File Compression

Compressed files contain single files or folders and groups of files bundled as a single archive.  The most common compressed file format types are .zip and .sit, formats for the PC and Macintosh respectively.  Utilities like Stuffit, WinZip or PKZip compress and decompress files.  Some versions of these utilities only decompress files.  The self-extracting files for Windows and Macintosh are .exe and .sea.  These do not require software to decompress—double-clicking the file launches a decompression script.

Most computers already have compression software installed, often with the system software or with browsers. Windows ME and XP include built-in ZIP file format tools.  The desktop right-click menu and the Windows Explorer's File menu provide commands to easily create or open .zip files.  Mac OS X Panther offers cross-platform standard GNU Zip compression and expansion.

Many compression utilities are available online, including freeware and evaluation copies of shareware (see the links below).  Tutorials can also be found online, and a WinZip tutorial is linked below. 

The following table provides basic information about compressed file types and the utilities commonly used to handle the files.  To explore this topic in greater detail, follow the FAQ.org link below.

Compressed and Encoded Files
File Type
.bin Mac A binary II Encoded File. Stuffit Binary
.exe Windows A self-extracting file (CAUTION: or a program).   Unknown until opened.
.gz/gzip UNIX and PC   MacGZIP Binary
.hqx Mac Common Macintosh ASCII encoding conversion format. Stuffit, BinHex4, BinHex13 Binary
.sit Mac Macintosh files compressed by Stuffit. Stuffit Binary
.sea Mac Macintosh self-extracting archive file.   Binary
.tar UNIX, PC   WinZIP, Tar Binary Tar
.tar.gz/.tgz   .tar file gzipped    
.uu   Binary data converted into text WinCode, UU Undo Binary
.Z UNIX   WinZIP, Stuffit Binary
.zip   Common standard for DOS, Windows PKZIP, WinZIP, Stuffit Binary

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