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Save Time by Automating Repetitive Zip File additions and Updates

There are many reasons to zip files. Compressing or zipping files reduces the size of the file, sometimes as much as 50%. Smaller files are transferred more quickly and occupy less disk space which may reduce disk quota charges on Internet Cloud services.

There are many software packages to zip files. WinZip and WinRar are among the more popular. Some good packages are free such 7zip. But what if you repetitively zip the same files or folders. 7zip and Winzip offer a command line interface for this purpose. A command line is a DOS command interface which requires knowledge of the archane DOS command syntax with its unclear, confusing error messages. For those like myself who remember DOS well this is doable. Still I prefer a point and click interface with proactive, helpful error messages.

Modern Alternative to Batch Files

You Can Author by Ortron, Inc. offers a form to complete that creates the zip commands. There's a form for adding to a zip file, extracting from a zip file and one for listing the files in a zip file. Often, you don't need to fill in the forms as there is a recorder option in Windows Explorer which records as you add files to a zip.

Recording In Windows Explorer

An extension to Windows Explorer called "You Can Record and More" provides a means to record zip file additions using the awarding winning 7zip engine. Basically, recording requires 4 steps:

  • Open Windows Explorer. (right click on Start button)
  • Name the recording.
  • Select the files to zip, name the zip file and zip the files. Optionally, encrypt zip files with a password.
  • End the recording.

See to example.

For me one of the best features is encryption. I backup files to Dropbox. I never backup confidential files to the Internet without encrypting the data first. For example, Dropbox will encrypt your data before transmission and keep it encrypted with only Dropbox knowing how to decrypt. Still I prefer the extra security afforded with my own encryption password and the smaller footprint of my data in Dropbox.

Recording may not fit all your needs. Sometimes you want to include a folder but exclude some files by type, perhaps large files not needed. During recording a sentence in created in the You Can Author Editor. After recording you can modify the recorded sentence. At first glance the modification process seem a little strange.It's kind of like a puzzle and anyone can get the hang of it in a few minutes.

The Editor is already open; click on the You taskbar icon. Find the English sentence you will modify. Double click on it to open the sentence form. In the form find the file-or-folder-exclusion; select "exclude-files-by-file-type" from the list. Key the file type in the text box. Click OK. Finally, click Translate on the top toolbar which generates the zip commands. For more information refer to this video.

Replay the Recording

By default a desktop icon can be added; click this icon. I prefered to not include a desktop icon and configured the software to not automatically create an icon. You Can author provides a taskbar icon to run recorded scripts. Click the icon and double click the name of the script.

The You Can Author Editor and You Can Record and More are part of a repetitive file management suite. All of the Suite is free except there is a limit on the number of new recordings and scripts you can create.

Download here.


Some More Thoughts & Tips

If you're backing up files to the Internet it's a good idea to avoid large zip files as one file changed within the zip requires the whole zip file to be transfered. This may tie up the broadband connection longer than necessary.

While recording you may need to choose a group of files, for example, all Word files. Word file names end with type doc. How to record this:

  • In Windows Explorer select the folder to be zipped. Be sure to select the folder not just its files.
  • Right click for the context menu. Click on You icon, then on the expanded menu click on You icon (where its says More).
  • The You Can Record window is displayed. Choose "(re)SELECT Files/folders".
  • You are asked the method to select. Choose "Select by file type".
  • Enter doc as the file type and click OK.
  • Then dropdown the leftmost list and select "Zip latest file/folder selections".
  • Enter zip file name and click Zip Now. The file type entry (i.e. doc) will be recorded so on replay all doc files in the folder will be zipped.

While this approach works, personally, I think it's easier to open a form in You Can Author and complete by selecting the folder and file type there.

The Go into subfolders checkbox provides an option often used with folder selections. Check this box to include the subfolders in the zip file.

If you do much file management there are other features offered in the Suite to automate file management:

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