Zip and WinZip. Why, What and How?

Have you ever noticed a file with a ‘.zip’ extension? Do you know what it is? Well, the files containing a .zip (or .zipx) extension are called zip files. Zip files are one of the most commonly found archive files. The Zip files are data containers that store files in a compressed manner and so save storage space.

This art of file management by packaging multiple files into one small bundle is called zipping and unzipping, and WinZip is the compression utility required for the process. Zipping and unzipping is famous for emailing attachments, downloading and transferring file through file transfer protocol (FTP).


Here, we will discuss a zip file and its uses, how to create and open zip files and the purpose of WinZip.

What is a Zip file?

A Zip file is a container holding several files in a compressed form. Zip files are also referred to as compressed folders, containers, archives and packages.

Initially, they were created for use with computers running DOS and then for the Windows operating systems. Nowadays, zip files are also used on other systems like the Mac and Unix operating systems.

Information is stored in a highly encoded form in the zip files, and it is not usable directly by other applications. The compressed files must be extracted, to obtain copies similar to the original files, for further use.

WinZip is a utility that can help in this extraction process.

Why are zip files used?

Zip files are famous all over the world. Do you know why it is used so widely?

Well, zipping a software program helps you save storage space, reduces the time for downloading it and keeps multiple related files together in a single file.

Thus the motive behind zip file is transportation and storage. It can compress the files upto 90% smaller size and makes it easier to send as email attachments.

Instead of sending and downloading several files one by one, a single zip file with all related data serves the purpose efficiently.

Large files are compressed and kept together in one single manageable file without losing any information. Isn’t that interesting?

How does it happen? Let’s find out.

How does a zip file work?

Zip files are a type of compressed files. Compressed files are a kind of archive that consists of one or more number of records in reduced size.

Zip files support lossless compression technique. Lossless compression removes the data redundancy in the files to reduce their sizes.

Data redundancy means when the same piece of data is held at multiple places in the database.

By removing these redundancies, it is ensured that only one instance of each bit of data exists in the database.

For example, fffffbbbbbbbb will be compressed to f5b7.

When the files are extracted, the original forms are obtained back.

Zip files implement different compression algorithms, and WinZip provides several options to compress the data that you add to the Zip files.

Parameters like the type of the data to be compressed, plans about unzipping the data later and the amount of time you can preferably devote for the compression process to complete, determine the choice of the compression method.

The WinZip Ribbon Interface and different compression methods

Select the proper compression method in the WinZip Ribbon Interface before starting the zipping process. It can be done in the Settings tab of the WinZip Ribbon.

Choose the required method in the .Zip and .Zipx fields for creating .zip and .zipx files respectively.

Some of the compression methods supported by the latest version of WinZip are as follows:

None or No compression

Sometimes you may want to add some files to the Zip file that are already compressed.

E.g., often multimedia and sound files like avi and MP3 are precompressed and cannot be compressed further to any significant degree by the existing methods.

None/No compression method saves time while adding such compressed files to the Zip file.


Deflate is a suitable general purpose algorithm, widely used for Zip files. It is optimized for speed instead of compression size. That is why, though it compresses the data in a faster way, but the compressed files are a bit larger.

Previously, WinZip had four variants of the deflate algorithm. They were Maximum (portable), Fast, SuperFast and Normal.

Their underlying technology is the same, and each one is optimized in different ways for speed and compression.

However, current versions of WinZip no longer use Fast and Normal variants, but they are still capable of extracting files compressed with any of these methods.

The variant Maximum is now famous as ‘enhanced deflate’ which is suitable for compressing large chunks of data in large text-based databases and other text files. It offers improved compression.


It is an open source algorithm for data compression which can compress files more effectively than the prevalent deflate methods. However, bzip2 is a little slower.


This is also an open source algorithm for data compression. LZMA is based on dictionary compression scheme and uses a larger dictionary than the deflate methods. It is capable of producing higher compression ratios than older methods.

Jpeg compression

This method is used to compress JPEG files. It is difficult to compress JPEG files because they already have an inbuilt effective compression scheme.

In JPEG compression, at first, the lossless compression (or entropy encoding) is undone within the JPEG images. Then, they are recompressed with a better algorithm.

While decompressing, the reverse occurs. At first, the compression algorithm is undone, and then, the original JPEG entropy encoding is reapplied.

