Over the course of two days last week I had three Windows PC users send me files I could not open on my Mac. What gives? How hard can it be to open a .zip file?
Aren’t those files cross platform? Here we are living in the 21st century and I find out that not all .zip archive files are created equal. Then I remembered a free tool from a few years ago that would open a whole bunch of non-Mac archive files.
Archive vs. Unarchive vs. Unarchiver
In Macs of the 20th century we used Stuffit to archive and compress files. For Mac OS X users, zipping and unzipping an archive or file is built in, ready to archive and unarchive with a double click.
Amazingly, the Mac’s built in unarchiver doesn’t open all archives.
What’s with that? Worse, once you find out how many different kinds of archives there are you’ll no longer wonder why politicians cannot agree on anything. There’s gotta be twenty seven eleven different formats to deal with.
Mac to Mac is easy. Use the Archive in the Mac’s Finder (right click for the contextual menu, or choose Compress from the Finder’s File menu). Opening an archive is easy, too. Double click.
For what the Mac can’t handle, and there are plenty of archive file formats it can’t, Unarchiver handles the rest. And there are many. Not only does Unarchiver open the typical Mac OS X and most Windows .zip archive files, it does more.
Ever heard of RAR? Or, 7z? Or, LZH? How about Tar. Gzip. Bzip2. Some of those may be familiar. Unarchiver also opens Stuffit and Stuffit X, as well as DiskDoubler. Besides those, there’s Packit, Cpio, XAE, RPM, LZMA, CAB, MSI, ALZip, and a whole bunch of others.
Thankfully, most Mac and Windows PC users stick with the .zip variants but even your Mac (or your PC) won’t open all of them. That’s why Unarchiver is such a bargain at free.
A year or so ago I bought one of those Mac bundles (a dozen Mac apps for $50) which included BetterZip, which fits well between Unarchiver and your Mac’s built in .zip archiver.
If you do plenty of archiving of files, or receive plenty of archived files, BetterZip is better than Unarchiver. It doesn’t open as many archive file formats, but it’s close. Even better, it lets you look inside the archive without opening it. And, even better than that, it lets you archive in more archive file formats than the built in Mac archiver.
I know what you’re thinking.
It’s not Friday Freebie day, and Alexis is promoting both a free archive utility and a commercial archive utility. What gives?
I hear you. Free is good. Sometimes not free is better. Remarkably, I haven’t seen a Mac Stuffit archive file in a couple of years. In fact, I don’t remember the last time Mac OS X’s built in archiver wouldn’t open an archive—at least, until last week. Strange things happen so the wise Mac user remains prepared.
For example, when you have little kids and a loose Mac, it’s important to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich shield over your MacBook keyboard.