Unlike previous versions of Windows, Windows XP has built in support for “zipping” and “unzipping” files. Unfortunately, in many cases, this new feature has caused a lot of confusion.
In the past, you needed a separate software program, such as WinZip, to zip and unzip files. Because zipping is now sort of built into Windows XP, people seem to misunderstand what actually is going on.
First it helps to understand what a zip file is. Basically, it’s a file that holds one or more compressed files inside it. Zip files are handy for moving files around, since one file is easier to deal with than many, and because of the compression feature, the total size of the zip file is smaller than the other files combined. So for years many people have used zip compression to e-mail large files or distribute software products.
Two things make zipping somewhat confusing in Windows XP. First is that to access the files in a zip, you don’t necessarily need to unzip the files. You see the file list and the way you can tell it’s a zip file is because it’s got a “zipper” icon. The second problem is that Windows changed the terminology. Now it’s called a compressed folder, not a zip file. (Maybe they did that because the icon looks more like a folder than a file?)
Anyway, in Windows, if you don’t unzip (or extract) the files, you can often run into problems when you go to work with them. To avoid confusion, I tend to extract all the files so I don’t have to worry about it. Extracting all the files in a compressed folder/zip file is easy. In Windows Explorer, right-click the little “zipper” folder icon and then click Extract All. Tell the Wizard where you want to put the files.
To zip (i.e. compress) files, you basically do the reverse. Highlight the files you want to zip, right-click, and choose Send To Compressed (zipped) Folder. Windows creates a zip folder with your files inside.