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How To Download and Open Zip Files on iPad

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Here’s the scenario. You are working on a deadline and receive an email from a colleague with the important project proposal in a compressed zip file. You need to open and view the contents to view the important information you need to seal the deal, but there is a problem, all you have is your iPad.

By default, the iPad can’t open compressed zip files; but we are going to show you how to save the day and open a zip file with your iPad.

First go get GoodReader or one of the many other file reading apps in the app store. I chose GoodReader because I know for certain that it in fact reads and opens zip files either from a web site or from an email attachment. It is available for just $.99 in the app store.

Here is how to open a zip file on the iPad:

  1. Go into GoodReader and give it your email server information. At the bottom of the right side you will see Connect to Servers; tap it and choose Add. Give it your credentials and server info and now you are ready to access the email attachment.
  2. Tap your email server that will be listed under Connect to Servers after you add it. A window will pop up on the left with your email folders. I added my Gmail account so I tapped on the Inbox folder. There the message I sent myself with an attachment was listed.
  3. Tap the zip file and it will start downloading. A box will popup informing you that you can find it in the Web Downloads” section.
  4. Tap OK and close the Email popup.
  5. Tap on Web Downloads and you will see the progress if it is a large file. Small files may be done before you go into the Web Downloads section. Once you open Web Downloads, on the left will be a list of all the downloaded attachments. It can handle a large number of file formats.
  6. Tap the new zip file and GR offers to unzip it for you.
  7. Choose Unzip and then find the file or folder that is unzipped.
  8. Now you can view it in GR.

For picture files you can save it to the Photo Library on the iPad. I don’t know of a way to open documents in other Apps like Pages. I hope that will be coming soon. However, with GR you can open documents in it from other Apps that support the functionality.

If you are trying to open a file from a web link or site, then instead of going into the Connect to Server part of GR, tap on Web Downloads and either open the built in browser by tapping Browse the Web and go to the site with the download or tap Enter URL and enter the address of the file you want to download. From there you will open the Downloads in Progress just like above and see the file’s progress.

Kevin loves notebooks, tablets, gadgets and photography. He grew up with computers starting out on a Vic 20 and Commodore 64. The first computer he owned himself was an 8086 Compaq Deskpro. His foray into tablet computing began when he bought a Samsung Q1 Ultra. The smartphone market opened up for him with his Palm Treo 600.


  1. jean

    May 17, 2010 at 2:53 am

    use GoodReader to reads and opens zip files, great job, this is helpful tips!
    Thanks for the contribution!
    well, here I share some more ipad tips I come across in an ipad column, such as “The Beginner's Guide to iPad Video Conversion on Mac”, “Apple iPad Jailbreaking Hacks”, “Top 6 Things Wrong with the New Apple iPad”, and more….

  2. neil

    December 29, 2010 at 2:20 am

    I’ve got iUnarchive. (goodreader is nice too btw, though i prefer the first)

  3. agfsadgfads

    January 11, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    99 buck for a fukin zip & another 99$ for rar, screw you.

  4. supercool

    January 14, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Use iZip to view a zip file and extract it on iPhone/iPad. You can open a zip file from email by iZip. You can also extract a zip file on iZip. What’s neat is that you can compress files in iZip to zip format and send it through email. Give it a try, you will like it:

  5. Blahblahmoron

    January 27, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Rofl.. It’s $0.99 cents you moron

  6. Sibby

    February 26, 2011 at 3:00 am

    Good tips and good suggestions. Just a fab 21st century device like the iPad should include this kind of basic stuff as standard without having to rely on third party apps.

  7. vivek

    April 10, 2011 at 12:08 am

    I purchased iZip from the App Store , yet it says “Unable to open document” when I try to use it to open a zip file.

  8. The Tech Blog

    May 3, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Is there any free unzipper for the iPad?

  9. iUnarchive

    May 9, 2011 at 11:56 am

    iUnarchive Lite is free, so yes there is a free unzipper on the iPad

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