Comparison of archive formats         

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PeaZip is a multi-format free cross-platform archive manager utility that provides an unified portable GUI for many Open Source technologies like 7-Zip, FreeArc, PAQ, UPX... free alternative to WinRar, WinZip and similar proprietary software.
- Create 7Z, ARC, BZ2, GZ, *PAQ, PEA, QUAD/BALZ, TAR, UPX, WIM, XZ, ZIP files
- Open and extract ACE, ARJ, CAB, DMG, ISO, LHA, RAR, UDF, ZIPX files and more,
over 200 archive types supported
Features of PeaZip includes: 
high compression performances, batch creation and extraction of multiple archives at once, convert archive file type, create self-extracting archives, split and join files, strong encryption with two factor authentication, encrypted password manager, secure deletion, find duplicate files, calculate hash and checksum, export job definition as script.

free 7Z, RAR, ZIP, ZIPX files utility




Archive, compression comparison: 7Z, Brotli, RAR, ZIP, Zstandard...

archive formats comparative

ZIP format features and performances

ZIP is a popular compressed file archiving format, mainstream on Microsoft Windows systems; ZIP file format specifications are maintained by PKWare which originally developed the format.
Newer archive formats like 7Z and RAR have gained popularity and introduced several improvements compared to classic zip (but some of them then were brought into later ZIP format revisions): better compression ratio, recovery records to rebuild accidentally missing data, strong encryption etc, but ZIP format retained much of its popularity gained in several years of widespread use, mainly for two factors:
  • ZIP compression is quite fast and it is not CPU intensive (for today's standard) compared to competing standards as rar and 7z - it's based on Deflate lossless compression algorithm (like in GZip format), alternatively Deflate64 or BZip2 based compression is possible, and supported by PeaZip - that makes ZIP format an ideal candidate for archiving large quantities of mixed types of data (i.e. performing a backup), when speed is more important than maximum compression, which is usually the case with today's large disks and large, poorly compressible multimedia files.
  • ZIP support is nearly ubiquitous (i.e. most Linux distributions and Windows since XP have basic support for ZIP standard out of the box), making ZIP format the ideal choice when distributing files i.e. downloadable packages, mail attachments etc.
Recently WinZip (probably the most popular zip file utility on MS Windows platform) introduced a new encryption scheme, Advanced Encryption (AE), AES based; AE-encrypted archives and classic ZipCrypto-encrypted archives are supported by PeaZip (for legacy compatibility purpose, ZipCrypto encryption is weak by today's standards and should not be used for new files), and it is also capable to read PKWare's AES encrypted zip archives.
Many archive/package formats (i.e. JAR, XPI, APK etc) are based on modified ZIP standard, and can be consequently read by PeaZip.

ZIP vs RAR format

Learn more about ZIP file format

ZIPX format features and performances

ZIPX is a new archiving format implemented in WinZip starting from 12.1 release, evolved from ZIP specifications with newer data compression algorithms - BZip, LZMA, PPMd and others.
It provides a compression ratio comparable with RAR format, but ZIPX compression / extraction is significantly slower than ZIP and marginally slower than RAR, in the range of operating with 7Z format.
So, while ZIPX is a more feature-rich and powerful compression format than ZIP, functionally it is not an 1:1 replacement of it, being slower and not yet supported by most third party utilities, an "issue" it shares with most of ZIP alternative formats.

