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Microsoft finally gets around to supporting rar, gz and tar files in Windows

No more downloading decompressors and dodging malware and payment demands, maybe

Microsoft has signaled it will add native support for tar, 7-zip, rar, gz and "many other" archive file formats to Windows.

Redmond's not cooked up some super-duper decompressor: it's used the libarchive open source project to pull this off.

Windows has offered native support for the zip file format since Windows 98. In those far-off days, hard disks were small and slow – adjectives that could also be applied to the amount of data and speed offered by the dialup internet connections of the time.

Making files smaller therefore helped to shrink download times.

Microsoft called zipped files "compressed folders" – and they've remained in Windows to this day.

But the world has plenty of other compression tools and associated file formats.

Windows users who encountered them have for decades needed to scour the internet for decompression tools.

The likes of WinRAR have therefore become hardy perennials for Windows users confronted by compressed files in exotic formats.

While some apps like 7-Zip are free and open source, others typically demand acquisition of a paid license after a few days' use. Also, criminals noticed the constant demand for decompressors, making them a target for ridealong adware and malware. Many a download site also tried to confuse those who sought decompression tools with dark patterns, luring users to unintended downloads.

But if you managed to find a legitimate download that didn't infect your computer, enslave you to the criminal underworld or harass you with advertising, the ads mostly worked just fine.

All of that will soon, hopefully, be behind us.

Microsoft announced support for archive file formats in the context of changes to Windows it hopes will excite developers – who are more likely than most to come across compressed files in varying formats.

One such forthcoming addition will see Windows Terminal gain "tab tear-out … so that you can easily organize your different shells into windows according to your needs."

Developers may also appreciate Dev Home – billed as "a new experience in Windows 11 … that gets you back in the zone and streamlines your workflow with features such as WinGet configuration for easier and faster setup."

There's also "Dev Drive … a new type of storage volume, tailor-made for developers, with a file system that delivers both performance and security."

Dev Drive is "based on the Resilient File System, which, combined with a new performance mode capability in Microsoft Defender for Antivirus, offers up to 30 percent file system improvement in build times for file I/O scenarios."

The desktop dominator also teased a sprinkling of AI for all users in the form of a Copilot that will spawn as a button on the Taskbar.

"Just like you would with Bing Chat, you can ask Windows Copilot a range of questions from simple to complex," explains a Microsoft post. "If I want to call my family in Cyprus, I can quickly check the local time to make sure I'm not waking them up in the middle of the night. If I want to plan a trip to visit them, I can ask Windows Copilot to find flights and accommodations for mid-winter break."

The Copilot sits alongside Microsoft's Bing and ChatGPT plugins and will debut on June 11. ®

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