With so many free archiving tools around for the PC, commercial software really has to pile on the features to stand any chance of success. Does Ashampoo ZIP Pro have what it takes to attract our attention?
The program's Windows 8-like interface gets it off to a good start, pastel-shaded tiles floating over a white-grey background. And if this isn't quite to your taste, there are a few alternative skins to try out.
ZIP Pro is strong on the fundamentals. There's full support for creating and extracting all the main formats - ZIP, 7-ZIP, CAB, TAR (TAR, TAR.GZ, TAR.BZ2, TAR.XZ) and LHA - and it can open more than 30 archive types. A Preview tool allows you to view many file types without extracting them, and configurable Explorer integration means you can decide exactly which options to include on a file's right-click menu.
The program's Encryption Suite delivers much more than you might expect. It supports both ZIP and ZIPX AES 256-bit encryption; can sign, verify, encrypt and decrypt OpenPGP files; comes with a password manager, and has optional policies to set the minimum strength for your passwords.
There are modules to create self-extracting archives, split massive archives into smaller volumes, repair broken Zip files, or convert archives from one format to another.
Some tools are so capable they might replace entire applications all on their own. Zip Pro can rip CDs, DVDs and BDs to ISOs, then mount them as virtual drives on demand; a Cloud Browser integrates with your Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive, Amazon S3, Azure and Box accounts without having to install their regular software; and "ZIP Scripts" help control all this to use the program as an automated backup tool, archiving the files or your choice, burning them to disc, or copying them to network, FTP or cloud destinations.
If your archiving needs are simple - you just want to unpack your downloads and create a zip occasionally - then the freeware 7-Zip should be ideal.
But if you'd like more, Ashampoo ZIP Pro has plenty to offer. It delivers far more than we expected in most areas, particularly encryption and cloud storage, and the 40-day trial means you've plenty of time to see if it's right for you.