Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

This Week's Sponsor

End users aren't your enemy! Kolide gets users to fix their own device compliance problems–and unsecure devices can't log in. Click here to learn how.

By Dan Moren

Applications Folder: The Unarchiver


File compression! It’s not sexy, it’s not new, but it’s still something we all deal with, even in this day and age of superfast Internet connections and terabytes of storage. But I still remember all too well the heady days of the ‘90s, when downloading anything off a bulletin board or the nascent Internet meant relying on that old chestnut, StuffIt Expander, and working with .SIT files, binhexing, and so on.

These days, of course, file compression is built right into macOS, with the ability to zip and unzip files directly accessible via the Finder. And for most people, that’s probably enough.

But every once in a while, I run across something for which macOS’s built-in compression capabilities aren’t quite sufficient. In those eventualities, I have for years turned to The Unarchiver. In addition to handling your standard ZIP files, The Unarchiver can accommodate a ton of other compression and archiving formats, like RAR, gzip, tar, and even those old StuffIt files you might have lying around.

I don’t find myself using The Unarchiver that much, but when I do, it’s critical. Recently I was downloading a compressed virtual machine for a project, and the instructions were adamant that the file could not be decompressed with macOS’s standard tools, since it would end up extracting the VM in the wrong format. (Sure enough, the first time I downloaded it, I missed this fact, and ended up with something my VM software couldn’t read. Which meant downloading the multi-gig file all over again.) The Unarchiver, though, dealt with it with aplomb.

In fact, I’ve never run into a file format that The Unarchiver can’t handle. It’s not a piece of software that has much in the way of user interface. Its preferences let you choose which archiving formats it’s the default system handler for, as well as how to treat the resulting files and the original archives. But frankly, that’s all The Unarchiver really needs to do. It’s the kind of tool that doesn’t get in your way, just does its job quietly and unremarkably. And, best of all, it’s free.

So really, there’s no reason not to install The Unarchiver. You might never need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have it.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]

Search Six Colors