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Best way to handle ZIPs

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
 

Simple gray rule


Best way to handle ZIPs? Zip Folders wins by a mile
 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1996, The Syracuse Newspapers

Last week I described two good programs for handling those ubiquitous Internet-downloadable ZIP files under Windows -- WinZip and EasyZIP. I also mentioned a third program that I thought was even better. It's ZipFolders from Mijenix, available in separate versions for the old version of Windows and for Windows 95.

Describing ZipFolders is hard work, mostly because it's so different from all other ZIP managers. Basically, when you install ZipFolders, all ZIP files appear as folders, and they behave just like real folders in every way. You can run programs from inside a ZIP file, edit texts or images inside a ZIP, and do everything else you normally do in DOS or Windows.

ZipFolders inserts itself so thoroughly into the operating system that it fools both DOS and the Windows file system into treating a ZIP file like a folder containing normal files. If you do a standard COPY command from DOS into a ZipFolder directory, whatever you copy gets added to the ZIP file, to give just one example.

You can create a ZipFolder directory by right-clicking and choosing an option from the ZipFolder menu or by using an uncannily simple procedure -- simply renaming an existing folder so that it has a ZIF filename extension. Or you can just create a folder with a ZIF extension and copy files into it. Or you can copy a normal folder to one that has a ZIF extension, or use any other copying method that works in DOS and Windows.

ZipFolders amazed me in two ways.

First, I was astonished that it actually worked. I created hundreds of Windows 95 shortcuts to programs inside ZIP archives and ran them normally, as if they were regular files. ZipFolders uncompressed the files almost instantly -- with perhaps a quarter-second delay in most cases. Really big ZIP files -- ones that contained more than 1,000 files, and ones that were more than 40 or 50 megabytes in size -- tripped up ZipFolders a bit and left me thrumming by fingers for a few seconds.to trip up a bit

Second, I was impressed with the way ZipFolders deals with all those compressed files and folders inside a ZIP. ZipFolders does not extract the ZIP file into a real folder at any time. Instead, it maintains a table of references to what's in the ZIP, and feeds this to the operating system so that at all times the OS thinks the ZIP file is a folder. Any time that a program needs to grab information from one of the files in the ZIP, ZipFolders takes over and extracts just the item needed. Likewise, if you have all your Microsoft Word documents in a ZIP, ZipFolders makes them appear to Word just like normal Word files, and you can edit old documents or create new ones without doing anything different.

ZipFolders does more than a good job of handling the ZIPs you get off the Web. It does a transparent job. The ZIPs are just folders, ready for you to work with. And it also serves as a great way to save disk space without using disk compression, since you can store the programs you use every day in ZIP files. Get a 30-day trial version at http:\\www.mijenix.com. I'll bet you'll want to buy it. The cost was $30 through October, but was supposed to go to $50 this month.

Last week I mentioned that ZIP files sometimes hide as other files. When they do that, they masquerade as EXE files (executable programs) that need no special software when you want to uncompress them; you just run them.

But that's the worst way to deal with compressed files. Here's a tip that power users have known for a long time: Treat those EXEs as ZIPs. Rename them with a ZIP extension, or drag-and-drop them onto WinZip's window, or do whatever else you normally do with ZIPs. If you let them extract themselves, you have no control over what they do and where they go.