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How to Compress Files and Folders to Zip in Mac

Creating .zip files on a Mac is easier than it seems. We’ve already touched on how to create .zip files on Windows 10, however, users have been asking how the process goes on a Mac operating system. This article goes in-depth about what you need to do to be able to share your own compressed .zip archives from Mac OS X.

Compressing files and folders makes it easier to share things online. Even if the project you want to share contains hundreds of files, making a .zip out of it streamlines the sharing process. Because of the format, these files can be shared on any file portal and sent without complications. On Mac, unlike on Windows 10, there’s no need to download and install third-party software in order to create such files.

The instructions below apply to Mac OS X Catalina and older.

Compress files and folders on Mac OS X

Mac OS X has a built-in function that allows users to create .zip archives with ease. This is accessible to all users and doesn’t require any additional downloads or configuring.

  1. Navigate to the files or folders you want to compress into a .zip file. Make sure they’re all stored in the same location to make it easier for you to compress them.
  2. Select all of the file(s) you want to compress. You can do this by clicking and dragging your mouse cursor, or individually clicking on each file while holding the Shift key.
  3. Control-click on the selected file(s) or tap using two fingers, then choose Compress (number) Items from the shortcut menu.
    how to zip file on Mac
  4. A .zip archive will be created in the same location called Archive.zip if more than one item was selected. If you only compress one file, the .zip archive will keep the original file name.

Create .zip files using a third-party app

Do you need a different solution for compressing files and folders on a Mac into the .zip format? Download a third-party application. There are a plethora of software that gives you more control over your .zip files, even on a Mac system.

For this demonstration, we’ll be using an application called BetterZip, free to download from the MacItBetter website.

  1. Install the third-party application you want to use. If you’ve bought an app, you might need to activate your license as well in order for the software to function.
  2. Select all of the file(s) you want to compress. You can do this by clicking and dragging your mouse cursor, or individually clicking on each file while holding the Shift key.
  3. Control-click on the selected file(s) or tap using two fingers, and choose the compression option with your application’s name. In the example below, this option is shown as “Compress with BetterZip”.
    zip files
  4. You should see a new .zip file created in the same folder as your selected files. Depending on the application, this folder may share the same name as the first file you selected or simply show up as Archive.zip.

Create a .zip archive using the Terminal

An unusual but effective way to approach creating .zip files is the Terminal. This is the equivalent of the Command Prompt on Windows and allows Mac OS X users to perform a variety of commands. This is how you can create a .zip archive with nothing but the command line in Mac.

  1. First, you’ll need to open the Terminal. There are several ways to do this:
    1. Press the command (⌘) and Space keys at the same time. You should see the Spotlight Search feature pop up on your screen. Simply type in Terminal and launch the utility from the results.
    2. Click on the Launchpad in your Dock and locate the Terminal utility. To open it, simply click on it once.
    3. Open a Finder window and click on Applications on the left-side panel. Here, scroll until you see Terminal.
      create .zip files using terminal
  2. After opening the Terminal, type in the following command, replacing the marked spots with your own file(s) and name(s):

    zip archive.zip file.txt

    The “zip” command should always be written first. This gives out the instruction to your computer to create an archive.

    If you want a custom name for your .zip file, replace “archive.zip” with anything else. Make sure to keep the .zip extension though!

    To add the file you want to compress, drag, and drop it into the Terminal window. This will replace the “file.txt” part in the example above.

  3. Press the Enter key to execute the command.

Extract .zip files on Mac OS X

Accessing the contents of a .zip file is even easier than creating one. All you have to do is simply double-click on the archive to extract its contents. It will expand automatically with Archive Utility into the same folder it’s stored in.

For example, if you’re extracting Archive.zip stored in the ~/Downloads/ directory, after double-clicking on the file, you’ll have a folder created Archive in the same ~/Downloads/ directory.

Extract a .zip archive using the Terminal

Unzipping a .zip archive is also possible through the Terminal. All you have to do is follow these instructions.

  1. Open the Terminal. There are several ways to do this:
    1. Press the command (⌘) and Space keys at the same time. You should see the Spotlight Search feature pop up on your screen. Simply type in Terminal and launch the utility from the results.
    2. Click on the Launchpad in your Dock and locate the Terminal utility. To open it, simply click on it once.
    3. Open a Finder window and click on Applications on the left-side panel. Here, scroll until you see Terminal.
      extract files using terminal on Mac
  2. Type in the command “unzip” without the quotation marks.
  3. Drag and drop your .zip archive into the Terminal window and hit the Enter key.

Final thoughts

We hope this article helped you learn how you can create compressed files and folders in the .zip format using a Mac. Feel free to return to our site if you have any remaining questions, or need assistance when operating your Mac.

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