GIMPShop, it is a free download, although paid support is available.

7-Zip is the best archival/compression software on the market. It can create and unpack several formats of compressed archives, including its own 7z format, ZIP, CAB, RAR, ARJ, GZIP, BZIP2, TAR, CPIO, RPM and DEB files. That's the first reason even XP users need 7-Zip. It works with formats that XP can't handle alone. It's even more valuable to 9x/NT users.

Another benefit of 7-Zip is that it is highly configurable, (a common feature in most open source projects). This allows users to balance the level of compression and speed. It has self-extracting capabilities for it's native 7z format. And 7-Zip is also available in over 40 languages.

Familiarity is another feature that makes 7-Zip a must-have. The interface of 7-Zip is designed to mirror the look-and-feel of Windows Explorer, so most users will barely know that that are opening anything other than a folder when they are using the program. It's almost like having the built-in ZIP function of XP on your 9x/NT machine. Even the most basic users will feel at home using 7-Zip.

7-Zip works on Windows 98 , 98SE, ME, NT, 2000, XP, and 2003. For those "GUI-is-for-WIMPs" guys out there, 7-Zip has a powerful command-line interface available as well which works on Windows and Linux (although WINE is needed for 7-Zip to function in Linux).

But by far, the best reason to use 7-Zip is the huge amounts of space you'll save when you archive your files using it's native format, 7z. I took this comparison test from their website,

Compression ratio results are very dependent upon the data used for the tests. We compared 7-Zip with some of the leading archivers: WinRAR 3.10, WinAce 2.3, CABARC 1.0, PKZIP 2.50.

FILE SET: The GIMP 1.2.4 for Windows after full installation (127 subfolders, 1304 files totaling 27,128,826 bytes). The GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It can be downloaded from

Archiver Compressed size Ratio

7-Zip (7z format) 5445402 100%
WinRAR 3.10 6004155 110%
WinAce 2.3 6242424 115%
CABARC 1.0 6455327 119%
7-Zip (zip format) 9461621 174%
PKZIP 2.50 9842800 181%

As you can see, the 7z format is close to half the size of the old ZIP format. And about 20% of the size of the uncompressed files.

Even with the standard ZIP and GZIP formats, 7-Zip provides compression ratio that is 2-10 % smaller than the ratio provided by PKZIP,WinZip, and the XP built-in ZIP software. 7-Zip's native 7z format can provide a whopping 30-50% reduction in the size of the file when compared to the same files in the common ZIP format. That's the highest level of compression available today.

FILE SETS: Mozilla Firefox 1.0.7 for Windows and Google Earth 3.0.0616 for Windows after full installation.

Archiver Mozilla Firefox Google Earth
161 files
15,684,168 bytes
115 files
23,530,652 bytes
Compressed size Ratio Compressed size Ratio
7-Zip 4.23 (7z format) 4621135 100% 6109183 100%
WinRAR 3.50 5021556 109% 6824892 112%
CABARC 5.1 5131393 111% 7434325 122%
WinZip 10.0 beta (maximum-PPMd) 5277118 114% 8200708 134%
7-Zip 4.23 (zip format) 6222627 135% 8909446 146%
WinZip 10.0 beta (maximum-portable) 6448666 140% 9153898 150%

Some of the other benefits of the 7z format are: open architecture, strong AES-256 encryption, the ability to use any compression, conversion or encryption method, even ones that don't exist yet - since it can be developed by anyone who wants to work on it, support for files with sizes up to 16,000 Petabytes (That's 16,000,000 Terabytes or 16 BILLION Gigabytes!!!), Unicode file names, solid compressing, and archive headers compressing

With the glut of shareware/crippleware/trialware compression software available today, it may seem that building up about another "free" zipper would be a waste. But getting the highest compression available for free, without any annoying ads, appeals to "Upgrade to the full version", or spyware /adware, is truly something to write about.

There you will also find further details about the world's greatest archiving program, support information, and find out about other programs from the 7-Zip team.

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