Across the years, downloading large files has always been a challenge because they take time, especially with a dial-up connection. The biggest challenge, though, was that downloaders needed to download a set of related files, perhaps even a set of files in a specific directory structure. (I remember trying to do that at 2400 bps with individual files!)
There have been a number of solutions developed over the years. In today’s world, though, the solutions are usually specific to an operating system — PC/Windows versus MAC versus PC/Linux. In the PC/Windows world, we often use the .zip files (not related to Zip Drives).
The zip files solved both the size and file structure problems at the same size. Well, they really just reduced the size problem for dialup — the real solution is a high-speed connection via cable or dsl for home users.
Zip files have become so common that, as of Windows XP, we no longer have to purchase a third-party zip/unzip program or find a freeware one. Instead, Microsoft installs zip and unzip capabilities as part of the Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional operating system packages.
With a zip file, you “extract” the files and directory structure to the destination of your choice. If the zip file is an installation program, typically, then you click on Setup.exe (Setup, if you aren’t showing the file extensions), to actually install the program. Often, the zip file is used as protection for the executable file, as many firewalls will protect you (or your business) by preventing the download of .exe executables or .msi (Microsoft Installer-formatted) programs.
Sometimes, though, we need to receive some data files from someone who is using a different type of operating system. The first challenge becomes how to receive the file(s) in a file-structure format.
Zip files again come to the rescue. Linux systems can zip files and directories that Windows systems can read. On the other hand, Linux systems more often use gzip, tar, and tgz (tarred, then gzipped, also called .tar.gz) files for storage and transfer. Remember that we are talking about data files only – the documents and images – not the program files. There are also a huge number of various compression and packaging formats that have been used over the years within the Windows world.
For everything except .zip files, I use FilZip — my Shareware/Freeware Pick of the Week.