Pea super

Zip, unzip, and manage many file types with this free system-integrating zip tool.

Windows sometimes encounters an unusual or compressed file it can't open, though its offer to search for the correct program has been known to provoke groans. The antacid to this heartburn is a good third-party file-management utility, one that can decompress a wide variety of zipped files as well as copy, split, join, compare, verify, and delete files. Extras like secure password and key file creation, strong encryption, and hash and checksum generators would be welcome in such a tool. We'd like it to run in 64-bit editions of Windows and integrate with Explorer's right-click menus. Last but hardly least, it should be open-source freeware. Few tools can notch most of these benchmarks (wait--add benchmarking to the list) but we looked at one that fits all of the above: PeaZip (64-bit).

Installing PeaZip gives users the opportunity to associate it by default with a variety of file types, including not just most compressed file types but also formats used by other popular utilities such as 7-Zip; Office and OpenOffice files; Linux, Mac, NSIS, and Java files; and custom types. The PeaZip version we tested, Version 3.7, supports a total of 118 predefined file types. Like similar tools, PeaZip's context-menu integration means users simply need to right-click a file and select the PeaZip menu to access the program's tools. However, PeaZip does things a bit differently: instead of a simple menu listing functions, PeaZip opens a tabbed console that let us choose everything from format and volume options to advanced filtering; compression methods and levels; archive functions and threading; and even two encryption algorithms, 256-bit AES and ZipCrypto for legacy support. The Tools menu accesses the password/key-file features, advanced filters, the benchmarking tool, and Windows' systems tools. We ran the benchmarking tool, which identified our RAM usage, CPU threads, and compression and decompression performance in the tool's Report tab.

Is the best part about PeaZip the quick access from context menus or the way it handles those weird file types without long minutes of fruitless searching? Well, can't we have both?

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