WAVPACK and MP3 Compression

WAVPACK is also an open source compression method. WAVPACK is designed for lossless compression of WAV (audio) files. It produces excellent quality compression for such files.

Similarly, the MP3 compression method is designed for MP3 file compression.

Both of these methods cannot be manually selected. WinZip uses them automatically when you opt for “Best Method.”

How to create a Zip file? How to open it?

Now, you must be keen to know how you can create and open a zip file? It is practically effortless if you have WinZip installed.

Once downloaded, open WinZip in the WinZip Wizard mode to create a new Zip file. If the WinZip Wizard does not open by default, then click the Wizard button in the toolbar.

It will ask you “What do you want to do?” Select “Create a new Zip file” and click Next. This utility is very friendly, and it will guide you through the subsequent steps to complete the process.

It will not be hard for you to open a Zip file once you have the WinZip installed. Just double-click the zip file present in your email attachment.

Or else, start WinZip and select “Unzip or install from an existing zip file.” The Wizard will show you the subsequent steps.

More about WinZip

By now, you know that WinZip is a compression software which is very much popular for zip files. It is famous since April 1991.

Though it was initially designed with the motive of file compression, now its scope of facilities has expanded.

WinZip is now capable of file sharing and management, PDF-to-Word conversion and vice-versa, driver updates, registry optimization, courier and malware protection.

It is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. WinZip email companion version is also available for MS Outlook 2002, MS Outlook 2003, MS Outlook 2007, MS Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

WinZip supports many other well-known Internet file formats like tar, gzip, MIME, etc. It offers an interface to many virus scanner programs and is found in 16-bit or 32-bit versions.

Command Line Parameters and WinZip

WinZip also supports command line options for adding and extracting files.

To add the files, the command format is:

winzip32 [-min] action [options] filename[.zip] files

 Here, ‘-min’ signifies that WinZip must run in a minimized way. When specified, -min must be the first command line parameter.

There are four actions available like -a (add), -f (freshen), -u (update) and -m (move) and only one of them should be specified.

For options, -r will cause WinZip to add files from subfolders, and folder information for these files is stored only. -p will cause WinZip to store folder information of all the files and not just the subfolders.

Commands like -ex, -en, -ef, -es and -e0 specify the compression methods Extra, Normal, Fast, Superfast and no compression respectively. signifies the name of the zip file involved. Use full filename (including the folder). ‘files’ is the list of the file(s).

To extract files, the command format is:

winzip32 -e [options] filename[.zip] folder

Options used are -o and -j for “overwrite existing files without prompting” and “junk pathnames” respectively. -sPassword is used for the case-sensitive password.

Limitations of Winzip

However, there are certain limitations of WinZip. They are:

  • WinZip is found only in seven languages whereas another very popular compressor WinRar is available in about 45 languages.
  • Security features of WinZip are not very improved.
  • WinZip does not provide the scope of standard RAR compression and solid compression.
  • WinZip ignores points like extracting from broken files, separate archive and setting up compression dictionary size.

Alternatives of WinZip

WinZip is undoubtedly very popular for compressing and decompressing files. It is user-friendly and supports a variety of formats.

But WinZip is not cheap. You can avail a 30-day free trial, but a standard license costs around the U.S $35.94. Therefore, it is essential for you to know the alternatives of WinZip.

Other such programs are 7-Zip, Zipware, Ashampoo Zip Free, PeaZip, Hamster Zip Archiver, WinRar, PKZip, BandiZip, etc.



Thus, we see how Zip files help us in organizing large groups of information in small manageable units without any loss of data. They save storage space as well as reduce time in sharing and downloading.

The zip file can range between a small size like 22 bytes to a large size like 4GB. Recently, Zip’s founder Phil Katz’ PKWARE Inc. has introduced ZIP64, a new ZIP format, to increase the size limitation upto 16 EiB (around 18 million TB).

The zip file also offers an optional password padlock on its contents. You can use password cracker programs like ‘ZIP Password Cracker Pro’ to remove the password in case if you forget it.

Backup software tools like the COMODO backup often create file backups in the ZIP format to save space and for easy retrieval. It allows them to open the backup even without original backup software.

To deal with zip files, you will require a compression tool like WinZip which will aid you in accessing and storing data in a zip file as well as viewing, running, extracting, adding, deleting and testing files in a zip file. It will help you in creating and opening zip files.

Once you are well acquainted with the Zip operations, you can explore the WinZip Classic Interface which offers much more features than the WinZip Wizard.


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