How-To Articles

Quick Guide to File Compression

Perhaps your project has many files that you need to share with us and submit to our website. You can submit them individually which takes more of your valuable time or you can combine them into one uploadable file. You may also have run into a situation where you’ve spent hours working on a report containing lots of graphics, and charts, and some spreadsheets. You go to copy the report to a disk or send it as an email attachment, only to find that it has morphed into a 15 meg monster of a file.

The best way to combat these kinds of problems is to utilize a simple compression program. The function of a compression program is to take large files and make them smaller without changing, or losing any information in the file. It does this by using a complex set of algorithms and equations that take the bits of information in the file, reduce the size, and then remember how to put the files back together. Since a file is made up of 1000’s of bits of information it can be reduced from 1000’s down to 100’s without losing information because an algorithm can predict where those other bits WILL go when the file is uncompressed later.

Now of course, like everything in the computer world, there are several different compression programs out there to choose from. Even though each program uses different algorithms for their compression, they all compress files about the same. A typical compression rate for a 100k Word document containing all text is about 60%-90% of the original file size. With this in mind, choosing your own favorite compression utility is usually a matter of personal taste, and ease of use.

One of the most common, and user-friendly programs is WinZip. It’s user interface combines functionality, with ease of use by putting the compression terminology into easy to understand terms. These types of files end in .zip.

Another highly used compression utility, particularly in the MAC world is StuffIt. These types of files end in .sitx.

For handy links to some of the most popular compression sites, see the links on our Software Downloads page.