How to create and open compressed files on iPhone, iPad

Credit to Author: Jonny Evans| Date: Thu, 10 Jan 2019 07:27:00 -0800

Many enterprises rely on zip files to exchange data, particularly confidential data – compression helps keep information safe, even against inquisitive ads trackers lurking inside “free” email or online storage services. How do you handle these things on iPad or iPhone?

While it isn’t especially obvious, iOS provides some limited features that let you archive and decompress zip files. You can even create a nice little Shortcut to do this for you:

How to use it:

In future, when you receive a compressed zip file you’ll be able to unzip it from your Share sheet.

The problem?

You still won’t be able to open or create password-protected zip files, you’ll be limited in how you can combine files for a single archive, and you will be unable to create or open files stored in different compression formats. Don’t give up hope, because (drum roll):

There are numerous apps to help you handle compressed files on iOS, including solutions that will let you open and create password-protected files:

Developed by MacPaw, Archives is based on excellent Mac archiving app, Unarchiver. The app can handle most compression formats, and will let you preview contents of archive files and lets you open them from within Safari or Mail.

Readdle’s PDF Expert is an excellent app that once won Apple’s coveted App of the Year award. What’s interesting about it is that alongside its PDF handling features it is also perfectly capable of creating and opening zip files, saving their content to online and network storage drives. Readdle’s Documents app is also an excellent and easy to use solution.

One of the most widely distributed solutions for handling compressed files on iOS, WinZip is a highly capable tool to happily handle all your zip and rar compressed files. It can browse compressed attachments in mail, save data locally and connect merrily with cloud services, once you unlock the paid version ($5). The only reason I don’t recommend it is that the free version is so packed with ads I think it’s more or less unusable, in addition to being functionally limited.

iZip is another capable tool, and while its free version does subject you to ads and limited functionality these are far more bearable than some. I find the instructions clear and easy to follow and the app is highly capable of doing what I need it to do.

Mac users seeking extra features and compression tools (including a way to create password-protected zips without using Terminal) may also want to take a look at Keka or the Unarchiver.

I find the process of working with compressed zip files to be way too opaque on both Mac and iOS devices, though iZip, WinZip and Archives will open password protected items on iOS once they are unlocked.

On a Mac, I use Keka.

The iOS apps will also create password-protected archives, though in all three cases you need to do so by opening Settings from inside the app and choosing to create password-protected zips. 

This works, but I do feel that developers should make this feature easier to find and use, given so many enterprise professionals need to make use of it.

I also urge Apple to improve its support for this on a system level, given so many users in its emerging enterprise market desperately need to be able to create, share, and access password-protected archives easily given the value of the personal data they might be handling.

Privacy isn’t just a feature, it’s also a tool – and protection of digital assets will become more of a challenge, not less, in future.

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