Python’s zipfile: Manipulate Your ZIP Files Efficiently


Python’s zipfile is a standard library module intended to manipulate ZIP files. This file format is a widely adopted industry standard when it comes to archiving and compressing digital data. You can use it to package together several related files. It also allows you to reduce the size of your files and save disk space. Most importantly, it facilitates data exchange over computer networks.

Knowing how to create, read, write, populate, extract, and list ZIP files using the zipfile module is a useful skill to have as a Python developer or a DevOps engineer.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to:

Read, write, and extract files from ZIP files with Python’s zipfile
Read metadata about the content of ZIP files using zipfile
Use zipfile to manipulate member files in existing ZIP files
Create new ZIP files to archive and compress files

If you commonly deal with ZIP files, then this knowledge can help to streamline your workflow to process your files confidently.

To get the most out of this tutorial, you should know the basics of working with files, using the with statement, handling file system paths with pathlib, and working with classes and object-oriented programming.

To get the files and archives that you’ll use to code the examples in this tutorial, click the link below:

Get Materials: Click here to get a copy of the files and archives that you’ll use to run the examples in this zipfile tutorial.

Getting Started With ZIP Files

ZIP files are a well-known and popular tool in today’s digital world. These files are fairly popular and widely used for cross-platform data exchange over computer networks, notably the Internet.

You can use ZIP files for bundling regular files together into a single archive, compressing your data to save some disk space, distributing your digital products, and more. In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to manipulate ZIP files using Python’s zipfile module.

Because the terminology around ZIP files can be confusing at times, this tutorial will stick to the following conventions regarding terminology:


ZIP file, ZIP archive, or archive
A physical file that uses the ZIP file format

A regular computer file

Member file
A file that is part of an existing ZIP file

Having these terms clear in your mind will help you avoid confusion while you read through the upcoming sections. Now you’re ready to continue learning how to manipulate ZIP files efficiently in your Python code!

What Is a ZIP File?

You’ve probably already encountered and worked with ZIP files. Yes, those with the .zip file extension are everywhere! ZIP files, also known as ZIP archives, are files that use the ZIP file format.

PKWARE is the company that created and first implemented this file format. The company put together and maintains the current format specification, which is publicly available and allows the creation of products, programs, and processes that read and write files using the ZIP file format.

The ZIP file format is a cross-platform, interoperable file storage and transfer format. It combines lossless data compression, file management, and data encryption.

Data compression isn’t a requirement for an archive to be considered a ZIP file. So you can have compressed or uncompressed member files in your ZIP archives. The ZIP file format supports several compression algorithms, though Deflate is the most common. The format also supports information integrity checks with CRC32.

Even though there are other similar archiving formats, such as RAR and TAR files, the ZIP file format has quickly become a common standard for efficient data storage and for data exchange over computer networks.

ZIP files are everywhere. For example, office suites such as Microsoft Office and Libre Office rely on the ZIP file format as their document container file. This means that .docx, .xlsx, .pptx, .odt, .ods, .odp files are actually ZIP archives containing several files and folders that make up each document. Other common files that use the ZIP format include .jar, .war, and .epub files.

You may be familiar with GitHub, which provides web hosting for software development and version control using Git. GitHub uses ZIP files to package software projects when you download them to your local computer. For example, you can download the exercise solutions for Python Basics: A Practical Introduction to Python 3 book in a ZIP file, or you can download any other project of your choice.

ZIP files allow you to aggregate, compress, and encrypt files into a single interoperable and portable container. You can stream ZIP files, split them into segments, make them self-extracting, and more.

Why Use ZIP Files?

Knowing how to create, read, write, and extract ZIP files can be a useful skill for developers and professionals who work with computers and digital information. Among other benefits, ZIP files allow you to:

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