Whenever I unzip a compressed file (let's call it "file.zip"), my instinct is always to unzip it into a subdirectory called "file". However, this always often to me unzip it into "file\file" and having to remove the subdirectory.

From my understanding, more professional distributors of compressed files (such as professional software developers) tend to prefer the double-subdirectory style, and amateurs (such as small hobbyist software groups) tend to (but not always) use single-directory style.

Why is it that professionals tend towards the more counter-intuitive style of having two subdirectories? Moreover, how is it that they all consistently know about this? (Is there some kind of universal document that specifies zip-file conventions?)

I suspect this behavior is to avoid a disastrous scenario where "unzip all" causes the files to be spread all over the place. Performing such an "unzip all" command from a command-line interface would be quite annoying to undo.

  • 2
    I suspect that it's just that a profesional is more likely to have all the files they want to zip in a project folder, and when they build the archive, they just right-click on the project folder, inadvertently adding it to the archive as well. Amateurs are more likely to select a set of files and then manually "add them to foo.zip", which won't preserve a folder structure.
    – Racheet
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 16:46
  • Maybe they just tend to use the same zip software ...
    – user51426
    Commented Aug 15, 2019 at 18:55
  • It seems there are several scenarios for using the archivation process and tools, as @Racheet noted. For comparison, look at the idea of the classic linux TAR files usage.
    – Tom Newton
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 8:14

1 Answer 1


Your example doesn't really make sense. When you try to unzip something, you:

  1. [Windows] Do it via right click, in which case there is an Extract here or an Extract to "filename\" or an Extract to.... All of which gives the user options depending on what the user wants to do.

  2. [Windows] Do it via double click, which opens up an Unzip program like Winzip or 7-Zip, and you get the same options as above, plus some since you can also drag + drop.

  3. [Mac] Double click and it automatically creates and unzips into a new folder if there is more than 1 file, but just leaves it as is if there is only 1 file.

Mac just does what most people want without the interruption, but as always, Windows just gives you more control.

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