Archive utilities, zip tools, and other third-party apps that enhance the native capabilities of Windows have been popular for many years, and they remain popular even as Windows continues to incorporate more of their features, mostly by staying a step ahead of Microsoft by offering many more features and options than most Windows users require. PowerArchiver is a good example. It's a full-featured file compression and management utility that supports a wide range of compression types and file formats, with the ability to add more formats via plug-ins. PowerArchiver 2010 Free is free for personal use, with paid upgrades available.
When we first opened PowerArchiver, we had the choice of two interface styles: Classic, with a preview window, for novice users, and a Modern interface for power users that features both a preview window and Explorer view. However, the modern style is only available in the paid version, but we were able to select several view options as well as choose toolbar, icon, and window styles from the View menu. For a free tool, PowerArchiver offers many features and options and even useful extras like a Burner tool, but some options, such as skins, are available only with the paid version. PowerArchiver is easy to use, with a left-hand navigation panel and clearly labeled controls and options. We were able to add, compress, and extract files from the program's main interface, even without the extensive and thorough Help menu, which offered not only an indexed Help file but also tutorials, tips, and FAQs. To be competitive, though, a zip tool needs context menu integration, which means you need to be able to right-click a file or folder and select your compression tool and actions right from the pop-up menu. Naturally, PowerArchiver has that capability, letting us not only compress but also encrypt files and send them to PDF or FTP utilities.
We found PowerArchiver 2010 Free both easy to use and fully up to the task of handling just about any type of zipped or archived file you're likely to encounter in Windows, but it also accepts plug-ins for new files and formats. Of course, if you should need more than the free version offers, you can upgrade PowerArchiver for a price. For most users, PowerArchiver 2010 Free is the sensible choice.