'File Format - Zipped Files' FAQ

What Format Are Your File's In?
What Is/How Can I Use A Zipped File?

A 'Lectric Law Library FAQ


If you've been exploring the net for awhile you probably know that there are a lot of formats used to produce readable files. Simply put, most word processors produce different file formats (think of formats as different languages) and few can display files from others without translating or converting it to its own formatting scheme, usually a difficult task with uncertain results. Then there are a number of other document formats in use unrelated to word-processors like Adobe's Acrobat that are almost impossible for most programs to translate. And to top it off there's the often incompatible computer operating systems like Apples, Windows, DOS, UNIX, etc.

One of the Library's intentions from the start has been to minimize this hurdle to accessing information. To accomplish this most of our of our legal information files (unless clearly marked) are in a format all word processors and computers (that we know of) can use - ASCII text.

We're gradually converting our files to html (web page) format but as of early 1998, most of the Library files that you can read on-line are plain ASCII text in 10 pt courier style type with between 67 to 74 characters per line. Our zipped (compressed) legal info files are meant to be downloaded and most are ASCII text without linebreaks. To view/use them after unzipping (see below) just open them with your word processor (follow its instructions) or any text viewer.

Note: a. A few files may contain some weird symbols because of conversion problems. b. While ASCII is almost universally usable one downside is that it basically only includes the characters on your keyboard and therefore can't include a document's styles or extras. Because of this certain file's charts, tables, drawings, etc. are missing or jumbled.



In order to save our visitors time, and ourselves storage and bandwidth, we have many large text files compressed for downloading - most are reduced to 1/3 their normal size. The compression program we use is the standard version of Pkzip, the most popular DOS compression program by far. (Note that compressed files are binary files which you may have to indicate to some communication programs or web browsers.)

Our file listings usually have the file's approximate size and indicate if it's zipped (except for those in our dictionary, none of which are zipped). That's what the "12k" and "ZIP" in: "Get Rich Quick - Sue Yourself, 12k, ZIP" mean.

Pkunzip allows you to decompress, or unzip, files with a name that ends with ".zip". Once unzipped the file, assuming it's a text file and not a program, can then be opened from an appropriate application such as a word processor.

If you're unzipping one of our Bookstore's legal software programs, the zipped file may contain a number of files. It's usually best to unzip it into its own directory and then look for the information or "read-me" file and read it with your word processor or any text file viewer. It should give you instructions about how to proceed.


UNZIPPING FILES (By Computer Type / OS)

IBM Compatibles Running DOS:

  1. Download PKUNZIP.EXE from the Library's Bookstore or from one of the many online services or shareware sites that have it.
  2. Place it in your root or other appropriate directory. (or add PKUNZIP to your path)
  3. Change directory to the directory containing the zipped file.
  4. Type: "pkunzip filename.zip" and the file(s) contained in the zipped file will be magically extracted into the current directory. The original zipped file will remain as well.
  5. Open the newly unzipped files with the appropriate application. For example, open a text file from your word processor or text editor/reader.

MicroSoft Windows:

  1. Get one of the many zip/unzip Windows programs from someone or download it from one of the many net sites or online services that have them.. (The PowerDesk program in the Bookstore has it built in, but other programs like WinZip are also good.)
  2. Follow the program's instructions.
  3. See 5 above.

It's said that the main Apple decompression program, Stuffit, handles zipped files with no problem, but since we've never even used an Apple...

How the hell can you use such user-unfriendly, complicated crap and not know how to unzip a file?


Most zipped file related problems [disregarding user idiocy] are caused by the setup of your particular system or browser and can usually be avoided by properly setting your browser's options so that when it encounters a zipped file it does something like ask you what to do with it. Read your particular browser's info on this... they're all different.

We set our's to ask where we want to download it so we can unzip it later.... And though we may be wrong (for the 1st time ever), we suggest that you don't set/allow your browser to automatically unzip and display anything. One reason is that if the file's a zipped program like most of the ones in our Bookstore, the best you'll get gibberish... but it's much more likely that you'll rip a hole in the time-space continuum and cause the entire universe to collapse on some unsuspecting penguin or itinerate Albanian goatherder... and only a true sociopath or lawyer would want that.