PKZip Suite 4.5, WinZip 8.1

Compressing files is even easier now, thanks to new versions of WinZip and PKZip. Both compress one or more files into .zip archives, and both restore archives.

The beta version of WinZip 8.1 ($US29; free upgrade for registered users) offers several nice enhancements, many of them integrated into Windows Explorer. For instance, after you right-click a .zip file, you can select from a cascading menu of recently used folders, or retrieve files from multiple archives at once.

The $79 PKZip Suite 4.5, on the other hand, is almost identical to version 4. The best new feature in my shipping version was virtually unlimited file capacity. However, since file size isn't a big problem for most users, upgrading ($55) may not be worthwhile. And PKZip's best features - such as support for Public Key Infrastructure digital signatures, which tells you who added files to an archive - already appear in version 4.

The best place to work with your .zip files is in Windows Explorer. PKZip for Windows doesn't do much there, but another program in the suite, PKZip Explorer, does - and handles the job even better than WinZip 8.1. Also, with PKZip Explorer you can view an archive as a Windows folder. And you can use Windows Search to find text inside compressed files; WinZip doesn't let you search archives.

Want the basics? WinZip wins. Need more powerful features like archive searching? PKZip's the one.

PKZip Suite 4.5
PKWare

Price: $79; $55 upgrade; Distributor: Labcomp International Pty Ltd; Phone: (02) 9262 4477; URL: www.pkware.com WinZip 8.1
WinZip Computing Price: $US29; free upgrade for registered users; URL: www.winzip.com

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