A guide to using file compression

Let’s talk about file compression. We’ll start this off simple and point you to a folder in Windows Explorer.

A guide to using file compression
That one.
That’s a zipped folder — actually, a compressed file that contains a folder. Don’t get confused yet. The thing is, there’s more than one file compression type — in fact, there’s many of them, and .zip is only the most popular because, well, it’s built into Windows.

Compressed files are used by people all across the web to allow quicker download times and space-saving. You may find yourself creating your own compressed files if something you want to carry from one computer to another won’t fit on the device you’re using to transfer — say, your movie collection is too big for your flash drive. Likewise, people hosting file downloads generally keep them compressed so they take up less space when stored, are and are quicker to upload and download — it’s a win-win situation!

To easily create a compressed file, download a tool like WinRAR or 7Zip — these programs will add an option to compress or archive a folder whenever you right-click it. The compressed folder will then be created within the same folder the original originates from.

You can also create a compressed file using the right click context menu built directly into Windows. All you need to do is to select the file, files or folder that you want to turn into a compressed file and then right click on the selected item or items. Then select ‘Send to’ and then ‘Compressed (zipped) folder’. This compressed file will then appear in the folder where the selected files were located.

Compressed Archive

Whenever you’re browsing the internet, you may find yourself downloading, say, a photo album or a website archive. Most files like this that you download are compressed — and to access them, you’ll need to identify the file’s suffix before you take action.

The File Format and its suffix (.zip, etc) What that file format does.
.zip, Zip Decreases size without losing any information, quite a space-saver. Can be encrypted.
.bz2, bzip2 Cannot compress an archive, just a single file. Uses more space, but works faster.
.rar, RAR Proprietary format used generally for larger files or folders. Decodable with WinRAR or 7Zip.
.z7, 7Zip File type introduced in the program 7 Zip, compatible with that and other open-source utilities, but not integrated into Windows in any way. Generally used as a free alternative to .rar.
.tar, the Tape Archive Not actually a Tape Archive, but used for websites and open-source development projects. Doesn’t decrease size by much.
MSI, the Windows Installer Typically seen for business machines. Saves no space.
.exe, executable Executable programs or installers. Saves no space.
.jar, the Java Archive Format Used for a collection of Java files. Unzippable by Windows, but order of files will be lost- unrecommended.
.deb, .apk Debian and Android applications, respectively.



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