Random stuff from Patrick Crispen

How to Unzip a File

Have you ever had a file on your computer that was so ridiculously large it was all but impossible for you to send it to a friend as an email attachment? Or, even better, have you ever wanted to email someone a BUNCH of different files at the same time but didn't want to go through the tedious process of having to attach the files to the email one at a time? That's where the ZIP file format comes in.

The ZIP file format allows you to both compress and archive your files. What does that mean in English? Well, 'file compression' is just a way of saying 'smushing a file so that it takes up less space on your hard drive' and 'file archiving' is just a way of saying 'making a copy of the original file so that you can put a copy somewhere else.' The file compression part of the ZIP file format is what makes it so popular with web developers. For example, in the PowerPoint Files section of my website I've placed about two dozen PowerPoint files you are free to download. Each of those files are "zipped" so that they take up less hard drive space and therefore will take less time for you to download.

How do you open [or "unzip"] a ZIP file? If you have Windows ME or XP, or Apple OS X, just double-click on the zip file or folder, which will look something like this:
ZIP Folder in Windows XP

Notice the zipper? That's Windows XP's way of telling you that the file or folder has been zipped. Once you double-click on that file or folder, it should open just as if it were a regular file or folder on your computer.

What if you don't have Windows ME or XP or Apple OS-X? Well you need to download and install a special piece of software that will zip and unzip files. This may sound like more trouble than it is worth, but a zip/unzip program is an ESSENTIAL tool, especially if you are going to be using the Internet a lot. In fact, call someone you know who is a computer guru, someone whose advice you trust implicitly, and ask her if she could live without her zip program. She'll laugh. Zip programs are THAT important.

Where can you get a zip program? Well, for PC users, I recommend WinZip. You can download a free evaluation version of WinZip at http://www.winzip.com/ddchomea.htm. It has been a while since I have unzipped a file on a Mac, but I seem to remember that Aladdin's free StuffIt Expander worked pretty well. You can download StuffIt expander for Mac, PC, and even Linux at http://www.stuffit.com/

Download either program and then install it. After that, whenever you encounter a zipped file (a file that ends in ".zip"), just double-click on that file. Your unzip program will automatically open, and you can then choose where you want the unzipped version of that file to be saved on your computer.

That's it.

By the way, one of the reason why I prefer WinZip over StuffIt Expander for the PC is that WinZip adds unzip capabilities to Windows Explorer's context menus. To see what that means, install WinZip, right-click on any zipped file on your computer, and then choose "extract" from the pop-up window. No more double-clicking. Happy uncompressing!

Copyright © 2014 Patrick Crispen. Contents licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license. All other rights reserved.