One of the great features most modern operating systems offer, and Mac OS X is no exception, is the ability to create a zip archive out of most any document or folder from the Desktop.  Simply right-click the item you want to archive, and choose the Compress option from the contextual menu.

Create Zip File

There is a problem, however, when Mac users create a zip archive in this manner, then share that archive with users of Windows or Linux.  The issue is that there are extra files Mac OS X uses, files that track custom icons and icon placement, that are hidden from Mac users.  As an example, let’s take the archive created above and view it in BetterZip, an archive manager for Mac OS X that lets us browse zip archives without extracting them.

View Zip File In Mac OSX

As you can see, there only appears to be the items we wanted, and nothing else.  However, let’s look at that same folder in Linux, using File Roller, the default archive manager for GNOME Linux.

Open In Linux

As you can see, there’s an extra folder, named MACOSX.  It’s hidden on a Mac, but visible (and a cause of questions when people see it), everywhere else.  Let’s open that folder and see what’s inside.

Open MACOSX Folder

What’s this?  It looks like another folder called Change DNS Servers, which is the name of the file we wanted to archive.  Did we accidentally get two copies?  Let’s open it and see.

Only DS Store File Inside

As it turns out, thankfully, we didn’t duplicate anything.  Instead we got this DS_Store file, which is where file and icon information is stored in OS X.  And that’s not the only one in this archive.  If we go back a few images, to where we first saw the MACOSX folder, and open the folder we wanted to archive, we see another one.

Another DS Store File

They’re everywhere!  Is there any possible way to get rid of these files, so that our non-Mac using friends don’t get confused, and annoyed, by all this extra “junk” which serves no purpose on their operating systems?  Thankfully, there is a program called ZipCleaner, which does exactly what you’d expect, based on its name.

The first step is to download ZipCleaner, so head to its entry page here (where you can also read user comments), and click the blue Download Now link.

Download ZipCleaner

Once ZipCleaner has downloaded, unzip it and place it wherever you want.  The Desktop is a logical place, but it can be placed in your Applications folder as well, with its icon placed in the Dock, if you’d like.  You’ll likely want it placed in a somewhat accessible location, but again, it can go wherever you want.

To use ZipCleaner, you have two options.  You can double-click or otherwise open ZipCleaner and then drag the zip file you want to clean into its open window, or you can drag the file directly onto the ZipCleaner icon (on the Desktop or in the Dock).  Here is an example of the first option.

Drag Zip File To ZipCleaner Window

Unless you’ve turned off the warning feature, you’ll see this window:

ZipCleaner Warning

The warning mainly effects applications, which may store key components in the resource fork.  If that is removed, the application could cease to work, as the warning says.  If you’re zipping files such as text documents or photos, on the other hand, the warning can (almost always) be ignored, so go ahead and click the Remove button.

Once you’ve done so, not a lot will appear to happen.  You may notice the zip file itself flicker, which is the zip file being modified, but there isn’t any notification that the process was a success.

However, ZipCleaner does have a few preferences which you may want to modify, depending on how you expect to use it.  Access the Preferences by clicking the ZipCleaner menu, then choosing Preferences.

Access ZipCleaner Prefs

The ZipCleaner preferences give you a lot of different options.

ZipCleaner Prefs

As you can see, you can choose to turn off the warning and to turn on a feature that will provide you with a notice when the process was successful.  You can also warn before removing not only resource information, but DS_Store files as well.  Finally, if you want to have the option – depending on what’s inside your zip file – of only removing DS_Store files and not resource info, you can set that up as well.

Okay, now that you’ve stripped all the extra “stuff” from the zip file you want to send to a friend who doesn’t use OS X, it’s probably a good idea to check it, just to be sure.  First, let’s open up and see if the MACOSX folder is still there.

No Extra MACOSX Folder

Good, it’s gone.  Now let’s check inside the folder, just to check for any stray DS_Store files.

No DS Store Files

Excellent!  They’re all gone.  As mentioned, ZipCleaner is a great program for cleaning up zip files.  It can cause problems if used on programs that need their resource forks, but other than that, is a nice way to make sure anyone not using Mac OS X doesn’t find the zip files you sent them full of all kinds of unnecessary “garbage” files.