At work, I rely on compression to keep my hard drive from filling up with huge data files that I need to work with and keep for the duration of a project. Because I mainly care about saving storage space, when it comes to file compression, I care mostly about compression ratio and only secondarily about compression and decompression speed.

Over the years I have become somewhat of a file compression nerd. To that end, on a whim today, I uninstalled my longtime favorite archive manager, 7-zip, from the Windows machine I use for work and installed PeaZip in its place.

PeaZip is a front-end to a host of open-source file compression methods, including old stalwarts like Zip and 7Z, and also newer entrants such as ZPAQ, Zstandard, and Brotli. These newer methods offer higher compression ratios, greater speeds, and differing trade-offs between the two.

PeaZip’s main benefit over 7-zip is its far-nicer file manager interface than 7-zip. Its nicer UI has never been enough to entice me to switch from 7-zip, but I made the switch to try out Zstandard (primarily) and ZPAQ. With the data I have on hand, which is mainly data files in text format, I found that ZPAQ offered the best compression ratio (which is the most important thing to me), but that 7Z offered almost the same compression ratio while being the non-Zip format I am already used to using1.

This surprised me, but it is good to know because my usage of PeaZip may be limited. While PeaZip has a nicer interface and more features, it is slower to launch (even to create an archive), and it lacks 7-zip’s integration with the Windows File Explorer right-click-and-drag handler. If I am going to use it primarily to make 7Z archives, and rarely use its file manager interface because I use its the Windows File Explorer right-click-and-drag handler, PeaZip does not offer me any features I really care about.

I am still curious about Zstandard, and will continue to explore how I can use it to compress my data files more quickly, but with better compression ratios, than 7-zip and Zip do.

  1. This observation is likely not true with other types of data. I would not extrapolate it to other situations. ↩︎