If you download lot’s of data from the web, sooner or later you’re gonna face the problem: How to open .rar files? Or actually any other exotic format that is out there in the wild. Most people go for WinRar, but it is not free software and it asks awkward questions sometimes. There are much better options – let me introduce 7zip, free rar file opener and much, much more.
7zip is completely free program which comes under GNU LGPL license, meaning you can use it free even in commercial environment. There are versions of 7zip for both 32 and 64 bit Windows, Linux, BSD, Mac, BeOS, Dos, Amiga, Solaris, AIX and even for Windows Mobile. Software is localized for 79 languages, so everyone can use it without problems.
Quick summary of 7zip features:
- high compression ratio
- supports 7 formats for creating archives (list below)
- supports 29 formats for decompressing (list below)
- Windows context menu integration
- supports strong encryption algorithm (AES-256) for creating password protected archives
- gives user ability to create self-extracting archives (.exe)
- easy to use file manager
- command line version
How to use 7zip archiver?
After installation (you can even use Ninite to batch it with your other beloved software) 7zip adds an entry to your Windows context menu for files (the menu which appears when you press right mouse button), which makes it really handy.
Opening zip files is very easy – you just select zipped folder in explorer, press right and choose “7zip / Open archive” to open zip files. 7zip can open many more archive formats: 7z, XZ, BZIP2, GZIP, TAR, WIM, RAR, ARJ, CAB, CHM, CPIO, CramFS, DEB, DMG, FAT, HFS, ISO, LZH, LZMA, MBR, MSI, NSIS, NTFS, RPM, SquashFS, UDF, VHD, XAR and Z. If you have to deal with many exotic archives, 7zip archiver may be what you were looking for!
Zipping files is also very easy – select what you want to zip, press right mouse button and select “7zip / Add to archive…”. You should get to this window:
Here you select options for creating the archive (depending on chosen format). The most important options for default (and VERY GOOD) .7z archive format are:
- Archive format – 7zip support these for packing: native 7z, ZIP, XZ, BZIP2, GZIP, TAR and WIM. Using 7zip you cannot create RAR archive, which may be deciding factor for some people (oh come on! 7z is much better format anyway!).
- Compression Level – the better compression level, the slower it compress the data. It is not very crucial nowaday because computers are so fast most users won’t notice the difference. Always select Ultra.
- Split to Volumes – if your set of data is very big and you plan to save resulting archive on CDs, DVDs or other size limited storage, you can split output to files with given size. Right now your options are 10MB, 650M (CD), 700M (CD), 4480M (DVD), 1457664B (3.5″ floppy).
- Create SFX Archive -when this option is selected, 7zip will create self extracting archive – executable file which will ask user where to install content of the archive. Pretty useful feature.
- Encryption – 7zip is capable of encrypting files using very good AES-256 encryption algorithm. Just set your password, decide if you want file names encrypted too and relax – your data is safe now (unless you have very easy password).
Native archive format used by 7zip is very, very good. Actually it is comparable to the king of archivers – RAR. If you are worried that it’s exotic format, stop right now – it’s used by quite few packing programs: IZarc, PowerArchiver, QuickZip, Squeez, TUGZip, WinRAR, ZipGenius and more. Some of them offer just unpacking functionality, which is ok: user can get the packed data. If you are interested how good is 7zip in terms of output archive size, here is good comparison.
I have excellent news for software developers – if you would like to include LZMA compression in your application, you can do it using 7zip SDK which is totally free. It comes as C, C++, C# or Java. Pretty cool, eh?
I hope I convinced you to take a look at 7zip, which is awesome piece of software – easy to work with, useful and very effective. I totally recommend it to you!