Take something big and stuff it into a small space. That’s the essence of file compression. In the Windows world, it is common to use .Zip, .Rar, .Ace and now .7z file formats. The world is predominantly Windows based, and you might come across these filetypes often. If you are making the Windows to OS X switch or otherwise new to OS X, this article will show you how to handle these filetypes within Mac OS X.
Created by Phil Katz and released back in 1989, Zip compression has been around for a long time. Originally it was released as a command-line utility but in the 90’s, shareware developers created applications to use Zip compression graphically. If you’ve been around Windows long enough, you may remember the popular WinZip.
OS X has the Zip compression built-in. All you have to do is double click on the Zip file and it will begin opening up.
If you want to create a Zip archive, Ctrl-Click (Right-Click) on the folder and choose “Create Archive of ‘(FolderName)'”. In Leopard, when you Ctrl-Click, you would choose “Compress”.
RAR archives are a proprietary format developed by Eugene Roshal (Roshal ARchive). With RAR, large archives may be broken into smaller pieces (.r01, .r02, etc) and then re-assembled. Although it works slower to compress than Zip / Gzip, a RAR archive would be smaller.
To open up a RAR archive in OS X, What I have found to work extremely well is a freeware application called The Unarchiver.
Download the file and install to your Applications Folder. To use, there are two options:
- 1. Ctrl-Click on the file and choose “Open with” and scroll down until you find The Unarchiver in your Applications list
- 2. Run The Unarchiver, Click on Preferences from The Unarchiver Menu Bar item and choose which formats you would like The Unarchiver to handle. (Note: There are many more archive types that this Application can handle, its a great piece of software)
To create a RAR under OS X, use the freeware application Simply RAR.
7Zip or 7z:
7z is an open source archive format that can handle large file sizes and supports different compression schemes. Similar to RAR, it provides better compression than Zip / Gzip but works a little slower. Its debatable whether 7z is better than RAR, it mostly depends on what type of files you are compressing. Currently gaining popularity, if you have never seen a .7z archive, you may see one in the future.
If you need to create a 7z archive, use 7zX.
Gzip / BZip / Tar – Unix File Compression:
GZip is short for GNU Zip, an open source compression scheme in UNIX. First released back in 1992 by Jean-loup Gailly and Mark Adler, it works similarly to the popular Zip compression.
BZip is another open source compression scheme for UNIX developed by Julian Seward. BZip works similar to RAR/7z in the fact that it is slower, yet produces better compression.
Tar is short for Tape ARchive. While it provides no compression in itself, it collects numerous smaller files and puts them together in one archive which then will either be GZipped or BZipped.
Since the GZip, Bzip and Tar archive formats are Unix based file, OS X includes them built in. To open either a .GZIP, .GZ, .BZ2, or .TAR file, double click on the file and it will decompress.
To create them, if you’re skilled with the terminal, OS X also includes this function built-in. If you like using a GUI, Michael Austin’s freeware TarPit does the job.
WinAce is an archiving scheme for Windows that isn’t used as much as it used to. Both RAR and Windows built-in implementation of Zip seem to have taken over in popularity.
If, for some reason, you ever have the need to extract a WinACE on OS X (and I never had), WinAce distributes their MacUnace utility for OS X.
Also, the earlier mentioned The Unarchiver will open up WinACE files as well.
For Leopard (10.5) users:
Finally, With the release of Leopard, there have been some changes. The old archiving handler called BOMArchiveHelper is now called Archive Utility. (It is located in the /System/Library/CoreServices/ folder).
What’s new is that it may be opened as an application, complete with preferences. With Archive Utility, you can now select where you would like to open files to, as well as switch archive formats. This means that when you Ctrl-Click on a file/folder and choose “Compress” you can choose what type of compression as well as where the file will go.
As far as any one program to “rule them all”.
For just opening up all the different archive filetypes, go with The Unarchiver. When you get involved in creating the different archive types, that’s when the other programs are necessary.