Updated WinZip alters Zip format

WinZip 9.0, from the market leader among file-compression utilities, has entered public beta with scheduled release later this year, bringing with it a new .zip format - which means some of its functions will not be compatible with earlier versions or other programs.

If you use the forthcoming WinZip 9.0's latest encryption and compression options, or create larger archives than were previously possible, your .zip files won't be universally readable.

The final version will cost $29, and will be available as a free upgrade for all registered users. Other new features include HTML help and improved dialog boxes.

Almost every PC user can open a .zip file. Dedicated compression programs such as file managers, file viewers, and even Windows XP can handle these compressed archives. When a format is this ubiquitous, changing it, even to make major improvements, is risky for all concerned.

Still, the update provides a few handy new functions.

No change to the .zip format is likely to be as welcome as improved encryption. Using the old standard, a password-protected .zip file was safe from the prying eyes of an average person, but not those of an average hacker.

So WinZip 9.0 supports 128- and 256-bit key AES encryption, that is unlikely to be cracked by anyone. The old password protection is available, as well.

The new beta can also make your archives smaller with the optional "enhanced deflate" compression method. But don't expect miracles. Casual testing shows significant improvements only with files that compressed a great deal to begin with, such as .bmp files. The current WinZip 8.1 can read, but not write, "enhanced deflate" .zip files.

The new version's 64-bit extensions mean you can create archives holding more than 65,535 files and larger than 4GB - assuming you have the hardware resources and desire. Of the three format changes, this one is least likely to cause compatibility problems; few people share 5GB files over the Internet.

WinZip isn't the first company to monkey with the .zip format recently; but its market share makes it significant. PKWare, the corporate heir to the late Phil Katz, inventor of the .zip format, has introduced incompatible options over the years, as well.

In fact, WinZip's enhanced deflate method and 64-bit extensions are based on, and compatible with, recent PKZip upgrades. PKZip added AES encryption earlier this year, but the two implementations are not compatible.

WinZip has posted the encryption spec on its Web site. Unlike PKWare, WinZip will not offer a free vie_pconnect("user=cking the appropriate application.

Will other developers of compression utilities adopt the changes? Representatives of PentaWare, maker of PentaZip and Aladdin Systems, which markets Stuff-It, confirmed that they were working to make their products compatible with WinZip 9.0. PKWare has not yet decided whether it will support WinZip's encryption.

And what about Microsoft? Windows XP handles .zip files transparently, and less knowledgeable Windows XP users sometimes unzip without even realising they're opening compressed files.

These people may not know why a "compressed folder" refuses to open, if Microsoft does not support WinZip's new format.

Microsoft will only say that it "has nothing to announce at this point."

Whatever happens, it's inevitable that some users will find themselves looking at a .zip file that they can't open.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lincoln Spector

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?