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Definition: ZIP file


(1) A file stored on a Zip cartridge (see Zip disk).

(2) A file that contains one or more files compressed into the ZIP format. Also called a "ZIP archive," "zipped file" or "zipped archive," the ZIP algorithm is the most popular compression method in use.

Only "One" File
Zipping several files can save a little or a lot of space depending on the file type, but more importantly, a single file is monumentally easier to copy between machines and over a network. Zipping files, or archiving files in general, is used constantly to organize files of every variety. See data compression.

Not Just .zip Extensions
Most zipped files use .zip extensions. However, .gz files are also zipped and can be "unzipped" when the .gz is changed to .zip. A .jar file is a Java application with an entire hierarchy of files contained in one zipped file. Microsoft Office formats are very similar (see Office Open XML).

ZIP Came From PKZIP
In the 1980s, Phil Katz developed algorithms for compressing files into smaller amounts of space, and his programs became PKZIP and PKUNZIP from PKWARE, Inc. The format became so popular that the algorithms were placed in the public domain. Sadly, math wizard Phil Katz died at 37, reportedly due to chronic alcoholism. See PK software and WinZip.