Whether you’re tight on space, or need to send an enormous quantity of files, archiving software is the way to go. These days, not using an archiving suite is almost unthinkable, and it’s one of the first things you should download when you reinstall your operation system.
But which software is the way to go? In the sea of (free) software, which tool does its job best?
We decided to check it out, and present you the best free archiving applications on the market. Read on to see the best extraction program, the application with the tightest compression and the multi-platform topper.
Universal Extractor – Best Extraction Program
With over 50 supported file formats, Universal Extractor, or UniExtract, is the obvious winner when looking for extraction software. Whether you want to view the contents of a RAR file, an EXE, or even a dbx-file.
Universal Extractor uses an algorithm to determine the given filetype. Only if this does not yield any results does it resort to the filename, so you shouldn’t have any problems with wrongly named files.
You can use the File/Destination GUI as depicted in the first screenshot, or the right-click context menu to quickly extract all your files. Universal Extracter has a simple, superficial interface, and that’s good thing.
If you want to read more about Universal Extractor, Mark wrote a more extended article about it late 2007.
Universal Extractor is available for Windows 2000/XP/Vista
KGB Archiver – Tightest Compression
KGB Archiver is an application with an insane, perhaps even the all-time highest compression rate. To achieve this, KGB Archiver deploys its PAQ6, or more recently PAQ7 compression algorithm.
Tested with Calgary Corpus, a 6MB package famous for compression algorithm testing, KGB Archiver manages to reach a stunning compress ratio of 19.8%. Compare this to the maximum RAR compression (24.0%) and 7zip ultra compression (26.1%), and I think we’ve got ourselves a winner. More test results can be found here.
Although KGB Archiver is mostly just a compression tool (it can make KGB and ZIP files), it’s the perfect companion for Universal Extractor. Get the tightest compressions out of KGB Archiver, and decompress everything using Universal Extractor, even the previously made KGB files!
KGB Archiver is currently available for Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista
7-Zip – Multi Platform Topper
If this one were to be missing from the list, I’d probably get lynched. And for a good reason that is. Over the years 7-Zip has made quite a name for itself across, and although it doesn’t support as many files as Universal Extractor, or has a compression rate as high as KGB Archiver, it gets the job done.
This open-source application works under a simple interface, but hides a very advanced toolbox. It runs light on memory and, well, just feels clean.
7-Zip File Manager is available on Windows/Mac/Linux.