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Back in the days when computer hard disk capacities were within the range of a few megabytes and the majority of files were text documents, compression utilities like WinZip and WinRAR ruled the land. But in the terabytes world of today, we do not really need to compress any file for the sole purpose of saving storage space.

Besides, there’s not much compression that can be done to multimedia files, and we know that today’s hard drives can be filled with LOTS of pictures, sounds and videos. I tried to compress a 2,142KB video file and the result was a 2,088KB Zip file. Insignificant savings.

Folder versus Archive

Sure, people still use compression utilities, although these days we call them by a different name – archiving utilities – simply because the purpose is more to archive than to compress.

“Then why not use a folder instead?” some might ask. Because ten files in a folder will be counted as ten files while ten files in an archive equals one file. A folder is better if we talking about storing the files in the hard drive for easy browsing and viewing.  An archive is better and faster for sharing and moving files between storage spaces.

But there are times when you will need / want to do a quick browse inside an archive without needing / wanting to unarchive it first. There are a few commercial pieces of software which are able to do that while the free options are second to none. Luckily, I found Zipeg.

Quick and Simple Archive Explorer

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Available for Windows (XP and Vista) and Mac (Tiger and Leopard), Zipeg is a free alternative archiving utility to WinZip, WinRAR, and/or StuffIt. It supports a wide variety of archiving formats (ZIP, RAR, ARJ, LHA/LZH, 7z, TAR, and more) and provides users with the ability to browse, preview and open specific file(s) directly from inside the archive.

You can read the full list of features from their website, but here are a few that I find helpful:

  • users can see what’s inside the archive BEFORE extracting files.
  • it allows users to open files using associated application directly from the archive
  • it displays image thumbnails (EXIF) in tooltips;
  • it can explore CD and DVD “.iso” image files.
  • users can extract/unzip items simply by dragging them.
  • users can choose which archiving formats to associate with Zipeg (using menu: “Options –> Settings –> Files” for Windows or “Zipeg –> Preferences –> Files” for Mac).

Zipeg supports password protected archives – the user still needs to provide the password to be able to extract the content. Zipeg also supports multi-part archives – just open the first part and the other parts will be picked up automatically. Just make sure that all the parts are within the same folder.

As an added bonus, Zipeg is also able to open CBR (Comic Book Archive – RAR) and CBZ (Comic Book Archive – Zip) format. So now I can decide wheter or not to read the comic by previewing the pages quickly.

Do you know any other free alternatives to Zipeg or do you have thoughts about it to share?  If so, let us know in the comments below.

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