Although it's ancient in Internet years, WinZip is still up and kicking. Among the various improvements and tweaks, the latest upgrade to Version 12 includes one massive reinvigorating feature: the WinZip folks have figured out how to compress JPEGs without sacrificing image quality.
The details on exactly how this is done remain a secret for now, although WinZip has promised to open up its compression algorithms as they've done in the past. On the user end of things, this means that ZIP files containing JPEGs will be more than just bundles of your photos--the archives will actually be smaller in size.
To test it out, I wanted to create a massive archive. I used all the screenshots I've taken of programs since January 2007, more than 550 images that worked out to be about 70MB uncompressed. Keep in mind that the issue here isn't basic compression, but lossless compression, where the image quality in the JPEG doesn't turn south.
That test provided 24 percent space savings, toward the high-end of WinZip's predictions of between 20 percent and 25 percent. This only works with JPEG images. GIFs, TIFs, PNGs, and others will be compressed using standard algorithms, and so it's unlikely that you'll see a drastic savings in space with them.
Some of the other new features in WinZip 12 were nearly as interesting. The Pro version of WinZip offers a Zip from Camera option. This cuts out multiple steps and instead lets users archive their images as they get transferred onto their computer. There's also a new tool, Send Selected, that lets you e-mail archives as they get created. However, this is WinZip playing catch-up--other compression tools, like 7-Zip or WinRAR, have offered this for some time.
This latest version includes better encryption control that should appeal to system administrators, where they can determine the encryption method or specify if one is even to be used. Both professionals and home users will probably like that you can now create new folder architectures within a ZIP once it's been created. WinZip also now autodetects the file type in Smart View, which will then show thumbnails if the archive is made up of images, for example.
Without a doubt, the lossless JPEG compression is the big draw here. The minor improvements to the workflow and security settings are important, but not must-haves unless you're a die-hard WinZip fan.