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How to use File Compression - The Complete Guide
File compression lets you decrease the size of your email attachments, make your backups take up less space and make the files you put online download faster. To compress a file you will need to find software that can compress files, and you'll need to learn how to use it. Sounds complicated? Don't worry, in this short article you'll learn everything you need to know about how to compress files!
Choosing The Right Tools
There are lots of applications that can compress files. They are usually called "file archivers" or "archiving software". The speed, efficiency (compression ratio), file formats supported and all the other features vary greatly between various tools. Some archivers are free to use, others are "try before you buy", and some are even integrated in modern operating systems. How do you pick the best archiver for you?
There are several things that you need to consider when looking for a tool to compress files:
- Compression ratio. Some archivers will produce smaller files. Many archiving tools will let you choose the level of compression and/or the format of the compressed file. Better compression often comes at the cost of decreased speed. Note that some types of files - e.g. music in the mp3 format and video files - can't be compressed effectively with general purpose archivers. A good file archiver should offer high compression ratio and the ability to set it manually, so as to give you some control over how long the archiving will take.
- Supported formats. Most people skip over this crucial point when choosing an archiver. While the most popular format is ZIP, you're likely to encounter many different (and sometimes better) file formats if you ever download files from the Internet. For example, the RAR format, which offers good compression, is relatively common on the web and in BitTorrent downloads. BZ2, TAR and GZ are popular among the users of Unix-based systems. And that's just from the top of my head - there are actually dozens more. A good archiving tool should know how to compress files using some popular formats (like ZIP) and should be able to open all popular file formats.
- Cost. Last, but not the least, there's the matter of price. This is something you'll need to decide yourself. File archivers aren't the most expensive kind of software, so you can probably find a good shareware archiver in the $20-$50 range. Alternatively, if all you need is a simple tool that knows how to compress files (and decompress them later, too), you can opt for one of the freeware archivers. Though they may lack the shiny user interface and "extra" functions (which mundane users don't care about anyway), free archivers are often as good as commercial tools at compressing and decompressing files.
Personally, I recommend 7Zip - an open source archiver. As for the ever-so-popular WinZip, I believe it's just not worth the money. ZIP compression is inferior to both RAR and 7Zip, plus almost any archiver can handle .zip files.
How To Compress Files Using 7Zip
Yep, we're finally there - the actual step-by-step instructions on how to compress files! They're written for the free 7Zip application (http://www.7zipdownload.org/) because I didn't want to pressure you into buying a commercial application.
- Select the file(s) you want to compress and right-click it.
- From the popup menu select 7Zip -> Add to archive...
- In the dialog box that will appear you need to set the archive name (the topmost textbox) and choose an archive format. The default is 7z, which offers great compression, but beware - if you're going to send the file to a friend or put it online, you should consider choosing the zip format which is better supported by other archivers.
- You can also set the compression level; the default is "Normal" and i's okay in most cases.
- Click "Ok" and wait while the file is compressed.
- Thats it!
Now you know how to compress files and can boast to your friends about it. Just kidding.