We've been big fans of WinZip utilities for years, and that didn't change when Microsoft bundled a zip tool in Windows. They generally share some characteristics: they're free, for instance, and they integrate with context menus in Windows. They not only zip and unzip files but also handle other archive types, and they often have extra features such as the ability to split and merge files. We've tried them all, or thought we had until we encountered Hamster Free ZIP Archiver. It has an attractive, up-to-date look, and it can pack and unpack ZIP, 7Zip, GZIP, BZIP2, and TAR files, and unzip many more types.
We downloaded and ran Hamster's installer, which downloaded and installed the program files. The program's interface has the colorful look and large, clearly labeled buttons of a tool designed to be extremely easy to use by a wide range of people. We approve, since zipping and unzipping files and archives is something many new users tend to find intimidating. Hamster starts off with clear instructions and icons describing how to add files by dragging and dropping or browsing. We selected our archive type and compression level and pressed Compress. The program prompted us to select an output directory, and a labeled progress bar tracked our job, which finished with a log file. We clicked Open and selected a compressed archive to extract. We clicked Extract, and Hamster quickly extracted our archive to our selected destination. The thing we like best about WinZippers is the ability to right-click a file and select our zip options directly from the context menu. With Hamster, we could zip files, add them to archives, and split them from Windows context menus.
Hamster Free ZIP Archive has widespread appeal, offering a nice blend of simplicity and power. It's specifically designed to be friendly and safe to use, too; according to the developer, it was tested on more than 1 million hamsters, none of whom were harmed.