WinZip Companion for Outlook 2000+

Reviewed by: Paul Schneider, PhD, May 2005
Published by: WinZip Computing, Inc.
Requires: Windows 98 or newer, Outlook 2000 or newer
MSRP: US$19.00

Are you guilty of sending several megabytes of information as an e-mail attachment to your entire department? How about sending sensitive documents over e-mail without encryption? Well, on the one hand don't worry—you are not alone. I've seen the prevalence of these two behaviors continue to rise for quite sometime. However, on the other hand, neither of these activities are good habits. So what is the average Joe or Jane to do? Zip and encrypt! Performing either of these tasks are easy enough to do with any number of Zip utilities, but a new one, WinZip Companion, seeks to simplify the process even further and eliminate any excuses for not zipping and encrypting.

Up until now, when I wanted to send a relatively large file by e-mail, I would first locate the file on my hard drive, then right click on it and use WinZip’s compress and send to e-mail option. I could then proceed to address and write my e-mail message. Not a bad solution overall, but one that really goes about the act of writing e-mail backwards. In most situations people start their e-mail message and then decide to attach a file or files. If you don't stop and compress the files before attaching them, they won't be compressed before they leave your inbox, and probably not encrypted either. WinZip Companion for Outlook aims to solve that problem by making zipping and encrypting e-mails an integrated and semi-automated part of sending your e-mail.

Installing WinZip Companion for Outlook is easy. During the installation you are prompted only for your configuration preference, which of course you can change later, and then you are ready to go. Companion can be set to automatically zip all e-mail attachments, prompt you to zip, or zip nothing unless asked. In addition, you can also determine a default file name, whether to use encryption when zipping, and specify what file types to not zip, such as other zips.

Depending on your settings, when adding an attachment Outlook Companion will automatically prompt you, zip, or ignore your attachment until prompted. The beauty of this application is in its simplicity and seamless integration. I loved the ability to pick and choose if I want to zip a file on the fly, and the intelligence of the program to ignore zipping zips and other files already compressed. Of course a zip is great as long as the recipient knows what to do with it. While you may think the zip format is ubiquitous, there are still people out there who won't know what to do with a zipped attachment. Fortunately, an automatic text explanation that can be attached to each e-mail that will help the unenlightened.

When you think about, there really is not much to Outlook Companion, but then it is often the simple things that have the greatest impact. There were two small complaints I had when using the program. The first is that it is only for Outlook 2000 and newer. While many people use this program, greater universal support for other e-mail programs is something that would be appreciated. The second is in the automatic naming of the zip file. While you can pick the automatic default name, it would be nice if the program took the filename of the attachment and used it for the zip name automatically, or provided you with a choice of names for situations in which you're dealing with multiple files. These two issues aside, Outlook Companion delivers exactly on it promise, and is a welcome companion to Outlook. Recommended.

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