How To: Compress Your Files

As Seen on TV! Have you ever seen that late-night television ad for the Travel Genie, a device that claims to squeeze clothing together so tightly that you can fit two or three times more than normal into a suitcase? Well, the same idea is at work with file compression! What Is File Compression? File compression
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0

As Seen on TV!

Have you ever seen that late-night television ad for the Travel Genie, a device that claims to squeeze clothing together so tightly that you can fit two or three times more than normal into a suitcase? Well, the same idea is at work with file compression!

What Is File Compression?

File compression allows you to squeeze your data, greatly reducing the file size. Why would you want to do this? By reducing file size you can send and receive files over the Internet more quickly, store more files on your hard drive, and pack many related files into one archive (for example, all files related to the same project).

How Does File Compression Work?

File compression works by eliminating repetitive "bits and bytes" — the basic units of computer storage. For example, let's say each letter, space, and punctuation mark occupies one unit of space on your hard drive. The phrase "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" would take up 41 units of space (30 letters, 8 spaces, and 3 exclamation points). But what if we replaced the repeated word "horse" with a single character, such as the number "1"? The phrase would then read "A 1! A 1! My kingdom for a 1!," which takes up only 29 characters, saving 12 characters and 28 percent of the file size. After sending the file, all we would need to do is replace each "1" with the word "horse" to reconstruct the original sentence. (We would also need to include the coding scheme, which adds to the file size, so that the receiver would know to make the replacement. That's why compressing a small file sometimes saves no space and may even enlarge the file.)

File Compression Programs

Many popular file compression programs are available for download on the Internet. For Windows computers, WinZip, utilizing the zip file format, is extremely popular. It is available for a free 21-day evaluation at www.winzip.com. Another popular Windows compression product is PKZip.

StuffIt is extensively used on Macintosh computers; Windows and Linux versions are also available. In addition to its own file format, StuffIt also supports the zip format (amongst others). If you only need to decompress files you receive, Unstuffit is a free program that you can download from the StuffIt Web site.

Macintosh OS X has built in file compression available; just click a file icon or name and choose "Archive" from the File menu to create a zip-compressed version of the file.

How Do I Use a File Compression Program?

It's easy to use most file compression programs; with many products, you can simply drag a file and drop it on the program's desktop icon to create a compressed version. In addition, if you have compression software installed, right-clicking (or control-clicking on a Mac) on a file icon frequently brings up a menu that allows you to choose to compress the file.

Jeffrey Branzburg is a contributing editor and regular columnist for Technology & Learning.

Related articles on our Web site

Multimedia: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly By Malura M. Shady

Creating multimedia presentations is time consuming and frustrating yet sharing them with an audience gives students a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Educating People About Virus Emails By Wesley Fryer

Are you receiving a lot of emails with strange attachments from people you don't know? Read on to learn where they come from and what to do about them.

Featured

Related

How To: Back Up Your Files

Oops, I need to start this article again. It seems I accidentally deleted it and didn't back it up ... If this hasn't happened to you yet, just wait. It will. But if you'd rather take a proactive approach, read on. Your Backup Options Floppy Disks: Save copies of your files onto floppy disks in addition to your

How To: Make Your Voice Heard!

A podcast is a method of distributing multimedia files, usually (but not limited to) audio in the MP3 format, over the Internet to subscribers. Anybody can be a subscriber — all you need is the proper software to receive the subscription, just like you need a mailbox to receive your magazine subscriptions. This

How To: Defrag Your Computer

Defrag: What is it? Remember the old days, when we would write or type on paper? We would start at the top of the sheet, and keep writing until we were done. We could then take that five-page book report and neatly file it away. Imagine if we had needed to store the first paragraph in one part of our file cabinet, the

How to Create Your Own CDs

The introduction of the compact disc, through a joint venture between Sony and Philips in the early 1980s, greatly expanded the external storage possibilities of computers. While a floppy disk holds about 1.44 megabytes of information, a CD can hold over 600MB — over 400 times the capacity — all on one thin

How To: Create and Use Macros

How often do you find yourself typing the same information, such as your school name and address, into document after document? Or using the same sequence of menu commands, such as saving a file in a specific folder (File, Save, navigate to the folder, open the folder, save the file)? Would you rather use a short key

How To: Post Your Digital Photos Online

Let's face it: digital photographs can take up a lot of hard-drive space. In light of this fact, many people are choosing to store their photos online. There are several ways to store pictures on the Web, the most popular being online photo storage services. These services have many benefits. They offer a safe place

How To: Basic Training

Parallels Workstation — An Alternative Parallel Workstation is a software product that approaches Windows on the Mac in a different manner. It creates what is called a virtual machine on the Mac (see the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_machine for a complete explanation of a

How To: Sort and Organize Your E-mail

Inbox overloaded? After signing up for all those e-mail lists (see last month's column, "How to Use an E-Mail List," at http://www.techlearning.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=18900792), what can you do to organize the messages you do keep? Folders: Create folders in your e-mail program. You can store your

How To: Ready for Your Close Up?

from Technology & Learning Create and post a video blog with ease. Blogs, which began as a way to easily post one thoughts online in print, has evolved to include multimedia capabilities. A blog is not limited to text — audio and video can be incorporated. A video blog (commonly called a vlog) is a blog