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7-Zip (featured freeware)

This series takes a look at some of the best free software available on the World Wide Web.

Compressed files are always useful. They're smaller, and you can pack many files into one archive  -- making the whole folders easier to share.

As useful as they are, handling compressed archives used to be a real chore. WinZip just isn't good enough for general use, because it only supports ZIP archives.

7-Zip logoEnter 7-Zip. A program that can handle most if not all of the most popular formats, including ZIP, RAR, TAR, and GZ.

It also has its own stunning "7z" compression format. I say stunning because of the excellent compression level it achieves. tested the 7z format to be up to 40% smaller than a ZIP equivalent. It also compares favourably to other archive formats out there.

It also has a right-click menu for quick commands on selected files. The interface is simple to use and is pretty functional. It could look a little prettier but I'm not complaining.

7-Zip is also great for editing the contents of Java Archives (JAR), Nokia Themes (NTH), and Firefox Extensions (XPI).

Rating: 9/10

  • Download 7-Zip here
    (I almost forgot: 7-Zip is mainly available for Windows. The command-line version is available for Linux, and there are unofficial adaptations called p7zip for Mac OS X, BeOS, and DOS (more info at the download link)
Previously featured freeware
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Enso (featured freeware)

This series takes a look at some of the best free software available on the World Wide Web.

Image: Enso Launcher Enso is another launcher-styler application, similar in concept to countless others, including SkyLight, SlickRun, Launchy, and QuickSilver for the Mac.

While similar in concept, it's not similar in design nor execution. Humanized, the company responsible for creating Enso, is focused towards building what they call “humane” interfaces.

In fact, the interface of Enso isn't really an interface at all. It's a transparent layer of text on top of what you're currently doing. Unlike other such apps, this one is quasimodal. This means that it won't get in your way at all, it won't de-rail your train of thought - like regular dialog boxes.

Enso screenshot

The power of Enso is also not to be scoffed at. Besides being beautifully presented in the lovely Gentium typeface, there's some serious power here. You can use the “open”  command for nearly all your programs (e.g. “open notepad”). You can also teach Enso new commands using the powerful “learn as open” command. Simply highlight the item you want to open (a URL, a local address, or even a file).

Other commands include “google search term” - a facility for a quick Google search. Enso also has pretty handy string-handling tools (“to upper case”, etc), and can even quickly calculate a sum.

I've also installed the Enso Words program, which works in tandem the launcher. It adds some more functionality, especially when handling text, such as a spell checker, and word/character counts.

Enso screenshot

Enso has really changed the way I compute. It's added a “humane” interface, and a fast, flexible way to work with my PC. It's also inspired me to build better programs, based on a more user-friendly interface.

I've used a lot of app launchers in the past, but after a few days I always felt like I was using it for the sake of using it. I felt like they were offering me no usability improvements at all after a while. Not so with Enso!

Further reading

  • Humanized - Enso homepage
  • Comparison of application launchers (Wikipedia)
  • Introduction to application software launchers
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