Review: WinZip for Mac

WinZip is a compression program originally available on Windows. Corel acquired the application and made it available for Windows as well as Mac OS X. On Windows, WinZip is an established “brand”, but on Mac OS X the claims of a better compression and more features than Mac OS X’s built-in compression engine are not taken at face value.

IT Enquirer rating

7/10
URL: winzip.com

Pros
  • ease-of-use
  • support for compression formats Zipx and LHA
  • encryption/decryption capabilities
  • adding files to existing zips
Cons
  • algorithms aren’t more efficient in terms of space savings than Apple’s
Price (approx.): €30.00

What’s so special about WinZip? With WinZip for the Mac, you can create zip files, a file format called ZipX, and LHA compression files. You can also encrypt files and decompress/decrypt a large range of compressed files, including “.rar” and 7z files. Furthermore, WinZip gives you a visual clue about the amount of disk space saved when using the app.

WinZip’s Preferences allow you to decide whether regular zip files should be decompressed by WinZip or by the Mac OS X. If you have other compression/decompression apps on your system, you can also allow WinZip to handle them all, or exactly the opposite.

The WinZip interface is nicely done. It has a welcome screen with some functionality integrated — think FileMaker Pro 12. Here you can create empty zip files and choose zipped files and email them directly from here.

The working window is context-driven: it looks slightly different when decompressing a file and when creating a zip file. It allows you to open zipped files and add further files and folders to it. When decompressing, it allows you to select the files you want to extract from the archive, or decompress the whole thing to a folder of choice.

While WinZip does have a nice feature set, I can’t but wonder about its market. With storage prices at a comfortably low point, compressing files seems something that you will only do to upload and download large files to/from the Internet. If that’s all you’re using compression technology for anyway, then where’s the appeal of being able to do more with a zip file than just create it from selected files, or decompress it in its entirety?

You certainly don’t need WinZip for its exemplary integration with Mac OS X. WinZip has two items in the “Services” section of the Mac OS X contextual menu: “Email as Zip file” and “Add to Zip file”. I tried the first and was surprised to find it took about three times longer to pop open (the app was launched and waiting with a freshly created empty zip file) the dialogue to save the files than it would have taken me to just select OS X’s “Compress n items” command.

Additionally, instead of doing the obvious — pre-fill the dialogue with the already created zip file — I had to fill in another name and another new zip file was created… after which the app closed the window of my earlier created zip!

Emailing was more efficient in that the dialogue simply asked which compression scheme I wanted and then added my zipped file as “Archive.zip” to a new message. Mind you, it didn’t ask for a name for this file, but just assumed — as Mac OS X does — that I would be happy with “Archive.zip”.

The real value of WinZip in my opinion therefore comes from some marginal time savings when working with assets within a zipped file (you don’t have to unzip first but can add files by dropping them in the WinZip window), and from the encryption capability. To some people, the latter can be reason enough to buy the app.

As for the claims of a more error-free exchange of zipped files between Mac OS X and Windows machines, these are wildly exaggerated. The Mac-native zipped files contain some hidden files and a “__MACOSX” folder, which WinZipped files do not have. But both opened just fine on my Windows 7 (virtual via Parallels) machine.

Zipx files didn’t open on Windows; I guess you’ll need the Windows version of WinZip for that.

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