You all ask some great questions (Vol #17)

October 15, 2011 in Newsletters

Inside: Zip files, more memory

This week’s newsletter was completely inspired by you. Okay, maybe not YOU specifically, but some of your fellow Mac Help For Mom subscribers. You can thank Jane and Dean (not a typo, but I do now have “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” playing in my head).

So if you have any questions about your Mac or almost anything you can do with your Mac (I also get questions about Gmail, Facebook, and other websites), please don’t hesitate to ask. Your question may even inspire me to make a video on the topic. And, remember, there’s a link near the bottom of this newsletter to the special subscriber-only priority question page. (Well, there was in the original email version of this newsletter. You can sign up using the form on this page.)

Speaking of questions, last week I asked a couple on the Mac Help For Mom Facebook page but I want to get more responses so I’ll repeat them here.

(1) I’m curious which style Dashboard widgets you prefer. Do you like all the information displayed on the Dashboard? Or do you prefer a concise summary (be it news, weather, whatever) and then a link to a website with more details if you want them?

(2) I hope to publish a review of news widgets (good idea, Anna) next Widget Wednesday and I’m also curious if you already have a favorite or if you have a favorite news website that you’d love to see on your Dashboard.

Just hit reply to answer one or both. I really appreciate it. And now, it’s time to…

Zip it up

Jane wanted to email some photos to a friend and wanted to know how to put them all into a zip file that she could attach to the email. The Mac makes it easy to unzip a zip file, but to create one you need to know a few things. Learn how to make a zip file and a few other reasons why you’d want to here:

How to make a zip file on a Mac

If you have no clue what the heck a zip file is (and even if you do)…

Word of the Week

The word is “zip”.

In this context, “zip” is both a noun and a verb. A “zip” file is a special kind of file that can contain other files (sometimes called an “archive” file). It’s also special because it tries to compress the files in it so they don’t take up as much space. To “zip” one or more files simply means to store them all in a zip file.

A zip file stores more than just the contents of each of its files and folders. It also remembers each item’s attributes like the date and time each file or folder was created, modified and last opened. This is handy because you can zip up a bunch of files and folders into a zip file and then safely delete the original files. If you ever need the files again, they can be extracted from the zip file with all their original attributes. Just like you’d never touched them in the first place.

Although zip files are now probably the most popular file of this type, neither compression nor archiving is unique to zip files.

Another similar file format you may see (especially on a Mac) is a “sit” file. It’s name comes from the software used to create, StuffIt. The Mac comes with the ability to create zip files and extracte files from them, but you’ll need to install additional software to be able to extract the contents of a “sit” file. Fortunately the software is free. Just Google for “StuffIt Expander”.

You may have also run into “dmg” files since they are a popular way to deliver applications for the Mac. These are especially interesting and useful because, once downloaded, Safari will automatically decompress them, mount them like a drive within the Finder, and extract the contents.

There are lots of other archiving and/or compression file formats (like “tar”, “gz”, and “cpio”) but chances are “zip”, “sit”, and “dmg” are the ones you’ll be running into.

If you’re now more curious about zip files than you were a few minutes ago, the How to make a zip file on a Mac article has more details about how you can use them.

Checking your memory

I’ve been a little surprised at the popularity of my article and video on how to check your Mac’s memory usage. It was the most popular article in September. I guess many of us get that darned spinning beach ball that is often caused by too little memory.

Still, I was impressed with how many people watched my somewhat geeky video about upgrading your Mac’s memory. I’ve actually been seeing the spinning beach ball less since I added the memory in that video. But after reading Dean’s question about what size memory modules he should buy, I realized that I needed to show how easy it is to find out what size memory modules your Mac currently has (without opening it up). I do that and discuss how to decide which modules to buy in this article.

How to check what size memory modules are in your Mac

Mac Help For Mom on Facebook

Do you use Facebook? It’s another way to learn about new Mac Help For Mom videos and interact with other people who like Mac Help For Mom. If you click the “Like” button on the Mac Help For Mom Facebook page then you’ll see the Mac Help For Mom Facebook posts in your Facebook News Feed, be able to comment on them, and join in the discussions.

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