The Ultimate (and Simple!) Guide to Understanding GZ Files

Did someone just send you a so-called GZ file? If so, you might be wondering what in the world you’re supposed to do with it.

You might be familiar with ZIP and RAR files and know how to handle them. But GZ files? Well, they’re still a foreign concept to a whole lot of people.

Not to worry, though. It should be simple enough for you to figure out how to deal with a GZ file. In fact, you can unzip a GZ file with very little effort (or confusion!) on your part in most cases.

We’re going to break GZ files down for you today so that they don’t stump you when you receive them. Continue reading to discover what GZ files are and what you’ll need to do when you’re trying to get to the bottom of how to open a GZ file below.

What Is a GZ File?

Even though you might not know much about GZ files at this time, they’ve actually been around for a long time now. The first GZ files—or GZIP files as they were known back then—were developed in the early 1990s. Software developers Jean-loup Gailly and Mark Adler were the ones to come up with them.

At the time, Gailly and Adler were trying to find a way to make improvements to the default compression process used in UNIX. They created GZ files as a way to do this, which is why you’ll often find GZ files used almost exclusively on macOS and Linux systems.

Gailly and Adler designed GZ files to help reduce the size of larger files without compromising their integrity at all. All of their hard work paid off and resulted in GZ files earning a place within the data compression industry.

What Makes GZ Files Different From ZIP and RAR Files?

GZ files often get lumped into the same category as ZIP and RAR files. And for good reason!

GZ files, ZIP files, and RAR files are all types of files that have been compressed to make them smaller and more manageable than they would be otherwise. But there is one major difference between GZ files and ZIP and RAR files.

Both ZIP and RAR files can contain multiple items within them. GZ files, on the other hand, can only have one item in them.

If you want to add multiple items to a GZ file, you’ll need to utilize an archive utility like TAR to do it. And this will create a new kind of file that will have either a .tar.gz or .tgz format.

What Is the Benefit of Using GZ Files?

After hearing about the big difference between GZ files and ZIP and RAR files, you might wonder why GZ files still have a place within the data compression industry. Wouldn’t it be easier to just rely on ZIP and RAR files instead?

In some cases, yes. But GZ files have become very useful within the web development world. They can be used to cut down the size of an original file while protecting its overall integrity. They can also be used to protect things like the original file name and the timestamp for a file, which might get stripped away if a GZ file isn’t used.

How Do You Unzip a GZ File?

If you ever receive a GZ file, you might not know what you’re supposed to do with it. It’ll have you heading over to Google ASAP to search for “how to unzip GZ file.”

But it’s not as difficult to deal with GZ files as you might think. You can extract a GZ file instantly if you’re working on a Mac thanks to the Archive Utility. It’ll unzip a GZ file for you without you having to do a thing.

You can also unzip GZ files on a Mac with Terminal, which is the command line for Mac computers. But this is going to take a little bit of work on your part so you should avoid unzipping GZ files in this way unless you 100% know what you’re doing.

And if you don’t have a Mac and get a GZ file? You should also be able to open it up without any major issues. There are quite a few third-party apps and extensions that you can download when you’re trying to figure out how to open a GZ file.

Should You Start Using GZ Files?

There is a reason why you haven’t heard more about GZ files over the years. They’re not going to be the best option for everyone.

If you’re an everyday person who is just trying to send some photos over to a family member or friend, creating a ZIP or RAR file for them will get the job done. You don’t need to complicate things by trying to learn the ins and outs of GZ files on the fly.

But if you work in the web development industry, you’re going to find that GZ files will come in handy early and often. You should make sure that you’re familiar with them and know how to unzip a GZ file when you receive one from someone else. It’ll ensure that you’re prepared for all the GZ files that are sure to come your way.

Now That You Know More About GZ Files, Go and Start Extracting Them Today

At this point, you should know a lot more about GZ files than you did when we first started talking about them. It should make it possible for you to work with GZ files when they’re sent in your direction.

You should put your skills to the test and attempt to unzip a GZ file the next time you get one. It’ll show you just how simple it can be to use GZ files these days.

Would you like to find out how to deal with some of the other computer files that may get sent to you? Get educated by reading the rest of our blog articles.

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