What is ZIP and how does it work

Compressing files is not something you simply use voluntarily but is done automatically when sending photos by messaging, for example. But one of the best known options and that you have surely heard of is the ZIP format , a file format that allows us to group several documents or videos or photographs in a single location and reducing the size or weight.

Before entering to understand what ZIP is, we must be clear about what a compressed file is. These are files that are identical to the originals but smaller in size or weight. Either individually, in images or in video games that we download on Steam, or globally when we group them all in a single location as would be the case with ZIPs. Is it the best way to compress? No, the algorithm is not the one that will reduce the size of the files the most, but it is a popular, comfortable format that works as a container to easily send whatever you want.

What is ZIP and how does it work

ZIP is a format born in the late eighties and created by Phil Katz . Phil Katz was the founder of PKWARE, a software company that was responsible for distributing PKARC, a file compression format. But years later, in 1989, Katz launched its own compression system: PKZIP . This was the first program that used a new file format until now not used … It quickly became popular. Although the format was only used in PKZip, it became popular especially from the nineties with programs that you surely know and have used many times, as is the case with the well – known WinZIP .

What is it? It is a file compression system that allows us to compress or not more files in a single location and thus reducing the overall or general size, which allows them to be sent or transported more easily. Similar to a normal folder on the computer or hard disk but in which the files are compressed and require less data. It works as a file container. At first glance, we will differentiate them because they have the extension .zip in the file format in a similar way that others have .png or .mov or any other alternative.

The contents of a ZIP folder are slightly compressed . All in one location. They tend to take up less space (but not always and not with great compression) and are the best option for shared use in a company, for example, or to send data by email. It is a lossless data compression that allows everything to remain as it was at the beginning, intact, without any change and with various formats in the same location.

How to compress or decompress

We do not need a special program to decompress files if we have a current version of Windows. We can compress a folder in this format without any additional software and we can also extract its content in the same way to any location on the computer that we need. Whether you want a specific file or if you want to download all the ones it includes.

The steps to compress are very simple. You simply have to choose a folder on your computer or a series of files by selecting them with your PC mouse. Once you have them selected, we right click on the mouse and a series of options will appear (Open, anchor to quick access …) and we choose “Send to”. Here, several available possibilities will appear and we must choose “Compressed folder (in zip)”

We click on the option and a window will open on our computer that will indicate the progress. It will take a few seconds or up to several minutes depending on the number of files or their weight, but you will be able to see the progress in the green bar that appears on the screen. In addition, you may also see the approximate time left for the process to complete (as you can see in the screenshot below)

Once it is ready, you will see the folder on your computer in the location you have chosen . You will see that the icon is that of a normal folder in Windows but closed with a zipper, as you can see in the image. If we double click on it we will see what is inside it and if it has been created correctly with everything.

When we want to decompress, the process is fast and very similar. We simply have to look for the compressed ZIP folder and right click on it . At the top of the options we will see “Extract all”. And a window will appear where we can choose the location or direction in which they are going to unzip. Tap on “browse”, choose the location you want and confirm with “extract”. If you only want to “take” a document or photograph, double click and find the corresponding file of all the available ones. Tap on it and drag it out to the new location. It will be ready to use and with the original quality, without losing data.

What should we consider?

There are a number of aspects that we have to take into account if we want to use this type of compressed files and if you want to take full advantage of the advantages of ZIP.

What files can be compressed

We can compress all kinds of files and it is useful for our day to day thanks to the fact that it reduces weight and we can “transport” them easily. One of the most frequent uses (both voluntarily and involuntarily) is for images. We compress images when sending them by WhatsApp, for example, automatically. But it is also very useful to use the ZIP format to store large amounts of images in a single file that we can send more easily or that will take up less space when sharing it with someone by email or on a pendrive.

It is not the only thing, we can also compress other types of files such as videos, music or movies without suffering any damage. For example, if you want to send a series of audio tracks to someone and you want to put them together in a single ZIP file.

In addition, we can include all kinds of different files in the same folder. That is, not all of them must be images or videos or documents, but we can mix the type of content without any problem.

Do we lose quality?

No. There are many forms or types of compression such as lossy compression or lossy compression that leaves “information by the wayside” and does not allow to reconstruct the original file. For example, it is a common type in audiovisual format with series or movies. Or when we send photos to someone on WhatsApp, the application automatically compresses them to reduce their weight.

But in the case of the ZIP format, quality is not lost . When we unzip it, we get it to be as it was at the beginning regardless of the type of file we use.

Leave a Comment