A Scotsman is standing by an outside wall of his house and is
diligently scraping off the paint. His neighbour spots him and
with natural Scottish curiosity asks "Hey, you're moving?"
(Actually when I found this one it wasn't a Scotsman but a
Dutch guy. However, I'm sure you'll all understand my
reasons for not using my own nationality here - chauvinism
ARCHIVE PROGRAMS COMPARED
(ZIP, ARC, LZH)
by Richard Karsmakers
A couple of months ago I really started digging archive
programs. I cleaned up my act (or at least my hard disk) and also
archived all my other programs on disk so that I would have more
disks free and that sort of thing. I had dozens of different
versions of several utilities (most notably all kinds of virus
killers) and I decided to trash them all with the exception of
Some of you may wonder what an archive program is exactly. Well,
an archive program is something that people originally came up
with in order to merge several files together into one file.
This would greatly facilitate spreading through modems and that
sort of thing. An archive program could be used to put them all
together by the person to upload (i.e. to send to a shared
source) and the person who downloaded (i.e. who got it from the
shared source) could de-archive the whole thing again.
The next step happened when archivers started to add
compression. While the files were being archived the archive
program would also reduce the size the file needed in the
archive. This was excellent, as this caused less file sizes,
less transfer times, less phone costs and less storage space
There are many archive programs - ARJ, ZOO, LZH, LZX, ARC,
Turbo-ARC, ZIP and probably a lot more.
I started out using "ST Zip", mostly because it had such a
totally easy user interface that even left Charles Johnson's
"ARCShell" behind without any effort. But was "ST Zip" my best
choice? Or should I perhaps have checked out other archiving
alternatives such as "ARC" itself and "LZHarc", even when this
would mean investing some time in attempting to get to grips with
the other conventions?
So I spent an evening archiving the PROGRAMS folder that is
present on this issue of ST NEWS (well, an early version of it
that was somewhat emptier, to tell the truth). I only tested the
three most popular archive programs. Originally I also wanted to
include "ZOO", but I decided to leave it out for the simple
reason that I couldn't get it to do a tree archive (i.e. that
subdirectories and the files in them are automatically compressed
too with one command) after after having had it explained to me.
In my opinion any archiver that can't do that easily shouldn't be
used. A possible higher compression rate or faster compression
speed is no reason to use something totally unuserfriendly.
Anyway, below you will find the vital statistics that about an
hour of intense archiving with the various archivers allowed me
to come up with. The times mentioned in the 'compress' and
'decompress' columns apply to my Megafile 60 hard disk (which is
faster than floppy, of course, but not quite at par with the
hottest hard disks available at the moment).
Archive method: Size: Compress: Decompress:
ARC 319326 3m26s 0m37s
ZIP 276151 2m02s 0m42s
LZH 275267 3m11s 0m53s
As you see, LZH is best with regard to size, though the
difference with ZIP is almost negligible. ARC, being the oldest
(and most archaic) of all archivers, is clearly inferior here.
Compression speed statistics show the serious advantage of ZIP,
with LZH following at quite a distance and ARC not too far off.
Decompression times are not as important as compression times and
this, remarkably, is the place where ARC scores best. ZIP follows
closely after that, and LZH at quite a distance.
On sheer archiving specs, so far, it seems I have made the right
choice, random though it may have been, with using "ST Zip".
The User Interfaces
During testing I have used two different user interfaces:
Charles Johnson's "ARCShell" and the one that's built into
Vincent Pomey's "ST Zip". The "ARCShell" can handle both LZH and
ARC formats; Vincent Pomey's one can only be used within "ST
Zip" (which is kinda logical, don't you agree?).
Charles Johnson's "ARCShell" (version 3.1 tested) centres around
a menu in which you can select vital options such as "list" (list
the contents of an archive), "extract" (decompress the programs
from an archive) and "add" (compress a file into an archive).
Apart from these basic options there are also a number of
switches, such as "include subdirectories" and "Quester LZH mode"
(this determines whether or not you're using a particular version
of LZH, which was indeed the one I've tested).
Basically each operation starts with clicking on a main option,
after which you need to specify the current archive (or the name
of a new one to be created) in a fileselector. All input
functions (such as "add", "freshen", "update", etc.) require
further selections to be made from additional file selector box
The "ST Zip" user interface (version 2.2 tested) will look
familiar if you've ever worked with fast file copiers the likes
of "File Mover", "Kobold" or "Cheetah". After selecting "ST Zip"
you get a file selector where you have to select a (new or old)
ZIP file. The menu will be displayed with two file selectors, the
left one of which contains the contents of the selected ZIP file
(or nothing if you selected a new file to be made). If you have
installed "ST Zip" as an application then clicking on a ZIP file
will automatically get that file displayed in the left file
The great advantage of "ST Zip" is that you have both file
selectors on the screen all the time. You can quickly sortof
'copy' to and from the ZIP file without losing track of what
you're doing. It's fully GEM driven and as easy as a jiffy.
Deleting, creating directories, the works, it can all be done
within this same menu. Alternative ZIP files can be selected by
'closing' the left file selector and simply selecting a new one.
I think it's pretty startingly obvious that, even though
"ARCShell" is a dream come true for decicated ARC or LZH users,
the "ST Zip" user interface is by far easier to use - especially
for the layman. If you add to that the fact that "ST Zip" is very
efficient at compression rate and speed there's really no second
choice. An added bonus is that "ST Zip" has a switch that allows
for full compatibility with MS-DOS renditions of ZIP, and that an
additional program, "ZIP2TOS", is available that allows the
creation of self-extracting archives such as the "FEATURES.TOS"
one that contains this issue's PROGRAMS folder. This is, by the
way, also available for LZH though not for ARC (to my knowledge).
I think any further conclusions aren't needed.
Anyway I am very happy I have instinctively chosen for the right
"ST Zip" ("you've got the right one baby, huh-huh") is available
2 Allée Valéry Larbaud
92260 Fontenay aux Roses
Don't forget to actually enclose a disk and sufficient IRCs if
you expect him to reply!
STOP PRESS: Too late to be included here any other than in an
additional note I got new versions of "LZH" (version 2.21) and
"ST Zip" (version 2.3). More about the things that are new in
"ST Zip" version 2.3 may be found in the "ST Software News"
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.