Dealing with Archives on iOS
One of the ways iPads are marketed is that they are easier to use than PCs because they ditch the legacy stuff that makes PCs lame. And that would be true in a world where iPads only ever had to deal with other iPads.
This week, my uncle had been trying to get his pay stub onto his iPad, but the frontend he was accessing insisted on giving it to him in a zip file. Of course, the iPad doesn’t ship with anything that can unzip files because the very notion of files is gross and icky.
On a PC or a Mac, this wouldn’t have been an issue. At least as far back as Windows XP (maybe earlier?), a default install of the OS has been capable of unzipping files. OS X also got the ability to unzip things without resorting to a third-party utility when Archive Utility was introduced back in OS X 10.3.
This is one of the places where using an iPad has added complexity. Apple probably sees zips in the same way it sees a lot of other things that they disagree with: as legacy technologies that they will force out of existance by their own willpower. And while certainly they may succeed eventually, that doesn’t really help my uncle, who can’t unzip this file that’s staring him in the face.
Luckily, Dag Agren, developer of the fantastic The Unarchiver for OS X, wrote a great utility for iOS a few years back called Archives which brings the full power of The Unarchiver to iOS devices. In a nutshell, it lets you:
- Decompress almost any compressed file format you can name going back to the 80s
- Extract media assets from SWF (Flash) files or PDFs
- Extract files off of CD disk images (ISO, BIN, NRG, CDI, and other formats)
This is the kind of Swiss Army knife utility that’s indispensible on desktop computers, but is somehow even more valuable on iOS, where its competition is significantly more limited, and it existing at all opens the door for iOS believers to get away with doing so much more than was ever imagined.
Hopefully in the coming weeks, I will have some more concrete examples of stuff I do on iOS, but I’m in the process of re-evaluating some of my app choices right now (specifically with tasks and notes), and I also want to nail down a paperless workflow that’s iOS-first because income tax has reminded me how much I hate searching for pieces of paper I got in the mail nine months ago.