August 16, 2006
The Zip file is a popular archive and data compression format that is gaining popularity as downloading files over the Internet becomes more mainstream. Developed in 1989 the Zip file was designed to allow easier access to archives or groups of files and could be accessed by graphical applications as opposed to the ‘PKZip’ protocol that required a command line application for use.
A Zip file is a simple archive in which each individual file gets compressed separately. Compressing files separately allows two things; each individual files can be retrieved without reading through other data and, it allows better compression by using different algorithms for different file types. The Zip format also supports a simple password system however this has known security holes.
There are many applications that can be used to create and open Zip files. The most popular is WinZip with over 160 million downloads but others like BOMArchiveHelper and PicoZip can also be used. Recent versions of Windows XP and Mac OS X have basic built-in Zip applications however using a dedicated Zipping program will give you more flexibility and control over your Zip archives.
Zip files make it easy to keep related files together and make transporting, e-mailing, downloading and storing data and software faster and more efficient. Zip files can be useful in many different ways – if you want to email a group of files you can ‘Zip’ them up and then send the individual Zip file. When the file arrives the recipient simply ‘unzips’ it and all of the files appear as they were with their original structure.
Other formats for archiving files do exist for different platforms, including ‘GZip’ for Unix and ‘Sit’ files for Macintosh. However the Zip format is the most popular and universally used amongst PC users.