What is Zipping Files?

Zipping files on a Mac or Windows is straight-forward. You used to have to buy an application to zip files, and now the operating system has it built in, at least for the simple and basic tasks. This was included since Mac OSX 10.3 and later and in Windows XP and later.

Zipping capabilities are limited in these free OS versions. For example, it isn’t permitted to set password on the zip file, so make sure you don’t send sensitive information through the internet or to other people. It’s also not permitted to adjust how much compression is applied, or making an EXE version (for decompressing on a system that doesn’t have Zip capabilities). In order to get zipping with passwords and other enhanced features, you will still need to resort to purchasing an application, for the Mac, it can be StuffIt Pro; for Windows, it can be WinZip. There are other free utilities that that offer enhanced features for free, like from 7-Zip or WinRAR.

What is a Zip file?

Zip files are a way to take many files on a disk, bundle them into a single file and apply compression to them to shrink the final resulting files into a smaller result than the sum of the total set of files being package/zipped/compressed. The files are made of the original files represented in a compressed format. Many operating systems have built-in Zipping or compression capabilities now, so you won’t have to buy an application for simple compressing/bundling tasks.

In simple terms, if you have a lot of the same letters and numbers in a document, Zipping the document would count how many duplicates there are, where they are located, and take them how, thus compressing the document. The document is not readable in the compressed format, but it can then be “unzipped” and the document will be reconstructed to it’s original form with all the duplicate letters, numbers, and other characters.

The files that don’t compress well are JPG photo files and other formats that already in a “compressed” format. It does still mean thought that you can “package” or “bundle” your files using Zip even though the compression may not reduce the file size. This is particularly important when you want to send one file to someone. For example, you have 50 new photos you’ve taken of a place you visited, you want to send those to someone, zip them up in to one “zip package” file. This eliminates sending all 50 files. The compression won’t be good, so the file will be large, so watch out for that. But you can still send the single file.

How Do I Zip Files?

This can be accomplished the same way on either Mac or Windows:

  1. Pick a set of files, or a folder that contains the files to package/compress
  2. On Windows, right-click and “Send To | Compressed (Zipped) Folder”
  3. On Mac, right-click or ctrl+left-click and choose “Compress Files”

A single file will be created with all original files packaged and compressed and bundled into it for storage, email delivery, or thumb-drive transport.

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