January 1999--Millions of words
have been written on the richness of material available online--and
I agree absolutely. I never fail to be amazed with the variety of
products, information, and just plain stuff.
One of my favorites online goodies are downloads.
Demos, shareware, public domain programs, whatever--I rarely have a
problem that I can't find a program to solve it with.
Like many online functions, downloading and
processing ZIP files seems rather mysterious and not entirely
intuitive. Fortunately, as soon as you grasp the details, it's one
of those computer functions that makes perfect sense and easy to
A ZIP file is one that's been created using the
ZIP compression protocol developed by Philip Katz. It's made up of
one or more files that have been compressed and combined into one
file. The result is a file that's smaller to download and easier to
manage, but that requires some offline processing in order to
extract the various files in the ZIP file, as well as decompress
You'll find a number of different unZIP programs.
My personal favorite is PicoZip. PicoZip is shareware and is
available for download here.
PicoZip is distributed as a Windows
self-extracting file. To run it, use either the file/run function or
click on the file name or icon. The Setup Wizard will take over and
guide you from there.
Like people, no two disks are the same, so the
following aren't hard and fast rules. They're general suggestions
that you may want to consider for processing downloads.
Once you start downloading files, you'll find that
it's easy to become inundated with files that are included in the
download, but aren't something you necessarily need to keep around.
Worse, the names are often similar. If you're not careful, it's easy
to end up with multiple files with enigmatic names like Readme.txt,
Readme.1st, File_ID.diz, and so on. Also, if you try a program and
decide you don't want to keep it, all the extras make it a bit more
difficult to erase. Here's a suggestion to simplify the management
of downloaded files.
Set up a folder to serve as a holding area (mine
is named C:\download) for downloaded files. Create another folder
for extracting ZIP files contents to (mine is called C:\temp).
Configure your unZIP program to extract the files to this folder.
Using a dedicated extract directory has several advantages. If you
want to run a virus scan on the files, they're all in one place. You
can look over the package, check any Readme.1st files (a common
filename containing instructions on installation). Usually, you can
also run the setup program from here.
Once you've run the setup.exe program and
established the program in its own folder, you can delete the
contents of the \temp folder. You should still have the original ZIP
distribution file in your \download folder should you need it for
As you work with downloaded files, you'll probably
come up with your own ideas for how you want to handle things. We
all have different ways of working and customizing your computer is
the best part of the "personal" in personal computer, so don't be
afraid to experiment.