I’ve been using the free file archiver 7-Zip for a number of years. I needed an archiver that understood and could unpack more than just .zip files.
7-Zip turned out to be the solution, since it supports a lot of formats. It can pack and unpack files into 7z, XZ, BZIP2, GZIP, TAR, ZIP and WIM archives.
It can unpack even more types: ARJ, CAB, CHM, CPIO, CramFS, DEB, DMG, FAT, HFS, ISO, LZH, LZMA, MBR, MSI, NSIS, NTFS, RAR, RPM, SquashFS, UDF, VHD, WIM, XAR and Z.
The process of making a zip or other archive is simple: open the program, use its Windows Explorer-type interface to move to the directory containing the files and folders you want to put into the archive, select the files and folders to be included, click the Add icon, and then the Next button on the Add to Archive dialog box.
In the following image, the arrows point to the Up Directory movement icon and to the currently active directory. As usual with Windows dialog boxes, you can double-click on a folder to open the folder or move up using the icon, or you can type the directory path into the display field.
Now that you’re in the directory that contains the files and/or folders you want to put into the archive (or 7z, XZ, BZIP2, GZIP, TAR, ZIP or WIM archive), it’s time to select the items to be included.
As usual, click on an item. Hold down the Control (Ctrl) button and click to select additional items, or hold down Shift and click to pick a range of items.
Then, click the Add button.
That opens the Add to Archive dialog box. There are large number of options to select. The good news is you don’t have to select or change any of them — just click on the OK field to create a 7z archive using the default filename. If you want a .zip file, just change the Archive Format from the default 7z to zip.
If you’ve selected only one file, the default filename is the name of that file, with a filename extension of .7z.
If you’ve selected more than one file, the default filename is the name of the directory, with a filename extension of .7z.
Click the OK button to create the archive.
In this last image, we see the directory view again. The items we had selected to be put into the zip file are still highlighted.
We also see the new highlighted 7z archive file.
Notice that the 7z archive file’s size is 75,194 bytes.
Just as a test, I used Windows 7’s internal Send to Compressed (Zipped) Folder, which resulted in a much larger archive of 218,989 bytes.
As a final test, I archived the same files again, using 7-Zip to create a Zipped file (or as Microsoft would call it, a Compressed (Zipped) Folder). The zip file using 7-Zip, at 208,941 bytes, was slightly smaller than the created using Windows 7’s built-in function.
So, if all you want to create are Zip files, you can use the Windows built-in tool.
But, if you want to create other types of archive files, including ones like 7z that are more efficient than Zip, or if you need to be able to de-archive many different types of archive files, you should check out 7-Zip.
By the way, 7-Zip is free and open-source. You can download it at http://www.7-zip.org.