Thanks to Windows' built-in support for .zip files, you haven't had to own WinZip or a similar program to compress and decompress .zip archives for quite a while now. The reasons for buying WinZip Pro 12.0 (or using the free trial version) now is to do things that Windows' .zip support can't handle, such as zip-to-mail, true encryption, and automated backup.
WinZip Standard and WinZip Pro use the same installation file. The trial starts with a 30-day WinZip Pro trial, which then downgrades to a 15-day WinZip Standard trial.
The reasons to use WinZip have increased with WinZip Pro 12.0, but only somewhat. In the latest version, WinZip adds photo handling and sharing features--with partial success.
We looked at a late beta of WinZip Pro 12.0 (€49 - around £38) for this review. The €29 (£23) standard version lacks several of the features discussed below. Upgrades cost €21 for WinZip Pro and €13 for the standard version--an unwelcome development for a product that once offered free upgrades to all registered users.
WinZip 12.0 should appeal to people who want to zip photos for storage or mailing purposes. Since .jpg files are already compressed, zipping them with a pre-WinZip 12.0 file compressor doesn't shrink them much more than 1 or 2 percent. The new version, by contrast, claims to compress them by 20 to 25 percent - a significant reduction if you're dealing with gigabytes of photos, though far below the 50 percent compression we're used to getting when zipping .txt or .doc files.
Our casual tests of WinZip Pro 12.0 didn't yield 25 percent compression levels, but they came close, ranging from 16 to 20 percent. That's about 200MB saved for every 1GB of photos. Just be sure to select Optimize for best compression when you compress the photos.
WinZip Pro 12.0 can import photos directly from your camera into a .zip file. The software can rotate photos as it imports them and can organise them into folders. But it can't perform the versatile, tag-based photo organising that Photoshop and Windows Live Photo Gallery users have come to expect.
WinZip Pro 12.0 does make it easy for you to view zipped photos - as thumbnails and in a viewer that looks and behaves much like the one that comes with Windows XP and Vista. The program even offers a viewer for looking at photos in slide-show format.
Not all of WinZip Pro 12.0's enhancements are photo-specific. For instance, WinZip has enhanced its already versatile zip-and-mail features, so you can zip and mail selected files from within a .zip archive. Other new features include the ability to access files within .iso images and customizable password policies to ensure that users do not create easy-to-guess passwords.
If you have a lot of pictures and need to free up some hard drive space, or if you need to shrink giant, photo-laden email messages, WinZip Pro 12.0 is a tempting way to make it happen. If you don't, WinZip is still a handy program to have around.