PowerArchiver 2006: The New King of Compression?

By Wayne Kawamoto | Posted November 08, 2005

Despite this modern age of 100-plus gigabyte hard drives and speedy Internet connections, file compression utilities still maintain a useful place. And among such utilities, PowerArchiver is an excellent choice. This utility program offers a wealth of features for compression connoisseurs while remaining easy enough for novices to quickly master. Either way, everyone wins with more storage real estate and faster e-mail transmission times.

Like other compression utilities, ConXware's PowerArchiver lets you save files in compressed formats so they're smaller, take up less space on a hard drive and are faster to send as e-mail attachments. It's the equivalent of sitting on a suitcase to cram all of those souvenirs that you purchased on vacation.

With all that PowerArchiver does, its developers must have had to use a compression utility themselves to squeeze in its many features. The program offers lots of options and supports a dizzying array of compression standards. And despite this, PowerArchiver is easy to learn and use.

According to its publisher, PowerArchiver version 9.26 was the final release of PowerArchiver 2004, with PowerArchiver 2006 next in line — and recently officially released as v9.50. The v9.26 release offered minor tweaks and bug fixes and resolved a potential security issue to go along with the improved ability to handle corrupted ZIP files, faster compression of files, integrated support of a Microsoft Outlook plug-in and a reduction in installer size.

ConXware is looking to take the compression utility to an entirely new level with a bevy of new and improved features making their debut in PowerArchiver 2006, including improved security, support for 7-Zip PPMd compression, SFTP (SSH, FTP) support for secure FTP transfers, shell extension support for 64-bit Windows, full skinning support and a new alert window in system tray.

Sitting on the Suitcase
On paper, the program sounds like a sterile utility that's solely for power users. While these people will appreciate the program's flexibility and comprehensive feature set, it's clearly not beyond the grasp of beginners.

Those who are new to compression will appreciate the intuitive wizard that walks you through the process of adding files and folders, filtering them based on your preferences, adding password protection and applying one of five different compression formats. In addition, there's an impressive option that lets you send an archived file to an FTP server.

Experienced practitioners, on the other hand, will be able to dive right in and immediately use the program, taking advantage of PowerArchiver's convenient integration with Microsoft Windows Explorer. For this, the program lets you compress, extract and encrypt files with a single click from within Explorer — all without having to open PowerArchiver. The program also offers an option to use an Explorer-like interface to browse a hard drive for archives.

PowerArchiver stores frequently used compression settings so you can simply select a profile to save time. There's also a convenient viewer that supports a variety of graphic formats, including Photoshop, Autodesk, Paintbrush, Photo-CD, PaintShop Pro, GIF, BMP, PNG, TIFF and more, as well as basic text files.

Everyone can have fun with the "skinnable" toolbar that displays fun icons of your choosing. This toolbar may be docked to the side of an application or allowed to float on the screen so it's easily accessed.

Compression: The Nuts and Bolts
PowerArchiver offers support for almost any compression standard you can think of. These include: ZIP, CAB, LHA (LZH), TAR, GZIP, BZIP2, BH, XXE, UUE, yENC, and MIME. There's also read-only support for: RAR, ARJ, ARC, ACE and ZOO (the program can only read files compressed in these formats).

PowerArchiver also supports the Deflate64 method and 7-Zip, a new format that is based on an open-source architecture. Beyond the standards, PowerArchiver can create compressed ZIP files of unlimited size and from an unlimited number of files, and it can span files across multiple discs, with no limit in span sizes.

For security, PowerArchiver supports the new ZIP AES standard and proprietary PAE standard with five encryption methods that include Blowfish (128-bit), DES (64-bit), Triple DES (128-bit), AES 128-bit, and AES 256-bit. If you like, the program's password manager will save your frequently used passwords so you don't have to recall them.

As the name implies, the convert tool adequately translates compressed files between supported formats and converts multiple files and folders at the same time. If a compressed ZIP file has been corrupted, a repair tool does its best to fix it. It's the tool of last resort when problems occur and before you resort to back-ups (you did back it up, right?).

Write/merge multivolume tools allow you to split ZIP files into different volumes, as well as merge several into a single file. There's a batch tool that can be configured and used to compress files into separate archives in a single process. And a multi-extract tool allows you to extract multiple archives at once.

While PowerArchiver effectively bridges the barrier between different compression standards, it also bridges the language barrier. The program comes in versions for 11 different languages, including French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Polish, Slovak, Czech, Ukrainian, Russian and more.

Beyond Compression
WinZip and PKZIP dominate the compression world and both cost ten dollars more than PowerArchiver. But PowerArchiver is more than up to the job of replacing and exceeding the capabilities of WinZip and PKZIP, so it's definitely worth a look. You can try all three for free to see which one best meets your needs.

If you're a current user of PowerArchiver, version 9.26 or the upcoming PowerArchiver 2006 is probably worth the upgrade to integrate the latest compression and security-related improvements. For advanced users, PowerArchiver comes in a command-line version that supports most popular compressed file formats. And there's an Outlook Plug-In version that allows you to access PowerArchiver's features from within Microsoft Outlook (versions 2000, XP and 2003).

PowerArchiver costs $19.95 for a single license and ConeXware offers a business license arrangement that allows you purchase multiple seats. And with PowerArchiver 2006 on the way, expect to hear more from PowerArchiver in the near future.

Pros: Excellent features for power users; attractive, easy-to-use interface for novices; less expensive than primary competition (WinZip and PKZIP); 7-ZIP compression/decompression support; full skinning support

Cons: Not as well known as WinZip and PKZIP — faces an uphill climb for market share

In Other Compression News…
Venerable compression utility maker WinZip Computing has released the newest version of its eponymous product, WinZip 10.0 — adding a slew of enhancements.

As with previous versions of WinZip, the software is available in both a Pro and Standard edition. On the front-end, changes to both editions include a user interface overhaul, with a new, Windows Explorer-style means of viewing Zip file contents. Meanwhile, the software also adds new compression formats to its repertoire. WinZip 10.0 now supports the PPMd and bzip2 formats — adding support for two popular compression methodologies and file formats that have become increasingly common on the Internet.

Some of the enhancements also help WinZip work better in today's storage environment — typified by large local hard drives and the availability of networked storage, as well as commonplace DVD and CD burning. For instance, WinZip 10 enables users to split Zip files across multiple CDs or DVDs. The Pro edition adds still more new features on this front, including a job manager to schedule backups and automate local and networked archiving, and support for the immediate burning of WinZip files onto removable media.

Other features include automatic updating and support of Windows XP Service Pack 2's Attachment Manager — which provides for antivirus scanning.

The enhancements will seek to help WinZip retain its position as one of the most widely used utilities in the Windows universe, even as storage capacities increase while costs continue to plummet. This past year has seen the proliferation of dual-layer/double-layer DVD media as well as the introduction of hard drives in the 400GB-500GB capacity range.

Contributed by Chris Saunders .

Adapted from winplanet.com and sysopt.com.

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