7-Zip file compressor

In one way compression is becoming less essential in a world of high speed internet. The difference between downloading a 500kB file and a 1MB one is a couple of seconds, however to the provider of the file, it can mean the difference between a medium or large monthly bandwidth bill.

I used to use WinZIP, but with every release it mutated into a larger and larger tool with more eye candy and less raw functionality. Don’t get me wrong, it has some neat things like the Setup button, but the fact that you have to pay for it lead me to look for alternatives.

7-Zip was my saviour. For a start it’s free. Secondly it handles most files you’ll encounter on a daily basis. ZIP, RAR, TAR, BZ2 etc, but perhaps the best feature is its native file compression ‘.7z’. Compression is a weird science. Prior knowledge of the type of data can help use algorithms enhanced to work well, and ZIP does a good job on most things but it can be beaten. For instance RAR files generally handle media files better than ZIP. .7z however appears to beat it under almost all circumstances I’ve encountered to date.

On a source branch I regularly compress, 177MB compresses to 40MB under ZIP, but to 17MB under .7z. Now the gains encountered are not always that impressive, but they’re normally good enough to make it worthwhile. Especially given the price tag.

Check it out here: http://www.7-zip.org/

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