Learn more about ZIPX file format

TAR format features and performances

TAR is a pure-archiving format popular on Unix and Unix-like systems (often used for backup and for content distribution on those platforms).
It does provide only archiving (concatenate input data and metadata in a single output file), delegating functions as compression, encryption, parity/integrity check, to external software working in pipeline with TAR command output.
Tar is often combined with a compression algorithm as GZip to save disk space occupation, originating a compressed tar archive TAR.GZ or TGZ (with zlib's Deflate).
Combining tar with BZip2 (TAR.BZ2 or TBZ) allows to attain better compression ratio than Gzip, at expense of longer / more computing intensive compression and decompression, anyway BZip2 algorithm performances can be dramatically improved by multithreading.
XZ / LZMA compressed tar archives benefit of compression ratio comparable to 7Z file format, as it is employed the same LZMA/LZMA2 algorithm discussed in 7Z format paragraph.
Fastest compression / extraction, retaining compression ratio comparable with Gzip, can be obtained with modern Brotli and Zstandard compression algorithms, which are explained in detail separately.

Learn more about TAR archive format, GZIP compressed file format, BZIP2 compressed file format

7Z format features and performances

7Z is a modern, open source archive format, featuring AES encryption, native volume spanning, and high compression ratio (best one in mainstream formats), in many cases - depending on the properties of the input data - better than competing RAR and ZIPX formats.
The 7z archive format was introduced by 7-Zip on Windows platform and ported by p7zip team on Unix platforms.
Supported compression algorithms (LZMA/LZMA2, PPMd, BZip2) can take benefit of parallel computing on modern multicore CPUs, but 7Z is still a format chosen when higher compression, and not speed, is the primary goal.

7Z vs RAR, ZIP formats

Learn more about 7Z file format

RAR format features and performances

RAR is a proprietary archive format introduced by WinRar for Windows platform, and ported to Linux (only as extractor) by the same Author, Eugene Roshal.
RAR extraction routines were also rewritten as Open Source software (PeaZip uses this Open Source RAR component from 7-Zip/p7zip project), but its original license however does not allow third party to create a RAR compressor.
RAR format advantages are better compression ratio than ZIP, built-in strong encryption, and error recovery capabilities with optional use of recovery records.
For all those reasons, and being one of the first ZIP alternative released, even being a proprietary format RAR is a very popular choice especially for file distribution over the web, where the error recovery capability is a welcome advantage over most of other file formats.


Learn more about RAR file format

ACE format features and performances

ACE is a proprietary archive format introduced on Windows platform by WinACE and ported to Linux as command line utility (extraction only) by the same Author of WinACE.
The format is currently less popular than in past years, it offers improved compression compared to ZIP, but not as powerful as for RAR, ZIPX, and 7Z formats.
Due to the commercial nature of the format no free software is available for creating ACE archives, but UNACE for extraction of ACE archives was made available as royalty free (for use and distribution) closed source software.
PeaZip features UNACE for Windows and Linux as external plugin on Add-ons page in order to keep the base PeaZip package free of closed source software (only software released under OSI approved licenses are included in the base package) and provide end users the ability of unpacking ACE archives.
UNACE plugin for PeaZip is available either as installable package or as compressed package to be installed by hand (recommended for PeaZip portable), and it's free of charge.

Learn more about ACE file format

Brotli and Zstandard compression performances

Google's Brotli and Facebook's Zstandard are pure compression algoritms (as well as zlib's Deflate and BZip2) meant to compress a single input file or data stream, and for archiving purpose are often combined with TAR in order to consolidate multiple input file in a single container.
Both Brotli and Zstandard projects aims to maximum compression and extraction speed, the main goal being near-real time lossless decompression of content being distributed over the network, reducing the latency, transmission time, bandwidth consumption, and compression / decompression overhead over traditional lossless compression algorithms (as zlib's Deflate or Zopfli).
As file archiving formats, at lower compression settings both Brotli BR format and Zstandard ZST format outperforms for speed fast compressors like Gzip / ZIP obtaining similar compression results, and at higher compression levels are both capable of providing a better than Deflate compression level, being comparable to BZip2 or even RAR / 7Z formats compression.
At current level of development, on modern multicore CPU Zstandard is faster than Brotli if multithreading option for its ZSTD binary is enabled - while provided compression level is quite similar.

