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What is a Zip file?

Last Updated: Friday, 09-Jan-2015 12:32:43 PST

What is a Zip file?

Many of the files on my site end in .zip. Zip is an archival and compressed format used to put more than one file in one download or to make the file size smaller/download time shorter. The Zip file is opened with a program, which extracts the original file or folder with files in it, which is the one that has the text, graphics, audio, video, or program in it.

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A Zip file can contain almost any file format or folder of files in it. Zip compression is unique in that it is a safe file on Mac OS X, because it cannot contain resource forks and is different than JPEG, because it uses lossless compression, meaning that you do not lose any quality in trade, for a smaller file. Zip compression is also very fast to create and to open. Zip compression is popular for packaging programs on Windows and sometimes Mac OS X. On Mac OS X, a program in a zip file must have the .app extension, or it will not work, so you can tell by the extension whether or not the file is a program.


Zip decompression is built into Mac OS X 10.3 and higher, Windows ME and higher (including XP, Vista, and Windows 7, and later), and recent versions of major Linux distributions. On Mac OS X, you just double click on the file that ends in Zip, and then a folder or file opens up, that can be any format, which can then be opened with the appropriate viewer/reader application. On Linux, you generally have to click on the button "extract" to open it up. The only reason why Zip compression and decompression wasn't built into previous major operating systems is that it once was protected by a patent, which has now expired.

Extra Folder

Due to decisions made early on, when Macs and PCs were much more different, than they are today, Windows used 3 letter extensions like .doc, .htm, and .jpg, to associate a program, with a particular file format. On the Mac, things were different. Instead of having an extension to the file name, Macs had extra files, that were used, to determine which program, to open a file in, which depended on the program, that created the document, instead of the file format. Due to these heritage, Mac OS X still has some extra files that it places in the Mac filesystem. These files are invisible on Mac OS X, but show up on Windows and Linux. The result of this is that when you get a Zip file created in Mac OS X, you often get a folder called __MACOSX. I have found a program, that gets rid of this file, but you may see it on many of the zip files, on my website, which I have not updated yet. You can either just leave it there or delete it. I shouldn't cause any problems, either way (even on a Mac). You may also see a folder called .Trashes and/or a file called .DS_Store. You can do the same with these as well.

You can also get Zip Free Version of All My Texts, if you have trouble downloading or opening Zip files, due to faulty security software, or over-simplified corporate computer security policies. Realize that the Zip archive file format was used, by me, for a reason, and not using it will result in taking more of your time and energy, as well as it will take much more time and bandwidth to download, especially over slow connections.

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