Compressing and Uncompressing Files

As a practicing professional technical writer, one of your most important tools will be software that enables you to combine multiple files into one compressed file—in other words, a file that has fewer bytes than the total bytes in the original set of files. Typically, you'll be working on a documentation project made up of a dozen document files and maybe two dozen graphic files. It's outrageously impractical to send 36 files individually to your customer or colleague—just watch how mad they get! Instead you can compress those 36 files into one and, at the same time, reduce their total size by almost half. How? By using a category of software known as compression software.

The best known of this category of software is WinZip available at For some inexplicable reason, the wonderful makers of this wonderful software allow you to download this application and use it with reminders to "pay up" that are only mildly annoying. We should should support—they provide a terrific tool to the Internet world! Even so, there are numerous other compression utilities, which you can find at

The following tutorial walks you through dowloading, installing, and using WinZip:

  1. Go to and download WinZip. Click on Download Evaluation Version

  2. Double-click on the file name or icon and install WinZip.

Compressing ("Zipping") Files

Here's how you compress—in other words, "zip"—one or more files. When you've successfully installed WinZip, use the following steps to learn how to compress a set of files:

  1. In Windows, open Windows Explorer and navigate to a folder containing a number of files.

    Note: If you know the Macintosh steps for this task, send it to We'll incorporate it here.

  2. As shown in the image on the left side below, select four or five of those files, and right-click the mouse.

  3. With the mouse pointer over the selected files, select Add to Zip from the pop-up menu. Click I Agree to the evaluation agreement.

    In the image on the right, notice that you can select a folder and right-click. The resulting zip file will contain all of the files in the folder.

    Zipping selected files

    Zipping an entire folder

  4. In the Add dialog box, specify a name for the "zip" file you will be creating. For example, type in test after the path name. No need to add the .zip part; WinZip will handle that.

  5. Take a moment to compare the byte count of the original files and the zipped file. The ratio is sometimes as good as 2:1.

There are sometimes when it helps to "zip" a single file—for example, a monster text file or even a huge graphic file. For example, you might need to send them by e-mail attachment or upload them to an FTP site. Compressing a single file is the same as compressing multiple files—just select one file!

Uncompressing ("Unzipping") Files

When you install a program like Winzip, at least in Windows, it makes itself the god of zipping and unzipping files. Therefore, double-clicking a zip file will automatically start WinZip. Here's a brief set of steps for unzipping the compressed file you created in the preceding:

  1. In Windows Explorer, navigate to the folder containing the zipped file you created in the preceding section of this tutorial.

    Note: If you know the Macintosh steps for this task, send it to We'll incorporate it here.

  2. Double-click on that file. Click I Agree to the evaluation agreement.

  3. When the WinZip dialog comes up, press Extract.

  4. In the Extract dialog, specify a different or new folder so that you can see the results.

That's it! WinZip, and compression software like it, provides many other interesting and useful features; but the preceding at least gives you the basics for handling the majority of your workload as a technical writer.

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