How to Open Zip Files on iPad or iPhone

Open .zip files you receive and create .zip files to send on iOS

What to Know

  • Open email > select Tap to Download > tap file > Preview Content to preview the first item in the zip file.
  • Select the three-line menu icon to display a list of all items in the ZIP file.
  • Next, tap the file > Share icon > Save to Files. Choose a location for the file and follow prompts.

This article explains how to open zip files on iPad or iPhone running iOS 11 through iOS 12.4. Also included are instructions for using the "Zip and Email" shortcut on iOS 12.

Open and Extract Zip File Content

The .zip file format compresses files to reduce the storage space they require, which decreases transfer time and bandwidth when you send them over the internet. The format can also bundle a set of folders and files into a single file so that you can send several items as a single attachment.

You can preview and extract the contents of individual zip files with Apple Mail in iOS 11 through iOS 12.4, as well as with any other iOS app that supports preview contents of zip files.

  1. Open the email containing the attachment.

  2. Select Tap to Download in the file attachment box.

    The Tap to Download button
  3. Once the file downloads, tap it again.

    A downloaded zip file in iOS Mail
  4. The system will display information about the zip file and the contents. For example, it may display the number of files and approximate size, along with the file name.

    File information, including size and number of files
  5. Tap Preview Content to show a preview of the first item in the zip file.

    The Preview Content link
  6. Tap the three lines, each with dots to the left, to display a list of all items in the zip file.

    The More menu for a ZIP attachment
  7. Tap an item name within this list to preview it.

  8. In the upper-right, tap the Share icon (the box with the arrow pointing up) to unzip and save the file.

    The Share icon
  9. In the options that appear along the bottom, tap Save to Files.

    You may need to scroll a bit to find this option.

    The Save to Files command in the Share menu
  10. The system will display available locations. For example, most people will see iCloud Drive, On My iPhone, or, if you use an iPad, On My iPad. Tap whichever location you prefer. 

    Select a location to save files, such as iCloud Drive, On My iPad (or iPhone), or cloud storage
  11. Once you’ve selected a location, tap to navigate to the folder into which you want to extract your file.

    Select a folder in which to save the extracted file, then select Add in the upper right
  12. Tap Add in the upper right to extract the selected file and save it in unzipped format to the selected folder.

    The Add button

Zip and Email Files With Shortcuts

The Apple Shortcuts app, which came with iOS 12, added a “Zip and Email” shortcut that lets you create and send zip files.

  1. Open the Files app.

    The Files app on an iPad
  2. In the left menu, tap any available Location, such as iCloud Drive, On My iPad, On My iPhone, or other connected storage (e.g., Google Drive).

    The Locations section of the Files app
  3. On the right, tap to navigate to the folder that contains the file or files you want turn into a zip file.

    Screenshot of Files, with Locations on left, and a folder with two files on the right
  4. Tap Select in the upper right corner.

    The Select button
  5. Tap one or more files or folders to include in the zip file.

    Screenshot of two files selected. A blue circle with a checkmark displays below each file that is selected.
  6. Tap Share near the bottom of the screen.

    The Share button
  7. Tap Shortcuts from the options that appear.

    If you don’t see Shortcuts in the bottom row of options, swipe, tap More, and then enable the slider next to Shortcuts and then tap Done.

    The Shortcuts option


  8. Select the Zip and Email shortcut.

    If you don't see the option, tap Get More Shortcuts and type zip in the search box. Select Zip and Email and then Get Shortcut to add it to your library.

    The Zip and Email shortcut
  9. The shortcut will create a zip file and attach it to a new email message.

    Screenshot of blank Mail message with .zip file attachment
  10. Add recipients, a subject, and a message, and then send the email.

Other Zip File Management Options

Many people install third-party apps to compress, open, and extract zip files on iOS. For example, Documents by Readdle lets you easily select several items, then tap zip to compress these items into a zip archive file. Other apps, such as iZip Pro -Zip Unzip Unrar Tool, offer support for advanced zip features, such as the ability to create and open password protected zip files.

Additionally, some people use Shortcuts, Apple’s iOS workflow automation app, to work with zip files. Shortcuts offers the ability to add Make Archive and Extract Archive as an action. For example, you could create a Shortcut that takes a zip file, extracts the contents, and automatically saves the contents to a folder you choose. People who prefer programmatic, step-by-step control over automated sequences will likely want to explore Shortcuts automation to work with zip files.

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