BetterZip: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Extract Only the Items You Need From an Archive

BetterZip icon
Courtesy of MacItBetter

When it comes to using your Mac’s built-in file compression tools, you can easily find yourself wishing you were using a Windows PC instead. There, I said it. Windows PCs are better at compressing and working with archived files, at least out of the box. The Mac's archive utility is adequate for basic zipping and unzipping of files and folders using the Finder, but that’s about all you can say for it.

Thankfully, there are a number of archiving apps that can get your Mac up to snuff for working with archived files.

That's why I was happy to spend some time trying out BetterZip from MacItBetter.

Pro

  • Able to open 30+ archive formats, including all of the popular ones used on Macs.
  • Can join archives that have been split across multiple files.
  • Able to peer inside DMG files without opening them.
  • Can “QuickLook” files within an archive without extracting them first.
  • Archives created with BetterZip can use strong AES-256 encryption.
  • Supports the creation of presets to quickly create or extract files using the same options over and over.

Cons

  • RAR support only available from a separate command-line utility, at an additional cost.
  • User interface is a bit clunky.

BetterZip is an archiving utility that can work with a number of popular file compression formats, including all of the popular ones used by OS X.

This includes ZIP, DMG, TAR, TGZ, TXZ, and 7-Zip files, plus quite a few more.

Installation

Installation is mostly straightforward, which is always a plus in my book. Simply download the app and move it to your Applications folder; that’s it. I did say mostly straightforward; the gotcha in this installation occurs only if you need to work with RAR encoded files.

If RAR support is a must-have, then BetterZip will make you jump through hoops to get it. BetterZip doesn’t actually include RAR support; instead, you have to purchase and download a RAR command-line tool. Once you buy the RAR tool (an extra $29), then BetterZip can work with RAR formats. Luckily, I have no need for the RAR support, and you probably won't either.

Using BetterZip

BetterZip almost immediately showed why it's a better archiving tool than the ones built into the Mac, simply by opening a zipped archive and not automatically extracting all of the files stored within it. That's what happens in the Finder if you double-click a zip file; everything gets extracted and dropped into a folder for you to view.

But with BetterZip, you can open a zipped file and peer inside to see its contents. BetterZip even provides a QuickLook-like feature that lets you preview the text or images contained in a compressed file.

BetterZip goes one better and allows you to select which files within an archive you wish to extract, as well as where you want to extract them to.

Creating zip or archive files is just as easy. BetterZip has a large central window onto which you can drag files from the Finder; if you prefer, you can use the Add button to select one or more files to add to an archive.

Once you're ready to save an archive, simply select the Save button, and a dialog box will pop up with various save options, including archive format, security, options to split the archive into multiple files, and where to save the archive to. You can even create presets of these options for one-click access when saving files.

Presets also work for opening and extracting files, so making up a few presets is a great way to simplify the archiving process.

BetterZip's interface includes a sidebar that can be used to store your favorite archives, giving you quick access to those you frequently use. While I found this useful, I was disappointed that the sidebar doesn't also work for creating archives. It would be nice to be able to use the sidebar as a staging place to put multiple folders that contain files I wish to archive. Dragging from the sidebar to create archives seemed so natural that I went ahead and gave it a try. But for now, the sidebar is strictly for archive storage and not creation; maybe the next version.

If you work with archived files routinely, BetterZip may be a much better application to use than the built-in archiving tool provided by Apple. The interface takes a bit of getting used to, but the effort may be a good investment if you need to keep archiving options close at hand.

BetterZip is $19.95. A demo is available.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks.

Published: 5/23/2015

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