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A ZIP file is a file in the ZIP format which implements lossless compression in order to reduce the volume of saved files. The ZIP file system was created by Phil Katz in 1989 and included in the PKWARE company’s PKZIP utility.
Before the ZIP file format, the ARC lossless data compression system made by System Enhancement Associates was the most common means of establishing lossless compression. ARC dates back to 1985. When the ZIP format came on the market, there was controversy and legal challenges around PKWARE’s offering as possibly derivative of ARC.
After its being established as a common utility, the ZIP format started to be supported in Microsoft Windows versions starting in 1998.
ZIP utilities are often part of the Windows format – a user takes a file icon, moves to the command menu and uses the ZIP command to create a ZIP file which can then be transferred in its compressed form, for example, by email. The ZIP format makes it easier to move files around, and is still popular as a compression tool.