Protect and Compress: WinZip Adds Oomph to Outlook

By Steve Windhaus | Posted May 05, 2005

Up until last week, I've used Microsoft Outlook Express for all my e-mail services dating back to my desktop startup days in the late 80s. Lately though, my business life has become increasingly hectic, so I began thinking about switching to Microsoft Outlook to better manage contacts, e-mail and appointments.

Last week, I finally converted. What made me take the leap? WinZip introduced a new software application that adds file compression and encryption capability to Microsoft Outlook — WinZip Companion for Microsoft Outlook.

What More Can You Do?
I've always thought of WinZip as the Microsoft of file compression software (with all due respect to PKZip). After file compression, the company added encryption to prevent anyone from accessing content while files travel over the Internet via e-mail. WinZip Companion, not to be confused with WinZip 9.0, installs seamlessly into Microsoft Outlook to provide:

  • Optional compression of e-mail attachments
  • Optional encryption of e-mail attachments
  • Optional levels of encryption
  • Toolbar options in the Outlook window

This is not a software application designed to do new and fancy things. It takes the file compression and encryption process to a new level of convenience that saves a lot of time and effort. Instead of creating a file, closing it and then compressing and encrypting it, now you can compress and encrypt it at the moment you attach the file to an e-mail message.

System Requirements
The WinZip Companion requirements are, for the most part, straightforward:

  • Windows 98, ME, 2000, NT 4.0 and XP
  • Microsoft Outlook 2000, 2002 and 2003

The recipients of these file attachments need:

  • A file extractor like WinZip or PKZip
  • WinZip 9.0 or other ASE-compatible decryption software for encrypted files

However, if you're using Outlook 2000 you should examine the application settings before downloading WinZip Companion. Using Word as the text editor prevents the incorporation of add-ins like WinZip.

Installing and Configuring
Most software applications let you choose between a standard and a custom installation. That is not the case with WinZip Companion. When you insert the CD, you can either install or exit the program. Once you complete the installation, a message instructs you to open Outlook, create a new e-mail, click the "Tools" command and then the "Configure WinZip Companion for Outlook" command.

Pay attention to that instruction. Otherwise, you lose the option to configure the software and WinZip will install the default settings. In other words, when you create a new e-mail, the options box will pop up only after you have inserted the attachment. The WinZip toolbar icons will not be visible in the Standard toolbar.


WinZip Compnaion for Outlook
The WinZip Companion configuration screen lets you determine whether to zip and encrypt files automatically.

The WinZip toolbar icons let you configure each e-mail as you create it. You can select various icons to zip automatically, do not zip automatically, zip and encrypt, zip and insert or configuring for Outlook. The first three options take place after you have inserted the file attachment. The fourth option opens a search box for you to select the file you want to zip and insert. The fifth option lets you configure or reconfigure WinZip Companion for the entire Outlook application.

Compression and Encryption
WinZip Companion incorporates the same compression and encryption technology found in WinZip 9.0. The program's file size compression used to be limited to 4GB, but the company has developed a virtually unlimited file size capacity to compress in 64-bit file extensions. In other words, any size file can be zipped.

Of course, that doesn't mean you can just zip any file and send it. Mail servers still have capacity limits. I tested the compression on 4 MB and 6MB file attachments. And found the compression time greatly reduced and transmission so much faster.

WinZip has dramatically enhanced the level of encryption. Historically, the company used an encryption technology called Zip 2.0, an industry-standard password-protected format. Unauthorized recipients have continuously penetrated the technology. WinZip Companion upped the ante, incorporating AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), allowing encryption in 128-bit and 256-bit file extension formats.

AES is an industry standard, and it's the same secure encryption used by major financial institutions and the U.S. government use to keep information secure.

Overall, WinZip Companion for Microsoft Outlook works very well. It's easy to install and to configure, the fast compression and transmission saves time, the encryption is easier and more secure. Plus, it doesn't cost a lot of money.

Pricing
WinZip Companion retails for $19. Combine WinZip Companion with WinZip 9.0 and the package price costs $39. Of course, those of you with earlier, standard-licensed versions of WinZip qualify for a free upgrade to version 9.0. If you are still not sure, then download a free evaluation copy. It remains fully functional for 45 days.

Steve Windhaus is principal of Windhaus Associates, a business plan consulting firm serving small, existing and startup ventures throughout the United States and overseas. His clients range from technology-based firms in software development, e-commerce and telecommunications to retailers of ATV's and watercraft and a variety of service firms. Steve is a published author who also conducts training in business plan development and participates as a judge in business plan competitions. Steve can relate to small biz environments relying on computer technology. His technology skills are all self-taught.

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