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The zen of zip

By Joel Rydbeck

It's easy to open zipped files. Many Web sites and nerdy folks out there send them routinely. Yet a lot of people get nervous when someone asks them to zip up a file themselves. As we use larger and more complex applications, the data files we create can also be larger and more cumbersome. So, what should you do when a file is so large you have trouble e-mailing it or transferring it to another computer? The answer is ... zip it, zip it good.

In this article we will look at what actually happens when you zip a file, benefits to zipping and several good zipping programs. This is your chance to take the zip by the horns and enjoy one of the most efficient technologies available.

It's hip to zip

Zip technology enables you to compact and combine multiple files into one single (and often smaller) file that can be easily exchanged with other people. If you need access to the files that were zipped, you can swiftly unzip them and read or update the data at any time.

Aside from the obvious perk of making a file smaller, zipping comes with some other nifty benefits:

  • E-mails containing zipped files upload and download faster than unzipped files.
  • Many e-mail systems remove .exe files and other types of attachments; zipped files are able to pass through unimpeded.
  • Zipping enables you to easily collect many files and directory structures into one file.
  • Zipped files can be password protected so only intended recipients (or you) can open them.
  • Zipping is an efficient way to maintain and preserve file archives as well as back up current files.
  • Zipping's built-in error checking helps ensure that files remain complete and intact.

Zippity do doc

Zip technology may sound intimidating but it's actually pretty simple. Here is how it works. In a given article, I probably use the word "and" 25 times. Every time I spell out "and" and put a space after it, I use four letters. That means I'm using about 100 letters to say "and" over and over.

A zip program looks at my repeated use of "and" and decides that instead of storing it as the word "and," it will use the digit "1." That reduces the size of the file by 75 letters. And that's only the beginning of the compression.

Ziptastic tools

Occasionally, zipped files get corrupted in transit. However, good zipping software will alert you if errors develop and will even correct them sometimes. Keep in mind that applications with advanced features will be more challenging to use. Here are some spiffy, basic zip tools to consider:

· Windows XP: By default, Windows offers the ability to zip and unzip files. If you see a file folder with the zipper icon, you'll know it's zipped. By double clicking on it you can view and update the contents almost as if it were an ordinary file. This feature comes with Windows XP at no extra charge.

· WinZip: WinZip has been a leader in file zipping since the mid-1990s. It's a touch complex, but you can do several things that Windows XP's default zip cannot, such as create automated zip jobs and zip and burn directly to CDs and DVDs. Robust versions range in price from $19.95 to $59.95. There's also a free version. For more information visit

· 7-Zip: This is a great free zip tool that can handle additional zip formats (open-architecture, high-compression and encrypted, for example) that Windows doesn't. I use this for most of my zipping. For further details, visit

Additional zip programs include SnapZip (, WinRar (, PKZip ( and many more.

Zip, zippin' away

Why not start with Windows XP's basic zip tools if you haven't already tried them? Zipping a file in XP is easy: Right-click on a file or folder in one of the locations where you store documents.

Select "Send To," and then select "Compressed (zipped) Folder." The zipped file or folder will appear in the same location as the original file or folder.

To zip more than one file or folder simultaneously, shift-click on the files or folders you want to compress. Next, keep the shift key down while you right-click. Then select "Send To," and select "Compressed (zipped) Folder."

For more features, like password protection, faster encryption, smaller files, etc., look into one of the other products I've described. A few mouse clicks, and you'll be zippin' along with the nerds.

Joel Rydbeck, Chief Technology Officer of Nubrek Inc., brings his strong background in e-commerce and business process automation to the merchant services industry. Nubrek offers eISO, a Web application for ISOs that tracks leads and provides automated residual and commission reports. For more information on eISO or to view a free demo, visit E-mail Rydbeck at

Article published in issue number 060802

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