We looked at three programs for zipping files and thought we’d give you a brief rundown. There’s going to be a time when you want to do this.

“”Zipping”” is digital compression. So the first question is why zip anything in the first place? Well, it saves a lot of time if you can e-mail a compressed

file instead of the whole file. It also saves a lot of space if you can store compressed files instead of the originals.

The amount of time and space saved can be enormous. A zipped file will typically take less than a tenth the space of a regular file, and sometimes as little as a fiftieth the space. The time required to send a large text file can be reduced from several minutes to a few seconds.

The maker of JustZIPit promotes it as “”the little zip program with less.”” One of the things that’s less than other zip programs is the price: It’s free. The other things that are less are the features available in other zip programs. But, and this is a huge but, our experience has been that most people don’t need or use the features in big zip programs.

Having fewer features means there’s nothing to learn and it’s easy to use. The instructions for using JustZIPit take one paragraph. Right-click any file on your drive and a short menu appears that lets you choose to zip it or zip and e-mail it. To get more information and the program, go to www.avatarsoft.com.

The industry leader and a program that has been around since the dawn of computer time is WinZip. Just to give you an idea: More than 110 million copies of WinZip have been downloaded from www.download.com. It is the standard zip program used by just about every business, university and government agency in the world. You know you’re there with WinZip.

The application includes 128-bit and 256-bit encryption, should you need it. This makes any message you send hard to crack. We don’t mean it can’t be decoded, but you better have a powerful computer and lots of time. WinZip can handle what for all practical purposes are unlimited file sizes; other zip programs usually have limits. WinZip 9, the latest version, is US$29 from www.winzip.com. There is a free trial version.

SnapZip is US$30 for Windows, from Winferno: www.winferno.com. The maker points out that nearly all of the features in the free JustZIPit program are already built into Windows XP. Though that’s true, the program is, of course, free, so no money is lost, and it provides those features for Win 95 and up.

SnapZip has other features: Most important, it can compress photos as well as text. It quickly compressed a 554k (half a megabyte) photo to 16k. The provision there is the reduction was set for “”screen quality.”” In other words, for viewing, not editing.

In the compression of any image, a certain amount of “”information”” is lost. If the image is just for viewing, the loss is usually not important. But if you need to enlarge the image to view details, or edit it to enhance certain features, it’s best not to compress it.

SnapZip has a “”drag and drop”” interface: Select a file and drag its name or icon over to the SnapZip icon and it is automatically zipped. The program gets high marks from users, and a free trial version is available.

NOTE: Most programs also give you the option of making a zip file that automatically unzips itself when clicked or double-clicked. This makes life a lot easier for the recipient. If it does not unzip automatically, you can drag it to any of many utilities, including the free trial version of WinZip, which will unzip it for you.

ULEAD AND WE’RE STILL FOLLOWING

Ulead’s software is so good it’s almost embarrassing to review its stuff. It makes PhotoImpact and VideoStudio, among others, all of which get unusually high marks from users. Now Ulead is at it again, with Disc Creator, a US$99 Windows program that combines its DVD Movie Factory with CD- and DVD-burning software.

There are a lot of DVD burners out there, the best known and most widely used probably being Roxio and Nero. Ulead Disc Creator has the features plus a few of its own.

A day after the program came in, we went out and bought a pack of CD-RW blanks to try it with. Boy, are these things cheap now. A 10-pack was US$12. Buy them in packs of 100 and the per-disk price drops to 50 cents. This is cheaper than floppies. But to return to the point: Wow, was this easy!

We burned photos straight from our Nikon digital camera, photos from the hard drive, and added background music that came with the program. Creating CDs was so easy that neither of us had to look at the 80-page manual that came in the box. Lots of click-and-place transitions make slide shows more interesting. Burning in movies is equally easy, and you can edit as you go, chopping unwanted or shaky scenes with a quick “”trim”” feature.

One thing that will interest a lot of users is the program’s ability to burn a videotape directly to DVD. Any movie on TV or videotape can be burned directly to DVD. There are several new machines that record TV or tape movies directly to DVD and they are hot items these days. They cost several hundred dollars and have dozens of controls, but you can do the same thing with Disc Creator for much less and much easier; unlike the stand-alone DVD machines, however, you have to have a computer. Web: www.ulead.com

INTERNUTS

A reader in all places, Arkansas, led us to this amusing Web site www.rinkworks.com/dialect. It takes any text you choose – from great quotes and news headlines to anything you care to write yourself – and puts it in any of several odd dialects: Redneck, Cockney, Moron, Jive, Elmer Fudd, Swedish Chef, Pig Latin, Hacker and others.

For example: A recent news feature prompted by Martha Stewart’s conviction for obstruction of justice, was titled “”Best Places to Go to Prison.”” Or as Elmer Fudd would have put it: “”Best Pwaces to Go to Pwison.”” In Redneck: “”Eff’n Yo’ Muss: Bess Places T’Go T’Prison.””

And speaking of Martha Stewart … this site (www.sillyhumor.com) offers a mock-up of a new magazine: Martha Stewart Living Behind Bars, and several strange messages you can put on your answering machine. Plenty of other silly stuff as well.

Turning to more serious matters, at www.kidshealth.org we have good advice on how to control, or at least cut down, on dust mites, pollen and molds. Sample tips: Avoid carpeting, wallpaper, upholstered furniture and humidifiers; cover pillows and mattresses with mite barriers.

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