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Work with ZIP file format




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ZIP is a popular archiving format, mainstream on Microsoft Windows systems; ZIP format specifications are maintained by PKWare which originally developed the format as part of Phil Katz's compression utility PKZip (1989), and it is currently undergoing evaluation for ISO/IEC standardization.
Newer archive formats like 7Z (7-Zip / p7zip), RAR (WinRar), and ACE (WinAce) have gained popularity and introduced several improvements (some of them later brought into ZIP format) like better compression ratio, recovery records, strong encryption etc.
Anyway, ZIP format retained much of its popularity earned in several years of widespread use due its ubiquitous support from many dedicated software alternatives to WinZip, as well as basic built-in support in most of modern operating systems, being .zip file format specifications released in public domain, which makes unzipping possible on almost all PC and devices.

ZIP is the default archive format for PeaZip, being a good, fast general purpose archiving format that can be handled by most archive managers - it is chosen as default format by most other file archivers for the same reason.
Optimized Deflate algorithm used in PeaZip improves ZIP format performances on modern multi core, multi threaded machines, and provides a slightly improved compression over classic Deflate implementation retaining the full compatibility with ZIP standard.

Zip format and variants (JAR, CAB, IPA, APK, COMPOUND...)

ZIP compression is quite fast and it's based on Deflate algorithm (like in GZip format); alternatively Deflate64, BZip2, LZMA, and PPMd based compression is possible, and supported by PeaZip.
Recently WinZip (first GUI zip file utility on Microsoft Windows platform, and still one of most popular "zipper" program) introduced some new compression algorithms and a new AES based encryption scheme, Advanced Encryption (AE-1, released in 2003, and AE-2 revision in 2004).
AE-encrypted archives as well as classic ZipCrypto-encrypted archives are supported by PeaZip, that is also capable to read PKWare's AES encrypted zip archives, standard introduced in 2003 with PKZip 6.0 Professional Edition.
Moreover many variants were built on zip format structure (Android APK, Java JAR, Apple IPA, EPUB) or using Deflate compression (Microsoft CAB and MS Office OPC "Open Packaging Conventions" and COMPOUND file types).
For some of these file types PeaZip does not allow editing archive content (unless they are renamed as .zip files, and treated as plain archives), only browsing and extraction, because file format specifications involves maintaining special purpose meta-data fields which are out of the scope of a general-purpose file archiver - those files should be edited with specialized programs to correctly update required meta-data.

When is ZIP format recommended

In brief, .zip is a good choice anytime it is important to keep the archive compatible with most archive managers recipients may use, making it also an excellent choice for content distribution. For same reson it is also recommended for long term archive / backup storage, as a such obiquitous format (with public domain specifications) is unlike to be unsupported in any conceivable scenario.




Phil Katz, 1989

SPEED zip compression

Excellent. Deflate is light and fast for modern hardware, other supported compression algorithms are more resource demanding.


Deflate is inferior to modern, more powerful (and power demanding) compressors as 7Z or RAR. Modern ZIP software supports additional algorithms to close the gap (BZip2, PPMd, LZMA) but archives may result unreadable for older utilities.


Good. Recent format revisions provide efficent encryption standards. Lacks recovery records option available for RAR format.

Create, open, extract ZIP files

PeaZip provides read/write support for .zip files, working as extractor, opener (list, search and explore archived files and directories), converter from/to Zip format, and integrity testing utility.
ZIP is the default archive format for PeaZip, which uses optimized 7-Zip/p7Zip Deflate implementation to reduce zip file size while keeping compatibility with other archival utilities.
The software can also manage password protected zip archives (encrypt and decrypt), and convert files to / from zip format.

As alternative, 7-Zip (on MS Windows systems) and p7zip (on Linux/BSD), both free and Open Source tools, are recommended for working with zip file format.

Compress to ZIP format

Use one of the following procedures to add files / folders to a new or into an existing .zip file

  • Zip files from the system's file explorer

    • Select files and folders and use context menu entry PeaZip, Add to archive: you will be prompted to archive creation screen, allowing to set compression settings, output destination, encryption (password protection), and other options.

    • Alternatively, use system context menu entry Add to .ZIP in order to start compressing selected items without further interaction

  • From PeaZip

    • Select files and folders, and use Add button (or application's context menu entry of same name) to be prompted archive creation screen

    • Drag and drop files / folders from the system to a PeaZip instance; if you are browsing an existing archive you will be asked if you want to add files to the archive or create a new one

From main archive creation interface it is possible to apply encryption (recipient will need to enter a password to read/extract the archive), and to split files - set creation of multiple volumes declaring the maximum output size (spanned archive), in order to keep the output size below mandatory limits (e.g. upload or mail attachment size).
From "Advanced" tab, you can fine-tune compression settings: faster or higher compression level, algorithm, solid compression block size, compress open files, create self extracting archive (SFX) so recipient will not need an archive manager program to extract the data...

