[Windows] ZipItFree is a free alternative to WinZip and WinRAR

ZipItFree3Why would you even need an alternative to WinRAR or WinZip when even after it’s trial period has expired, it still practically gives you unlimited usability? It reminds me of that friendly neighbor who lends you his umbrella and because it’s an item that he barely uses, he hints that he wants it returned but doesn’t bother you too much about it. Okay, that’s a weak analogy but my point was that WinRAR/WinZip does little to convince you to actually purchase a license. Some of us feel either guilty about using it in this way, dislike it or find the constant reminders to purchase a license annoying. There are freeware alternatives out there that offer a greater range of functionality and maybe ZipItFree is one of those alternatives.

What Is It and What Does It Do

ZipItFree is a file compression and decompression software. It aims at providing a freeware alternative for WinZip and WinRAR. It caters for a long list of compression methods and has options to password protect compressed archives. According to its website and download page, it uses a compression technology called advanced Black Hole Super 5X to compress your files as much as possible. By the superfluous name, you can tell it’s more download bate than an actual reality.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Has automatic windows shell context menu integration
  • Supports an array of archive formats: ACE, ARC, BH, BZip, CAB, GZIP, JAR, LHA, RAR, TAR, UUE, XXE, ZIP, Zoo, and Archive Stream
  • Offers fast compression and decompression

Cons

  • Although it claims to support RAR, it doesn’t work well with it
  • Compression and encrypting archives is a little unintuitive
  • Displays ads on the interface from time to time
  • The user interface design is a little tacky
  • Does not run from system tray

Discussion

ZipItFree1It goes through a very basic installation process with a usage agreement to tick like most software. It was probably mentioned somewhere in there that there was going to be some advertising on the user interface from time to time but I never really read through agreements. I wonder if anyone ever does. The default user interface has a metallic look and feel from the title bar to the base user interface.

The title bar consists of five buttons for user face control. Each one is either used to close the screen, maximize it, minimize it or put it in mini mode (respectively). Underneath that, is the base user interface. On the top left corner is a a logo followed by a URL text drop down field that links to a archive. When you open a file from the file menu button, just beneath it, it will display a path to that zip archive. After you open a file, it will display its contents under the file contents table. The file contents table which sits just above the status bar,  displays a list of values along with the file list, including the date and the size of a file when it’s packed and unpacked. If you select a file or sub-directory on this table, it will display the same details under the status bar and this does seem somewhat redundant but a limited array of options to perform a task narrows the mind (So I’ve heard).

ZipItFree2You can append files onto an archive by clicking on the Add button. This brings up an add screen with its own mini file explorer and from this you can drag files into the archive. I really liked this aspect of the application. It utilizes the same look and feel as the rest of the application but it feels a lot more visceral than the rest of the application. From here you can also password protect the archive.  This offers four different types of encryption options(128-bit AES-2, 192-bit AES-2,256-bit AES-2 and Zip 2.0 Compatible). From the password encryption screen, you can also choose to edit the seed keys that the encryption utilizes. I like how simple it is to do this and how it comes off so understated. It’s an advanced feature presented in such a simple package and it is done extremely well. Though most boffins may argue that it’s not enough to protect their archives from the prying eyes of the NSA, I think it’s amazing.

Back on the user interface, you can also extract, manipulate the view or test selected zips. There’s a quick help link on the user interface; when clicked it will link you to a quick flash video on their website that explains some of the base functions of the application. This is a nice feature. When you’re done with an archive and want to start working on a fresh one, you can click on the (archive) close button which sits just under the ad section of the application and directly on the left of the quick help link. Usually the advert section only ever starts displaying anything when the user starts working with the application. As soon as you open a file, an ad will appear, usually promoting software by the same developers (Microsmart). If you click on the ad, it will take you directly to the advertised application’s download link.

ZipItFree4Though some of it’s usability may be impressive, I had a few issues with this application. It doesn’t work with 7z files but that’s understandable, not a lot of applications have that support. A major gripe for me is that it claims to archive and unzip .rar files when in fact, it doesn’t so it makes a lousy alternative for WinRar. If you try to open a .rar archive, it will display it as empty under the file content table. If you try to unzip the folder from the context menu, it will create an empty folder. I don’t  like the way the user interface has been designed and how the controls feel haphazardly squashed together. The designer obviously tried to give it a compact feel but ended up making it feel a little claustrophobic. You can change the theme of the user interface but not the language it’s in.

Conclusion and Download Link

This application was disappointing to say the least. It doesn’t live up to its claims and I found some alternatives that do a better job. It’s good for work with zip files but that’s as far as it goes. I recommend skipping ZipItFree and grabbing 7-Zip instead. 7-Zip is a freeware and open source archive manager that works with .zip, .rar. 7z, .tar, .tar.gz, and more. And it works nearly flawlessly. Read dotTech’s review on best free archive manager for Windows to learn more.

Do you disagree? Do you have any alternatives and advice to contribute? If so, please make your mark under the comments section.

Price: Free

Version reviewed: 2.30

Supported OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8

Download size: 4.50

VirusTotal malware scan results:  2 / 48

Is it portable? No

ZipItFree homepage

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8 comments

  1. Mr.Dave

    I had a .zip plus .z01 file to decompress today (that’s a split zip file, both parts need to be present. 7zip couldn’t handle it. I tried Hamster Free Zip Archiver but that failed also. Looked into one called FreeUltimateFileOpener recommended at: http://filesolver.com/ for opening .z01 files, seems to mention Stuffit in the hyperlink but I stayed away after running it past VirusTotal.com. [anyone know if this is a legit program?]

    I then tried one called Explzh. Funny name and almost the entire web site is in Japanese, so no there’s no help for all of us non-English-challenged persons. But it worked and seemed to offer a lot of options for context menu integration, etc. Didn’t try all of it, but I like how it told me I had a CRC error in one of the content files, even told me which one. It let me un-zip all of it. I’ll probably stick with 7zip for most things, but will keep Explzh for emergencies. Might even start using it full time. Worth a look, it’s at: http://www.ponsoftware.com/en/

  2. Godel

    Does anyone really NEED to create RAR files anymore?

    I think I’ll stick to ZIP or 7z files, thanks very much. If 7Zip can decode the occasional RAR files that come through, that’s good enough for me.

  3. Ed

    “ZipItFree is a free alternative to WinZip and WinRAR”

    If it doesn’t work well with .rar files then why even say it’s an alternative to WinRAR?

    Won’t download it anyway, I won’t use anything that throws ads at you free or not and even if it is only from time to time. That changes it from freeware to adware which ultimately can track your surfing habits to throw certain demographic ads at you.

  4. Peter

    Most free archivers are unable to handle RAR compression (deflation works usually). Where did you get a 7-zip that compresses into RAR-archives — or I might have misunderstood your recommendation?!

    My favourite program for my own local use is FreeArc which has got the disadvantage of not being wide spread. I use it even in linux environment (via wine), It can’t create RARs either and in some cases 7-zip achieves a better compression ratio.