What resolution are you playing at? An archer should have a couple skill points in Point Blank (and a lot in Reload Time) to deal with melee opponents that get close, but if you keep your other character in front of the archer as you explore, they should take the brunt of most melee attacks.

After act 1 most areas are more open, and I found archery to be quite effective. When I reached the citadel in act 1 I had my hero switch to a crossbow full time (playing again I would have the DK use a bow); before that the skeletons were better dealt with by crushing damage, and I was conserving arrows (before the patch changed the BF merchants so their stock regenerated each time you entered the BF).
If you have a non-lead archer character set to aggressive (right click on the character portrait), they can start firing at opponents as they come on screen, and sometimes even before (which acts as a bit of an early warning system, indicating the presence and direction of an enemy). I played at either 1024x768 or 1152x864 (the latter by editing the config.div file), and tried to keep my sight range from becoming much more than the screen size, so I could use the fog of war to keep track of what I had already explored.

As for moving barrels and packages around, you can also split up your characters to get some. With one character in a storage room, for example, you can drag and drop packages onto the portrait of the character in the armoury, to directly place them in that inventory (saves the character in the storage room from becoming encumbered).

Similarly, you can leave a summoning doll active as you explore an area, and when your characters have too much loot, you can either pass it to the doll directly, or have the doll open a container, then switch back to the main characters and drop stuff into the container's inventory window. Using a container isn't really necessary since the latest patch, though; the over encumbered penalty was change not being able to move, so summoning dolls make much better mules (if you don't want them following you, it doesn't matter if they are holding more than their weight capacity and can not move).