What Does Zip Mean on a File?

By Sarah Morse

A zipped folder holds compressed files.
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When you see ".zip" on the end of a file, you're looking at an extension that indicates to the computer the nature of this file and how to open it. The .zip extension tells the computer that this is a compressed folder that contains one or more files. Windows computers can create and open these files without any extra software.


Zipping a single file makes it smaller, freeing up storage space for other files. The zip folder's power becomes clear when you compress multiple files together. Not only does this reduce the size of the files in general, but it combines them together to make one file. This makes sharing much easier. Instead of attaching 10 photos to an email, for example, you can zip them all together and attach only one file, saving both you and the recipient time.


The means for zipping a file come with the Windows operating system; you just have to know how to access it. To compress a folder in Windows 8, right-click on it, scroll down to "send to" and click "Compress (zipped) Folder." The system makes a copy of the folder and its contents and compresses it, placing it in the same area as the original folder. You can compress single files in Windows 8 by selecting them, clicking "Share" in the menu and pressing "Zip."


To pull files out of a zipped folder in Windows 8, double-click to open the compressed folder and drag and drop the files you want to extract to another location. You can also extract all the files at once by clicking the folder to select it, pressing the "Compressed Folder Tools" tab and selecting "Extract All." After they are extracted, you can open and read the files without limit unless they were encrypted by another user.

Extra Features

You do not need any extra software to create or extract from ZIP files, but if you want to do anything extra, you need something more powerful than the Windows system alone. Programs such as 7-Zip and StuffIt can create even smaller files than the standard zip using different compression techniques. They can also encrypt a zipped file with password protection for privacy. Some of these programs are open source and free, while others require a payment or subscription.