Compressing (Zipping) files for Windows using Mac OS X

Questions

How do I compress ( also referred to as zip, compact or archive) a file or folder of files using Mac OS? X so it can be opened in the Windows operating system? How do I expand or uncompress a Zip archive I receive from a Windows user? Do I need any special software?

Requirements

Mac OS X Panther (10.3) or Mac OS X Tiger (10.4)
Mac OS X Tiger (10.4.4) or newer recommended



Discussion

Compressing (often referred to as "zipping" a file in the Windows world) is an excellent method to keep file sizes small when sending data via email. Compressing files is also an excellent way to protect files (for example Autocad DWG? or DXF? or word processing files) from becoming corrupted during internet/email transfer. While there are a few methods available using third part applications such as Stuffit Deluxe, there is one method that ships free with Mac OS X which we'll discuss here. You can use third party applications to create zip archives on your Mac but if you do, remember to reset their preferences to avoid a common problem describe in this related article on our website (zipped archives won't open for windows users INTL URL ). Overall, for making zipped archives that are cross platform compatible we prefer the method described below which is built into Mac OS X.

Don't forget, if you have an Apple Dot.Mac? account, you can also post files on your iDisk? and provide links to them in an email which can be a helpful way to stream line email communication. The same technique can also be applied if you have access to an FTP? server.

What to do

Expanding or Uncompressing a Zip archive:
You received a file which is zipped and it has a .zip extension and you'd like to get it open; simply double click the file and Mac OS X will automatically expand the file.

Note that will not work for .exe files (self excecuting files) as those are actually mini applications that run on a Windows Operating System. If you received a file like that you should contact the sender and have them recompress (re-zip) the file without making it self executing. There are many kinds of .exe files in the Windows world and the one you received may not necessarily be a self executing zip archive so talking with the original sender is the best way to sort the issue out.

Basic techniques of zipping (compressing) a single file and multiple files (or a folder of files).
There are few options in how you can create a zip archive using Mac OS X. The most common options are reviewed below with step by step instructions on what to do.

Option 1: To zip a single file, do this:

  1. click once on the file to select it in the Finder (e.g. MyFile1.doc)
  2. choose File menu -> Create Archive of MyFile1.doc
    • (note, the name of the file will be different and is automatically appended to the end of the Create Archive menu item)
  3. the file is zipped and a new archive is created in the same location as the original file
  4. the archive will be the same name as the file with a .zip suffix (e.g. MyFile1.doc.zip)
  5. the file from step 4 may be attached to an email

Reminders:

  • In step (2), you may also Control + Click (or Right+Click with a multi-button mouse) on a file and choose Create Archive from the Contextual menu.
  • In step (3) the archive is a copy. The original, uncompressed file, still remains. If you are emailing the zipped file, you may want to delete the zipped version after it's sent to reduce clutter and redundant files.
  • in step (4) .zip is appended to the end of the file name. In the example above, MyFile1.doc.zip was created. Some versions of the Windows OS can get confused by the double suffix (.doc.zip). It may be necessary (and we suggest it is simply good practice) to rename the archive so it contains only the .zip suffix. For example MyFile1.doc.zip would be renamded to MyFile1.zip. This renaming process affects only the zipped archive name, your original file name and suffix is unaffected. If your file name was very long or contained special characters not supported in the Windows OS, you may also want to rename the zipped archive accordingly.

Option 2: To zip a folder containing multiple files, do this:
The steps are the same as outlined above for compressing a single file. Simply select the Folder in step (1) instead of the individual file.

Option 3: To zip multiple files (not in a folder), do this:

  1. click once on each file to select it in the Finder (e.g. MyFile1.doc, MyFile2.doc, etc.)
    • (hint: Press the Shift key to make multiple, contiguous, selections. Press Command to make multiple, non-contiguous, selections)
  2. choose File menu -> Create Archive of 2 items
    • (note, the number is automatically appended to the end of the Create Archive menu item depending on the quantity of files you have selected)
  3. the files are zipped and a new archive is created in the same location as the original file
    • (note: this archive is actually a folder containing the selected items)
  4. the archive will be named Archive.zip
  5. the archive from step 4 may be attached to an email.

Reminders:

  • All the reminders from Option 1 apply.
  • in step (5) you may want to give the archive a more meaningful name that Archive.zip. Just make sure to keep the .zip suffix.

What does the Windows user do when they receive the archive?
Once the Windows OS user receives the archive, they expand the item using a utility such as WinZip or other utility appropriate for their operating system.

We hope that helps
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Renaming your files after Zipping

To avoid possible confusion in the Windows OS?, you might want to rename the zipped archive so it contains only one file suffix. That is, to be safe there should be only one dot in the file name.

Example:
If you zipped an M$Word document or AutoCAD DWG? file, the result would look like this:

  • filename.doc.zip
  • filename.dwg.zip

It's the the *.doc.zip or *.dwg.zip (or other similar double suffixes) that could cause a problem.

To be safe simply rename the zipped archive. Note we're talking about renaming the zipped archive, not the original file. That's because when the Windows OS user receives your file, the OS will need the original three letter suffix (e.g. *.doc or *.dwg, etc.) to open the file. By renaming only the zipped archive to remove the double suffix you maintain the original, valid, file suffix.

Now, there are times when the double suffix might not be a problem, but if you're having problems, or just like avoiding them in the first place, the rename process is quick and easy.

We hope that helps

Zipping in OS X Leopard

Apple made a slight change to the menu item names in Mac OS? X Leopard (10.5.x).

When reviewing your steps above for option 1 or option 2, the name of the menu item in step two in both cases has changed.

Old menu item name in OS X Tiger:

  • For a single selected file:
    • File? menu -> Create Archive of MyFile1.doc where myFile1.doc is the name of the file you selected in the finder window.
  • For multiple selected files:
    • File menu -> Create Archive of 2 items where the number of items (e.g. 2) varies with the number of files you have selected

New menu item name in OS X Leopard:

  • For a single selected file:
    • File menu -> Compress MyFile1.doc where myFile1.doc is the name of the file you selected in the finder window.
  • For multiple selected files:
    • File menu -> Compress 2 Items where the number of items (e.g. 2) varies with the number of files you have selected

The difference is nothing more than a change to the menu item, the general behavior and method of use has not changed.

We hope that helps.

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