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fysics

Is deep-integration for other archived file formats possible?

12 posts in this topic

Premise 1: Windows has built in support for zip files that's able to open them natively within explorer.exe via what appears to be a shell extension.

 

Premise 2: Windows also has built in support (as of 8) for mounting disk images of a few different formats, also via what appears to be a shell extension in addition to a driver. It operates slightly differently, by mounting it as a virtual device, but the functionality is similar.

 

 

However, all file archiving solutions I've seen which support additional archive formats (WinRAR, 7-zip, WinACE, PeaZip, etc.) operate entirely differently. They create their own GUI, a context menu entry for extracting files (which simply executes the program with the proper parameters), and so on. They offer a comparatively looser integration into the Windows GUI than what the native zip handler offers.

 

 

Question: Would it be possible to add support for additional archived file formats at a lower level in the OS such that either the existing explorer/zip implementation could be used for other formats, or alternatively, archives could be mounted as disk images?

Edited by fysics
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It's a fair question.

 

There has been altogether too little work to integrate things into the desktop environment that is Windows.  Things that HAVE done so make a system marvelously better.  I'm thinking of tools like the FastPictureViewer Codec Pack that augments Windows' thumbnailing capability, or even shell extensions that provide new right-click functionality like Beyond Compare or the Send To Toys.

 

The real issue might be that few folks want to put a lot of effort into intergrating things into Explorer in this day and age.  What's going to happen next version?  Up 'til the past few months, one could be forgiven for thinking Explorer was going to be going away soon.

 

-Noel

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With so many people around this forum doing such a great job seamlessly deep-integrating features into Windows (bigmuscle, tihiy, et al.), I figured it was the best place to pose the challenge.

 

I would imagine new file compression formats could work similarly to how codecs work for audio / video / images. Whether the underlying API calls are there to make them function as such in practice... I don't know.

 

(@NoelC: Speaking of FastPictureViewer: I've recently started using SageThumbs, which is similar, but free and nag-free. You should check it out.)

Edited by fysics
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No nags here from FastPictureViewer as I've bought a license (quite a few years ago actually).  I'm not seeing bugs with it - what was going wrong for you?  Only thing wrong with FastPictureViewer from my perspective is that it's missing .PSB support.

 

Also I looked at SageThumbs quite some time ago but their color-management logic was sub-par at the time.

 

I haven't looked at WinZip in a long time...  At what level does it integrate into Windows Explorer nowadays?

 

-Noel

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Sure it can be done. Not sure many would want to go through the effort. Explorer was never great, but I think now it's just a lost cause. 

 

Waiting for fully a integrated Explorer replacement: more customization and control in both GUI and functionality, consistent between versions, with easy extensibility.

Edited by shae
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I've begun using 'Clover' on my remaining Win7 system in my workshop.

 

http://ejie.me/

 

You mentioned Explorer has seen few improvements for some time, and OldNewExplorer has to be proof of this. We need to go backwards to go forwards...... ahem.

 

Clover gives me the tabbed experience- but still not the ribbon menu of Win8 I rather like. I haven't installed Clover on my Win8 systems yet only because as much as I like it... it still doesn't feel integrated like it could be.

 

Just the fact the taskbar icon is foreign, and not a folder or library icon ruins the experience for me.

 

Funny how after using you treat it like you fav web browser.... open tabs and folders everywhere!!! :)

 

But **** cut n' pasting is nicer.

 

Cheers.

 

.Sean

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ralcool: Have a look at QtTabBar for tabs in Explorer, and other features:

http://qttabbar.wikidot.com

 

Too bad it's based on .NET, though.

 

(And too bad the forum doesn't support simple tags properly, like [ u r l = ].)

 

Edited by shae
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@NoelC:  The only nag I was referring to with FastPictureViewer is the one you get when you don't pay for it. I don't do enough with graphics or photography to justify the expense. Likewise, i'm not too picky about my colors with SageThumbs as long as I'm not getting color banding, moire patterns, etc. (Incidentally, I was getting really bad color banding, but it was my Intel drivers doing it.)

 

Recent versions of WinZip look better, but those improvements are simply cosmetic. If I remember right, it's implemented a ribbon interface and the icons are nice looking. I get the impression they're just milking the name recognition for all its worth, which is lessening every year.

 

 

 

I was looking through the registry yesterday for an unrelated reason and came across the CompressedFolder hive in HKCR. (The one that describes the default "zip" implementation.)

 

A lot of the information in there was mundane, but there was a DropHandler and a StorageHandler. I think these two, together, are the root of the deep-integration. My guess is the StorageHandler allows explorer to display and access the contents of the archive. The DropHandler either handles dropping files out of the archive, or dropping files onto the archive. (Now that I think about it, it's probably the latter, which makes it another fairly mundane key.)

 

 

 

This proposal for deep integration is not purely cosmetic. With the built in zip handler, click-and-drag events are able to extract files from archives in a single copy. With tools like 7-zip, WinRAR, etc. they're forced to first extract the contents to a temporary folder, and then copy them to their final destination, roughly doubling the time it takes to extract files from an archive in an I/O constrained environment (as opposed to a CPU constrained environment). If I understand correctly, it is done this way to bypass certain technical limitations in the way click and drag events are handled when dragging out of an arbitrary exe and into an explorer window (or the desktop). This is especially disappointing, because the 7zip engine blows away others on benchmarks for both compression ratio and performance. (see here, for example.) If StorageHandlers function in the way I think they do, the technical limitation requiring two file copies would be nonexistant, and explorer could handle copy operations to and from archives natively. (Or third party tools like TeraCopy could probably be used.)

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Unfortunately, all of this is way beyond my programming abilities, or I'd be doing it as we speak.

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I've begun using 'Clover' on my remaining Win7 system in my workshop.

 

http://ejie.me/

 

You mentioned Explorer has seen few improvements for some time, and OldNewExplorer has to be proof of this. We need to go backwards to go forwards...... ahem.

 

Clover gives me the tabbed experience- but still not the ribbon menu of Win8 I rather like. I haven't installed Clover on my Win8 systems yet only because as much as I like it... it still doesn't feel integrated like it could be.

 

Just the fact the taskbar icon is foreign, and not a folder or library icon ruins the experience for me.

 

Funny how after using you treat it like you fav web browser.... open tabs and folders everywhere!!! :)

 

But **** cut n' pasting is nicer.

 

Cheers.

 

.Sean

 

I use 8.1 and the ribbon works for it there. Screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/APH6IRY.png

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ralcool: Have a look at QtTabBar for tabs in Explorer, and other features:

http://qttabbar.wikidot.com

 

Too bad it's based on .NET, though.

 

(And too bad the forum doesn't support simple tags properly, like [ u r l = ].)

 

I tried it for a while before I found clover.. QTtabbar feels even worse for integration....somehow clunky and ill- matched.

 

Clover looks nearly perfect. And also recovers from unexpected shutdowns similar to firefox. It will re open previous tabs usually.

 

Anyway, I will install it on my other Win8.x machines, I was giving it a trial run on Win7 and have no complaints thus far.

 

Chinese software that works well... look out M$, the red army are coming.

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7-zip provides a public domain LZMA SDK here which would probably be helpful if someone were to implement it.

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