Zip is a file format that is used to combine multiple files into a single compressed file.
Zip files are useful anytime multiple related files and folders need to be distributed electronically. Zipping all of the files and folders into a single Zip file offers two benefits.
- First, Zip files save time.
- Second, Zip files simplify distribution.
Since Zip files are compressed a Zip file is smaller than the combined size of the files and folders contained in the Zip file. As a result, a Zip file can be downloaded faster than would be possible if the contents were downloaded in an unzipped format. Also, Zip files can be downloaded as a single file. If the files and folders weren't contained in a Zip file they would all have to be downloaded individually.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Zip files safe?
Zip files can be used to mask malicious files such as viruses and trojan horses. E-mail programs and anti-virus software are usually smart enough to recognize and block most malicious files. However, there's no way to know what is inside a Zip file without opening it. As a result, a spammer, phisher, hacker, or scammer can use a harmless-looking Zip file to disguise a malicious file. If you open the Zip file and then act on the malicious file you'll be exposing your computer to the malicious code.
Zip files are incredibly useful, so the answer isn't to swear them off. Instead, the best way to protect yourself against this type of activity is to never open a Zip file unless you know where it came from and what it contains.
What are Zip files used for?
Zip files are a popular way to package and distribute software. Every piece of software includes multiple files and folders. Zip files can be used to wrap all of those files and folders in a single easy-to-share and easy-to-use format.
You can also use Zip files anytime you want to share multiple files. For example, the next time you want to send a dozen pictures of your vacation to your Mom wrapping them all in a Zip file will make them easier for you to attach to an e-mail, and easier for your Mom to download.
Do I need special software to use Zip files?
All modern computers include the software necessary to work with Zip files. However, WinZip is a popular free application that many advanced computer users find superior to the applications included with Windows and Apple operating systems.
Why can't I change a file contained in a Zip file?
Zip files are great for distribution of files, but you shouldn't zip your files and folders into a Zip file until they're ready for distribution. Once a file is zipped, the files and folders it contains can't be edited. In order to make changes, you'll need to unzip the file, make the necessary edits, and then zip the contents back into a new Zip file.