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WinZip, AVG offer new versions for archiving, protection, maintenance

By Jim Bray
February 14, 2013

Here's a couple of products that have been around for a while, in both free and paid versions, but whose features and capabilities have evolved as the personal computer has.

The first is WinZip, which first appeared around 1991 – when Windows itself was still a nipper – and which has gotten more powerful and flexible with pretty well every version since.

Then there's AVG, which I first got to know as the free antivirus application that I've used over the years. Now, while AVG still offers a free version of its protection software, they've also upgraded their paid suite to also offer identity protection and a complete PC maintenance.

Zip-a-dee-do-dah, Zipping away…

A subsidiary of the Corel company – maker of the excellent CorelDRAW graphics suite – WinZip 17 is claimed to be "the first full-featured file utility app to deliver fast and secure file sharing on your Windows 8 device. Zip and encrypt files for safer, easier sending and unzip any .zip and .zipx file. With a modern touch-friendly design, WinZip makes it easy to manage and share files on Windows 8 tablets and PCs."

Well, I haven't I haven't tried the Windows 8 aspect of it – not that I have any reason to doubt the product's capabilities. But I haven't tried Windows 8 at all yet, other than a very brief demo from Microsoft's folk, and so am still Zipping along with Windows 7 – and naturally, WinZip works fine in that environment.

I've been using the program since about version 3 and while there have been other products that have offered similar (or better) capabilities at times, it appears that with each new incarnation, WinZip gets more robust

Here's a quick list of what WinZip offers, according to the manufacturer:

  • File compression tools on the go: WinZip for Windows 8 opens .zip and .zipx files and makes it simple to zip files and entire folders for faster sharing.
  • Keep information secure: Password-protect files you store and share with strong 128- or 256-bit AES encryption.
  • Share any file format to Facebook: With the integrated ZipShare service, share any file format and even entire folders to Facebook, making it easy to offer a wider selection of content to your friends and connections.
  • Send large files with ZipSend: WinZip makes it easy to send large files or entire folders quickly and securely with integrated access to the ZipSend file delivery service. Send up to 50MB with a free ZipSend Lite account or up to 2GB with a ZipSend Pro account.
  • Modern Windows 8 interface design: Save time with WinZip's all-new and easy-to-use interface with touch-friendly features. (naturally, you need Windows 8 to exploit this)
  • Easy sharing with the Windows 8 Share charm: Support for the Windows 8 Share charm makes it effortless to deliver zipped files through email, social media or other apps.

You can also convert and share files on the fly, for example taking a MS Office document and converting it to an Acrobat PDF as well as scaling photographs to smaller files sizes.

The non-Windows 8 interface is still clean and efficient; I had to poke around a bit to access some of the settings I knew from older versions, thanks to a bit of an interface redesign, but it was easy to find the stuff I wanted and be on my way, Zipping along happily. The default interface looks like of like Microsoft's Office, with its ribbon bar. If that rubs you the wrong way, you can revert to the "classic" WinZip interface, which still works just fine.

I use the product mostly to archive old columns and other files (websites or publishing documents I've created, for example, and want to keep around for reference). Sometimes I'll archive an entire folder or website, then burn the archive onto a DVD to free up hard drive space – ironically, now that hard drive space is cheap and abundant – for more current stuff.  

WinZip 17, which sells for $30, also handles TAR, GZIP, CAB, RAR, 7z, ARJ, LZH, BHZ files, among others. It's a powerful and flexible solution that just gets better with age. And it seems faster now, too.

AVG: Protection for your PC…

AVG has also been on the move, evolving into an entire suite of protection – a kind of condom for your PC, as it were. So don't forget to practice safe computing!

For 2013, AVG has also gone Windows 8 compatible and now bills itself as the only security product that works with touch screen technology. It also sports a new, "Windows 8-ish" interface. I like the old interface better – not so much because it worked better but because I'm not sure yet whether I like the Windows 8 GUI better or not.

AVG says its Internet Security 2013 now comes with an integrated security firewall, as well as AVG LinkScanner, Anti-Spam and Anti-Spyware as well – and they say it includes technology to protect against Wi-Fi hacking.  

Here's a quick list from the manufacturer of some of the new AVG's most compelling new features:

  • Improved performance reduces start-up time by 26 per cent
  • Scanning time improved up to 36 per cent
  • User interface loads over 200% faster (according to Dennis Technology Labs, whoever they are)
  • File reputation technology further enhances detection and reduces false alarms
  • Smoother install experience with a new Welcome screen
  • Enhanced firewall allows easy personalization for online privacy and identity protection
  • AVG PC TuneUp keeps PCs running smoothly and at peak performance by cleaning the hard drive, fixing issues and preserving battery life on laptops – eliminating freezing and crashing.

The anti-virus protection software works great, having bailed me out many times since I started using it. I used to use the free version, with great success as well, so the fact that it works doesn't really surprise. And so far (knock on wood), the paid version I've been trying has caught every virus or malware attack that some slimeball has tried to inflict on me. For that, it's worth the price.

I've also been trying the PC TuneUp app and other than it popping up annoyingly to brag about what it's done to keep my PC humming happily, it works very well.

I did get a tad freaked out the first time I ran the $41 (annual subscription price) product, though. Part way through the analysis and tweaking process I initiated when I first installed it, my hard drive decided it had served me long enough and gave up the ghost. My son, who knows of such things, assured me afterward that it was 99 per cent sure to be a complete coincidence. Naturally, I was all set to blame AVG until my son's reality check calmed me down – and thereby changed the tone of this review substantially (much, I'm sure, to the relief of the AVG folk).

The TuneUp suite offers such stuff as a Registry Cleaner and defragger and it promises to get your PC running as quickly as it did the day you bought it. I'm not sure I'd go along with that but, having no benchmarks to compare (just my gut and experience), I can say it's definitely running better than it was before I installed it. And isn't that really the bottom line?

There's also a shredder feature that they say lets you really delete files, leaving no trace of them on your system. Criminals or kiddie porn aficionados may love that!

AVG range of products for 2013 also includes a selection of mobile device-related ones, including AVG AntiVirus FREE (and Pro) for Android, and AVG Family Safety products for iOS and Windows Phone.

Both of these products work well; whether you need the extra capabilities offered by the paid versions, or can get away with the free ones, is up to you.

Copyright 2013 Jim Bray

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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