Sunday, August 10, 2014

The best file archiver for Windows, Unix/Linux, Mac and Android

Hello! Today I am gonna talk about my favourite category of software - file archivers. Yeah, I am gonna show you the favourites I have found over the course of 4 years of research and testing of every file archiver out there - dead projects or slowly developed, or in fact the ones frequently updated.

But let me tell you what a file archiver a.k.a. compression tool is. A file archiver is a tool designed to combine several files into one file, which is ideal for sharing through file sharing sites or as attachments. It is also used for making backups. It may also have the ability to adjust the files in a way so that they together become a compact file on storage media.

I want to thank SqueezeChart (http://www.squeezechart.com/SqueezeChart.pdf) for providing me the latest compression benchmarks (saved me a lot of time, though I also did a benchmark years back).
RAR is the king on Windows, TAR on Unix/Linux and SIT/SITX on Mac. The real problem is: what solution to come up with for each of the three major platforms/OSes? No one usually writes an article with all solutions bundled, rather they divide it into three articles to get more pageviews on their blog/website. I do as promised. So my followers and first-time visitors, the discussion is going to start now. After about 4 years of research (emphasising on that), I am going to present my results to you.

But before that, you should know three things:
I have written only about the best archivers under each OS category.
RAR format is second only to ZIP in terms of popularity. 7Z is third most popular.
And what were the factors on which I selected the best out of the best? Here they are (no priority):
  • Popularity
  • Stability
  • Format efficiency
  • Program update frequency
  • Speedy response (loading times, not compressing times!)
  • Easy to use
  • SFX ability
  • Recovery record ability
  • Security
  • Comment feature
  • Looks
  • Theme availability
best file archiver

So, the selected utilities are:
  • Windows: Universal Extractor, WinRAR, 7-Zip, FreeARC, PeaZip (not discussed)
  • Unix/Linux: GnomeRAR, WinRAR, p7zip, FreeARC, PeaZip (discussed here)
  • Mac: WinRAR, Keka, SimplyRAR, The Unarchiver, StuffIt
  • Android: RAR for Android 5.10, B1 Free Archiver
Note: StuffIt Deluxe is always a bad option since its decompression needs a special 10 MB StuffIt Expander tool to be downloaded. Hence not discussed and strictly not recommended by me.

Windows
Universal Extractor 1.6.1
It is basically the Unarchiver of Windows, just that it is much more powerful. It only extracts and not compresses, so can be a sidekick alongwith the main archive tool to be used. The list of formats it can extract is too long, hence see this link: http://legroom.net/software/uniextract#formats

WinRAR 5.11 beta 1 (SHAREWARE)
Looks, features and efficiency - it got all in 1.6 MBs. A list of all the features it has:
Most stable
Very efficient
Wizard mode for novices
Frequently updated
SFX ability (also installer creation ability)
Multivolume support
Very speedy response
Superb recovery record feature (also adjustable!)
Comment feature
Best security of all
Advanced BLAKE2 hash checksum (also old CRC hash)
Almost all common formats supported
Best looks
Themes available
Note: One feature it has which no archiver on any platform has: set profiles and add them into context menu with immediate execution (no dialog box popping up!).
It got one cons:
$30 for lifetime license (justified!)

7-Zip 9.34 alpha (FREE AND OPEN SOURCE)
Bad looks, less efficiency and even lesser features - that's what it is. A list of all the features it got:
Free and open-source
Good security
Most speedy
Least efficient (nice compression though)
SFX ability
Multivolume support
3rd party themes available (7-Zip Theme Manager: http://www.7ztm.de)
It has lots of cons:
Unstable (stable till 9.20 version)
No wizard mode
No context menu additions by default (novices will have to Google for solutions)
An ancient-looking software
Very slow development

FreeARC 0.67 alpha (March 2014) (FREE AND OPEN SOURCE)
Very similar to WInRAR. I can see it being the open source variant of WinRAR. I also see it as RAR and 7Z combined to get a super hybrid format, and lots of efficiency. Just if its development and interface were better. A look at all its cons:
Equal to WinRAR minus: the good looks, speed response, efficiency, comprehensive installer creation ability, multivolume feature and wizard mode. Also no themes.

NanoZip 0.09 alpha (FREE)
The PAQ of the efficient archivers. Competes with the mathematically advanced RK and PAQ family formats while also competing with the efficient archivers. Provides magically compressed files. Just that it is not developed and is still in the alpha stage. A list of the features it has:
Magically efficient
Super speedy and clean interface
Super speedy compression
SFX ability
The cons:
Development at snail's pace (3 years ago last release)
No wizard mode
No security
No comment feature
No GUI for SFXes
No context menu feature

Conclusion
WinRAR wins hands down. FreeARC at no. 2. 7-Zip at no. 3. NanoZip at no. 4.

Unix/Linux

You don't have many good options for Unix/Linux systems. And since the formats used are comparatively less complicated (TAR), we have few options to select the best archiver.

WinRAR
It is only a command-line version, and most Linux users are aware of how to use command line apps, unlike Windows and Mac dumb people. For some who don't like it, I have another alternative for you down.

GnomeRAR
It is basically WinRAR that has got a usable and nice interface for itself. Only for GNOME distro users.

I can't disappoint KDE distro users, so I have a trick down my sleeves for you:
DoubleCommander with RAR command-line file  (trust me, it will work!)

PeaZip
This is the real winner here, with the best GUI/interface in Linux. A look at its features:
Ability to decompress over 130 formats without any support/addons
Compresses to TAR, ZIP, 7Z, GZIP, BZIP2 and the PAQ variants
Speedy and clean interface
SFX ability for 7Z and ZIP
Context menu integration
It has no cons as far as I know (atleast for Linux).

p7zip
As discussed above (see 7-Zip in Windows category), it is not that nice. Though since many options aren't available, it is popular.

FreeARC
It again is not that good, and ARC format is not so popular on any platform.

Conclusion
PeaZip wins hands down. WinRAR at no. 2. 7-Zip at no. 3. FreeARC at no. 4.

Mac

There are even fewer options here, as listed above.

StuffIt
It has a very uncommon format SIT/SITX which is only used and seen on Macs. Please abandon it and use something more common like ZIP or 7Z format. Strictly not recommended.

WinRAR
A command-line version is available for Mac.

RARMachine
Same as WinRAR with a usable interface.

Keka
It is the 7-Zip of Mac. Powerful and has the ability to compress into 7Z, ZIP, TAR and some other uncommon formats. Nice.

Conclusion
Keka wins hands down. WinRAR/RARMachine at no. 2. StuffIt does not deserve any rank.

Android

RAR 5.10
It is the WinRAR of Android. As discussed above, its popularity and efficiency can't be beaten till decades.

B1 Free Archiver
A cross-platform archiver, it has its own B1 format. Nice but you are lucky if you find one B1 file in your lifetime anywhere. It also offers ZIP support.

Conclusion
RAR wins hands down. B1 is the only other option. Rest are only fakes and extractors found on Play Store.

Final Conclusion

So what I can see is this: WinRAR (or RAR) is for all platforms and is second only to ZIP in terms of popularity. So use WinRAR. And just to assure you that my blog is not very popular (as of August 10, 2014) so I cannot be paid by WinRAR to write such a comprehensive cross-platform review.