Learn more about Brotli BR compressed file format, Zstandard ZST compressed file format, Brotli vs Zstd comparative fast compression benchmark

For performances comparison (speed, best compression ratio) of archive file formats in mainstream archive manager utilities see PeaZip's compression benchmarks page.

Comparative of archival and compression formats properties

Lear more about CAB packages format, and PEA file format.

ARC format (or WRC) is a new, open source archiving format developed by Bulat Ziganshin for FreeArc archiver utility.
The format features strong but fast and memory efficient compression, comparable to or better than RAR an 7Z formats for most filetypes.
Noteworthy advantage of ARC format is support for recovery records (like RAR), for attempting data repair in case of corruption of the archive, and strong encryption with AES, Serpent and Twofish (all up to 256 bit key size) and Blowfish.
Interestingly, ARC command line syntax is close to WinRAR one, allowing easy porting of scripts from one program to the other.
PeaZip offers a GUI frontend to create, browse, test, repair and extract ARC / WRC archives under Windows and Linux (on Gnome, KDE or other desktop environments).
ARC / WRC files can be currently be browsed only in flat mode (shows all objects in archive), but in any other aspect they can be handled as ZIP / 7Z files (see previous point).
Please note that ARC (or ARK) is also the extension of an archive format developed by SEA company (not subject of this comparative): it was of mainstream diffusion before the introduction of ZIP, and it has no connection with FreeARC's ARC format. PeaZip does not support SEA ARC / ARK files.

PAQ, LPAQ and ZPAQ formats: families of experimental compressors developed by Matt Mahomey and contributors.
PAQ compression has very high computational requirements (memory, CPU time) if compared to mainstream compressors, but reaches the highest compression ratio presently possible. Most of top ranking compression algorithms (i.e. Hutter prize winners) belongs from PAQ family or are derived works, as well as used in high compression utilities like KGB Archiver, WinUDA, WinRK and Emilcont. Best choice when maximum compression is desired regardless speed and memory usage.
LPAQ is a "lite" version of PAQ, meant to be faster but providing lower compression levels; it is a compression only utility, so LPAQ-compressed files will feature a double extension, i.e. filename.ext.lpaq. In PeaZip if multiple files are sent to be compressed by LPAQ they will be automatically added to a TAR archive before, resulting in the double extension TAR.LPAQ.
ZPAQ is the latest evolution of the PAQ family, featuring backward compatibility, while PAQ and LPAQ doesn't, so archives created with a PAQ/LPAQ version need to be extracted with the same version. PeaZip offers a GUI frontend to create, browse and extract many PAQ (PAQ8F, JD, L and O) and LPAQ (LPAQ1 and LPAQ5) archive types, under MS Windows and Linux (on Gnome, KDE or other desktop environments).

QUAD, BALZ, and BCM are very efficient ROLZ-based compressor developed by Ilia Muraviev, featuring high compression ratio and high extraction speed, due to the observation most types of end users are expected to routinely unpack data and rarely compress files.
All of those are single file compression formats, so compressed files will feature a double extension, i.e. filename.ext.quad.
In PeaZip, if multiple files are sent to be compressed by QUAD, BALZ or BCM they will be automatically added to a TAR archive before, resulting in the double extension TAR.QUAD,TAR.BALZ, TAR.BCM respectively. PeaZip offers a GUI frontend to create, browse and extract those types of compressed files, under Microsoft Windows and Linux (on Gnome, KDE or other desktop environments).

Read more on Wikipedia page about comparison of archive formatsWikipedia data compression comparative in terms of performances, maximum compression properties, advanced features and reciprocal advantages / disadvantages.
Useful online resources: PKWarestandard zip file features (creators of ZIP format), WinZipzipx file format advantages, 7-Zip7zip characteristics, WinRARrar file format standard, PAQHutter prize winner compressor algorithm Wikipedia entry, ZPAQjournaled file archiver, Google BrotliBrotli fast compression, ZstandardZstandard fast compression project pages.









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