From "Console" and "Schedule" tab, the compression / backup task created in the GUI can be saved as command line script and (on Microsoft Windows operating system) scheduled for execution at fixed time intervals (hour, day of the week or of the month) - same apply for extraction / restore tasks, as the same tabs are featured in archive extraction interface.

Update existing ZIP archive

To update existing archive, adding files and folders, proceed as shown above for archive creation, but select an existing archive as output and chose add (always replace files in archive) or update (overwrite only older files in archive) "archive function" in advanced tab.
Easiest way to edit an existing archive is opening it in PeaZip and dragging files/folders to it, which will automatically activate update mode - can be changed into add mode in advanced tab.

To remove (delete) data from the archive, select items and press cancel or "Delete from archive" button. Deleted items will not be recoverable from recycle bin.
Entries in the context menu on the right of delete button allows to delete the entire archive in different supported ways (recycle, quick delete, overwrite with zeroes, secure delete shredding data to make the archive not recoverable)

Convert ZIP files

File converter procedure using Convert button extracts and then re-pack input archive files into any write-supported format (7z, arc, pea, tar, zip...), optionally keeping or discarding original archives.
This makes possible to convert any type supported for reading (e.g. ACE, CAB, RAR, TAR, ZIP...) into a new ZIP file (either one for each individual input archive, or consolidating all input items in a single output archive), as well as to convert existing ZIP file into another write-supported format.

Open ZIP files

To open a WinZip's ZIP file, and to browse and search content inside the archive:

  • double click the zip archive, if file extension is associated with the PeaZip (default)
  • if zip file type is not associated with PeaZip, right-click on the archive and use system context menu "Open as archive" entry, that will attempt to read any user provided file type regardless file associations

Extract ZIP files

Use one of the procedures described below to decompress .zip archives

  • Extract ZIP file from the system
    • Select one or more zip archives and use context menu entry "Extract..." to display full extraction screen GUI where to set output path, password, and other options

    • Select one or more archives and use context menu entry Extract here or Extract here (to new folder) for quick extraction with no further confirmation

  • ZIP extraction within PeaZip main program

    • Extract button shows full featured archive extraction screen providing access to all options (password, set output path, open output path after extraction, keep or delete original archives, etc) and can send to extraction selected items only

    • Extract all to... button activate a simplified dialog asking for output path only

    • Simply drag & drop desired objects from the application to the system

    • Doubleclick on an archived file to open it in preview mode, i.e. to inspect its content before considering the need for real extraction

To extract a spanned (split) ZIP file, save all the parts in the same directory, then open as usual the first volume of the archive, which usually has Z01 or 001 extension - subsequent volumes have progressively numbered file extensions (Z02, Z03 etc).

Manage encrypted ZIP archives

To create, or extract, an encrypted .zip file, enter the password in PeaZip clicking the padlock icon extract encrypted zip file in the status bar (in the file/archive browser) or below output address field (in extraction or archiving interfaces), or click Tools > Enter password / keyfile in main menu, or press F9 accelerator key.

Supported algorithms for zip encryption, from Archive creation, Advanced tab, are:
  • AES256 (WinZip's Advanced Encryption standard)

  • ZipCrypto, for legacy support only

Encrypted items inside the archive are marked by * sign.

Please note zip format supports file-level encryption so multiple passwords can be used in the same archive to encrypt different group of files - and consequently in this case different password must be provided to access each part of the archive, changing password entered in PeaZip.

"Keyfile" field is optional, leave it blank if you don't want to rely on two factor authentication - keyfile is the "what you have" element (needs to be handled safely), password (or passphrase) is the non-material  "what you know" element; both are needed for recovering the encrypted file content.
Use of keyfile increases security over password only encryption since also having access to the keyfile will be required to perform the extraction, eliminating the need of overly complex passwords to resist to social engineering profiling, and brute-forcing or dictionary attacks.

ZIP files, read more

External online resources: ZIP file formatzip file format on Wikipedia, PKWare PKZipPKZip, Deflate algorithmzlib deflate

Topics: free Zip software, what is .zip file extension wiki, how do I open zip files (handle compress / decompress, read / write, view content, browse & search zip compressed data), edit existing zip archive, extract zip to new folder, drag and drop extraction from zipped file.














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PeaZip is a free cross-platform file archiver that provides an unified portable GUI for many Open Source technologies like 7-Zip, FreeArc, PAQ, UPX...
Create 7Z, ARC, BZ2, GZ, *PAQ, PEA, QUAD/BALZ, TAR, UPX, WIM, XZ, ZIP files
Open and extract over 180 archive types: ACE, ARJ, CAB, DMG, ISO, LHA, RAR, UDF, ZIPX files and more...
Features of PeaZip includes extract, create and convert multiple archives at once, create self-extracting archives, split/join files, strong encryption with two factor authentication, encrypted password manager, secure deletion, find duplicate files, calculate hashes, export job definition as script.

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