A good zip utility is among the most recommended Windows accessories, even though Windows packs a pretty good one itself. But so many free third-party zip tools outperform the built-in Windows tool that it'd be a shame not to take advantage of them.
The best we've tried integrate themselves into Windows and show up in right-click menus, offer fast and powerful compression and encryption, and handle a wide range of file types.
We recently tried BandiZip, which does most of what the other free zip tools do as well as offering ultra-fast archiving.
Its proprietary compression technology skips those files that don't compress well and sometimes leave larger files when compressed, like many media files, which dramatically speeds archive creation.
Also, it doesn't extract files to a Temp folder and then copy them to the destination; it extracts files directly to the destination, although you can designate a temporary folder if you prefer to use that method.
BandiZip's options let us not only integrate the program with right-click menus in Explorer but also choose which elements we wanted to add to menus, enable cascading menus, and other options.
We quickly zipped and unzipped a variety of files and folders using several of BandiZip's methods, including automatic extraction and the Preview Archive feature, which lets users see an archive's contents before opening it, both in the context menu and in the program's main interface--a plain dialog that is all business.
Next we tried something harder, a mix of documents, media files, and programs. Once again, BandiZip compressed the contents with blazing speed. We tried compressing only media files, which took a bit longer, but not much.
We could add files to archives for both BandiZip and 7-Zip, compress files to one archive or separate archives, extract files to various destinations or open them in BandiZip, and other choices.
We opened the Settings dialog, which let us configure BandiZip's compression methods, context menu entries, file associations, and more.
Under the Miscellaneous tab, we could designate a temporary folder directory or change the interface language. The Help file is illustrated with clear screen shots.
Our unscientific test methodology returned these results about BandiZip: "Gee, that sure seems fast!" We have no complaints about BandiZip's performance and no problem recommending it as a default zip tool for Windows.