How to Open Zip Files on iPad or iPhone

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

A man using an iPad with a zipped file.

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The .zip file format solves two problems. It compresses a file to reduce the storage space required, which decreases file transfer time when sending files over the internet. It also lets you bundle a set of folders and files into a single .zip file, so you can convey one file, rather than hundreds, as an attachment or download.

In June 2019, Apple announced support for opening and creating zip files within the Files app as of the launch of iOS 13. Prior to the launch of iOS 13, the following steps will help you work with zip files on an iPhone or iPad.

Open and Extract Zip File Content

To open and access the content of zip files, you’ll need a device that runs iOS 11 or newer. You can preview and extract the contents of individual zip files with Apple Mail on iOS, as well as with any other iOS app that supports preview contents of zip files.

To open a zip file you receive as an email attachment in Mail:

  1. Tap on Tap to Download in the file attachment box while in Mail.

    Screenshot in Apple Mail with an attachment with
  2. Once the file is downloaded tap on it again. 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.

    Screenshot that shows zip file downloaded, and indicates size (i.e., 20.4 MB)
  3. Tap Preview Content. This should display a preview of the first item in the zip file.

    Screenshot shows zip file details (15.8 MB, 2 files), with Preview Content option
  4. Tap the three lines, each with dots to the left, to display a list of all items in the zip file.

    Screenshot with content preview table (upper left corner) tapped, displaying list of files in the zip file
  5. Tap an item name within this list to preview it.

  6. When you see a file you want to unzip and save, tap the Share icon (the box with the arrow pointing up) in the upper-right corner.

  7. In the options that appear along the bottom, look for “Save to Files”. You may need to scroll a bit to see this option. Tap Save to Files.

    Share icon (upper right) select, with Save to Files visible in lower left of the options
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. Tap Add in the upper right to extract the selected file and save it in unzipped format to the selected folder.

Zip and Email Files With Shortcuts

The Apple Shortcuts app, launched with iOS 12, added a “Zip and Email” shortcut that lets you “Compress files into a zip file and email it along,” as the shortcut description describes it. 

  1. Tap to open the Files app.

  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).

  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.

  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.

  7. Tap Shortcuts from the options that appear. (If you don’t see Shortcuts in the bottom row of options, swipe, then tap More, then enable the slider next to Shortcuts and then tap Done. This should make the option display.) 

    Screenshot shows Share icon (mid-lower left), with Shortcuts option displayed
  8. If the Zip and Email shortcut displays in the list, tap it. (Otherwise, tap Get More Shortcuts, type zip in the search box, then tap Zip and Email when it displays and tap Get Shortcut to add it to your library, then tap Cancel and then tap Files in the upper left corner.)

    Screenshot shows Zip and Email shortcut (lower right among the 9 shortcuts displayed)
  9. A zip file will be created and inserted as an attachment to an email message.

    Screenshot of blank Mail message with .zip file attachment
  10. Add email recipients, subject, and message, then tap Send.

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 (free) 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 ($5.99), 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 files, and automatically saves the contents to a folder you choose. (See The 18 Best Shortcuts for Apple’s iOS Shortcuts App for more examples of what you can do with Shortcuts.) People who prefer programmatic, step-by-step control over automated sequences will likely want to explore Shortcuts automation to work with zip files.