Friday, September 14, 2007

Compressing and Decompressing Files

A standard utility used in file management involves compressing and decompressing files. What does this mean?

At one point in your life, you've probably found yourself trying to cram a lot of clothing into a suitcase. When you arrived at your destination, you opened the suitcase and took out all the clothing. A compression/decompression utility employs various algorithms to "crunch" numerous files into an "electronic suitcase" so that they take up less space and can be stored (or transmitted to another destination) as a single entity. When needed, the files stored within the compressed file can be extracted individually or en masse.

On a Windows platform, you may use a utility like WINZIP, thereby creating compressed files that are named with the default suffix *.ZIP. The process of creating compressed files with this software is referred to as "zipping" files. Extracting files from a compressed *.ZIP file is called "unzipping files."

On the Macintosh platform, Stuffit is a popular utility which can perform compression/decompression file-management chores on a variety of file formats.

Why should you worry about zipping and unzipping files? Because compression/decompression technology offers you an invaluable electronic shortcut.

If you were working with a transcription service that had finished transcribing 35 files and was planning to transmit them to you as an enclosed file attached to an email message, you could do the following:

  • You could either receive 35 separate messages with 35 attached files (an extremely time-consuming process), or the service could "zip" all of the appropriate files into one compressed file, attach that compressed file to one email message, and send it to you in that format.

  • When you received the email message with the attached file, you would then download the attachment to your hard drive, "unzip" the compressed file, and immediately be able to start working with the 35 files that had been compressed into a "zipped" file and attached to your email.

Next: Managing Data On Your Hard Drive

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