How to ZIP a Folder from the Mac Terminal – Quick & Easy Solution

zip folder mac terminal

The Mac terminal is a powerful tool that goes beyond the graphical user interface, offering users a more efficient way to manage files and folders. This article introduces the essential commands and techniques for zipping folders directly from the terminal. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned user, you’ll find valuable insights into basic zipping methods and advanced compression options. Learn how to leverage the terminal’s capabilities to streamline your file management tasks, making them quicker and more straightforward.

Basic Zip Command: To zip a folder, use the command zip -r folder_to_compress. This command recursively compresses the folder and its contents into a zip file.

Understanding the Basics of Terminal

The Terminal on Mac serves as a gateway to the underlying Unix system, allowing users to perform tasks more efficiently through commands than the graphical interface might allow. Here’s how to get started:

  • Overview of Terminal: Terminal provides access to the Unix part of macOS, enabling users to execute commands, manipulate files, and run scripts. It’s a tool for power users to control their system more finely.
  • Opening Terminal on Mac: You can open Terminal by navigating to Applications > Utilities > Terminal. Alternatively, use Spotlight by pressing Cmd + Space and typing “Terminal,” then press Enter.

How to ZIP a Single Folder

Zipping files and folders via the terminal can be more efficient than using the graphical interface. Here’s how to do it:

  • Basic Zip Command: To zip a folder, use the command zip -r folder_to_compress. This command recursively compresses the folder and its contents into a zip file.
  • Specifying Zip File Name: Replace with your desired zip file name and folder_to_compress with the name of the folder you wish to compress.
  • Including Hidden Files: By default, the zip command includes hidden files. However, if you want to ensure all hidden files are included, you can use the zip -r -X folder_to_compress command, where -X excludes extra file attributes.
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How to ZIP Multiple Folders and Files

When working with multiple folders and files, you can combine them into a single zip file for easier management:

  • Combining Files and Folders: Use the command zip -r folder1 folder2 file1.txt file2.txt to combine multiple folders and files into one zip file. Replace folder1, folder2, file1.txt, and file2.txt with the names of the folders and files you’re compressing.
  • Excluding Specific Files or Folders: If you want to exclude certain files or folders from being zipped, use the -x option. For example, zip -r folder_to_compress -x \*.git* will exclude all Git-related files and directories from the zip file.

Advanced ZIP Compression Options

Maximizing the efficiency of file storage and transfer involves using advanced compression options. Here are some techniques to enhance your zipping process:

  • Setting Compression Levels: The default compression level is usually sufficient, but you can specify a level (0-9) to balance between speed and compression ratio. Use zip -r -9 folder_to_compress for maximum compression, where -9 indicates the highest compression level.
  • Password Protecting Zip Files: To add a layer of security, you can password-protect your zip files. Use the command zip -e folder_to_compress and you will be prompted to enter and verify a password. Remember, this password is crucial for accessing the contents later.
  • Splitting Zip Files into Parts: For large files, splitting them into manageable parts can be very useful. Use the command zip -r -s 100m folder_to_compress to split the archive into parts of 100 megabytes each. The -s option specifies the size of each part.

Managing Zip Files via Terminal

The terminal also provides commands to manage and manipulate zip files without the need for graphical tools:

  • Listing Contents of a Zip File: To see what’s inside a zip file without extracting it, use unzip -l This command lists the contents, giving you a peek into the files packed inside.
  • Extracting Specific Files: If you only need to extract specific files from a zip archive, use unzip file_to_extract.txt, replacing file_to_extract.txt with the name of the file you wish to extract.
  • Checking Zip File Integrity: Ensuring the integrity of a zip file is crucial, especially when it comes from an untrusted source. Use unzip -t to perform a test extraction, which checks for any errors without actually extracting the files. This command helps verify that the archive is intact and error-free.
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Automating Tasks with Scripts

Leveraging bash scripts can significantly streamline your workflow by automating repetitive zipping tasks:

  • Creating Basic Bash Scripts: Write a script in a text editor, starting with #!/bin/bash at the top. For example, a script to zip a folder might include zip -r folder_to_compress. Save the file with a .sh extension and make it executable with chmod +x
  • Automating Zipping Tasks: Place your script in a directory within your PATH, or use ./ to run it from its current directory. You can schedule scripts with cron jobs or trigger them with specific system events for full automation.

Tips and Tricks for Efficient Use

Enhance your terminal experience with these tips:

  • Aliases for Common Commands: Shorten frequently used commands by adding aliases in your .bash_profile or .zshrc file, like alias zzip='zip -r', making them quicker to type.
  • Integrating with Finder: For a seamless experience between the terminal and Finder, use open . to open the current directory in Finder, or open to extract zip files with the default archive utility.


  • How do I zip a folder on Mac using Terminal? Use zip -r folder_to_compress to compress a folder.
  • Can I exclude certain files when zipping a folder via Terminal? Yes, use the -x option, like zip -r folder_to_compress -x file_to_exclude.txt.
  • How do I password protect a zip file in Terminal? Use zip -e folder_to_compress and you’ll be prompted to enter a password.
  • Is it possible to split a large zip file into smaller parts using Terminal? Yes, use zip -r -s size folder_to_compress, with size being the maximum size for each part (e.g., 100m for 100 megabytes).
  • How can I check the contents of a zip file without extracting it on Mac? Use unzip -l to list the contents of the zip file.

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