Mac OS X: Controlling Compressed Files

As I’m sure many of you are aware, you can compress files and folders from within Mac OS X to make them smaller for emailing or uploading. Do this by right-clicking on the item in question in the Finder and choosing Compress [item or number of items].

There’s also an option to do the same thing under Finder’s File menu if you’re more that type of person.

On the other hand, when you download a compressed file, you’ll double-click it to see its contents, which’ll spill out in the same location as the original file.

All pretty normal, right? Here’s the thing, though—if you don’t like how these so-called archives function, you can alter some of their behaviors to your liking. It’s just not obvious how. OK, it’s completely, totally, irrevocably un-obvious how.

To get started, go to Macintosh HD > System > Library > CoreServices, and open the application called Archive Utility. This is what Mac OS X uses by default for all your compressing and uncompressing needs.

Once it opens, go to the menu item Archive Utility > Preferences.

When the preferences window appears, you’ll note it’s divided into two sections that are separated by a line.

The top choices apply to what happens when you expand an existing archive; the bottom ones apply when you’re creating one yourself. So you can decide where to put expanded files, for example, or where to save any new archives you create. My favorite thing to change is to make Archive Utility move the original compressed files to the trash after I’ve expanded them.

This saves me a lot of trouble in having to go back and clean up those archives after I’ve already gotten the files I need out of them. So tweak these preferences as much as you’d like, and your archives will start acting more like you want them to. Pesky little devils.



Big thanks go out to Jay Nelson, editor of Design Tools Monthly, for suggesting this tip!