Zipping files is a great way to save space and keep your files organised. Here’s how to work with zip files on a Mac - how to zip them and unpack (or 'unzip' them), how to extract a Jpeg from a zip on a Mac, and all your zip file info. Updated 14 August 2013

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How to zip files on a Mac: The basics

To zip a single file, hold down Ctrl and click it, then select Compress on the menu. The zip will be created almost instantly and you’ll hear the system alert sound to indicate the process has completed.

To compress several files and/or folders, create a new folder (Shift + Cmd + N) within Finder or on the desktop and name it whatever you want the zip to be called. Drag and drop the files you want to be in the zip, but hold down Alt before releasing the mouse button so the files are copied there. Then hold down Ctrl and click the folder, selecting the Compress option on the menu. Once zipping has completed, drag the folder you created to the Trash.

Pro tip: Windows users decompressing your zip will also see “dot files” – files and folders whose filenames are preceded by dots or sometimes underscores (i.e. “.DS_Store” or “_MACOSX”). These are Mac system files and can be ignored. You can use a free app like FolderWasher to remove dot files before creating the zip.


How to zip files on a Mac: Unzipping

Extracting the files from an archive is as easy as double-clicking it - the files and/or folders will be deposited in the same location as the zip, and the zip can then be deleted. If the zip uses password protection you’ll be prompted via a pop-up dialog box.

Should you need to decompress an archive that’s not a zip - a .rar file, for example - then install The Unarchiver. This is free from the App Store and works in exactly the same way as the built-in zip tool – simply double-click the archive file and the files and folders will automatically be extracted to the same location.

Pro tip: To preview the contents of archives using OS X’s Quick Look feature, install the free BetterZip Quick Look Generator.

How to zip files on a Mac: Advanced zipping

Some non-Mac users believe Macs use the StuffIt (.hqx, .sit and .sitx) compression formats. This was true 10 to 20 years ago but most Mac users have been happily using zips for years.

However, some people still use StuffIt, which remains a powerful application able to do things the built-in Mac zip tool can’t, such as create a wider variety of archive formats. To use it, just drag and drop the file or folder onto the Zip tile in the StuffIt interface. The archive will be created instantly.

Creating password-protected zips, and also archive files in other formats, can be done using the free Keka app. To add a password to a zip, start Keka by double-clicking it within the Applications list, then click the Zip button and type the password in the relevant fields. Then drag and drop your file or folder onto the program window. The archive will be created instantly in the same location as the original file(s). To create archives in other formats, just select their buttons in Keka and again drag and drop files/folders.

How to zip files on a Mac: Automatically extract a.jpg (or other 'safe' file type) from a zip file

Some web browsers unzip what they consider to be safe files automatically when you download them (in Safari's case safe files include image files such as Jpeg, PDFs and movies); this may be something you'd rather not happen.

If you're in Safari, go to the Safari dropdown menu, then Preferences, and select the General tab. Then either tick or untick the option 'Open "safe" files after downloading'.

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