How to Open Zip (or Rar) Files on iPhone and iPad

September 5, 2017

iOS does let you view the contents of Zip files by taking advantage of the built-in file attachment viewer in the Notes app, however, only just that, viewing. If you need to open Zip files on your iPhone, extract or compress them, you’ll need to rely on appropriate helper apps from third parties.


If you’re looking for a way to deal with Zip files on iOS, then you’ve come to the right place. This guide will show you how to view contents of Zip files without necessitating any add-on software. Further, it will show you the best unzip apps to view, unzip and edit Zip files with relative ease.

Opening Zip Files in Notes, Mail and iCloud Drive

Some stock apps on iOS like Notes, Mail, and iCloud Drive have built-in file attachment viewers and luckily, contents of Zip files can be viewed easily thanks to such features.

Here’s how to use Notes to open Zip files

Open Zip files in Notes on iPhone

1) Launch Safari and open a web page containing a ZIP download link, like this sample one. Alternatively, you can also open a Zip file in received emails/messages, or export from cloud apps like Dropbox.

2) Safari will download the file and show you a blank page with an “Open In” option. Tap the Share button at the bottom, then tap on “Add to Notes”.

3) Now a Notes share sheets pops up. You can choose to attach the Zip file to an existing note or create a new one and add the Zip file to it. Tap Save

4) Launch Notes and open the note containing the Zip file. You will see the Zip archive’s icon. Double-tap on it to extract, then tap on “Preview Content” to view its contents.

5) As mentioned before, this method only allows you to view contents. You cannot extract the Zip file and edit files within it. However, this feature still does a pretty good job of displaying text files, pdf, images, Word documents, and even Excel spreadsheets. You can swipe to the left/right to quickly switch between files or tap on the button in the bottom-right corner to access the file list.

Open zip files iPhone

When viewing files inside the archive, you can tap the “Share button” and pick an appropriate helper app to edit it. For example, if you’ve already installed the Excel app and you’re viewing a .xls file, you can select “Open in Excel” to export the file to Excel and get work done. You can also swipe to the left/right to quickly switch between files or tap on the button in the bottom-right corner to access the file list.


This also works in the iCloud Drive app and Mail. Just tap on a Zip file saved in your iCloud Drive app, it will reveal the full contents of the archive that iOS understands.

Sometimes, you will need to unzip your zip files, edit files inside, make new zip files and share with others. Or you might want to AirDrop one onto your iPhone. Those times, you cannot rely on these stock apps. You need an exclusive zip-handler app like the one I’m going to show you.

Opening Zip files using third-party app

The app I want to show you is Documents by Readdle. It’s one of the best apps on the App Store in terms of file management in iOS. It also has its own web browser that allows you to save any files from the internet. In fact, Documents is used in my previous guide on how to download Youtube videos on iPhone and iPad. Check it out if you missed it!

Download and open ZIP/RAR files

The first thing you have to do is install the Documents app using the link given above. It’s a free apps and even cooler, it has no ads. Once the app has been installed, you’re able to save ZIP and RAR files to your iPhone.

To download a zip/rar file, you can attach the file to an email, save it to your Dropbox, or use the direct link pointing to the file like I’ve shown you before.

For example, if you use Safari and enter a direct link to a Zip file, you’ll see a web page as below. Just tap “More” and then select “Import with Documents”. The ZIP file will then be stored into the Documents app.

Downloading ZIP/RAR files on iPhone/iPad

If you’ve attached your file to an email, all you have to do is open the email, select the attached file, open the share sheet and import it into Documents 5.

Now you will be taken to the app. You should see your imported files here, in the Documents tab. To extract the ZIP/RAR file, just tap on its file icon. The app will then extract all the sub files included within the ZIP files and put them into a new folder.

Extract zip files

Once it is extracted, you can open the new folder and view your files. Documents also allows you to view Office documents, read and annotate PDF files, and edit text files. So there is no need to install other apps to handle these types of files.

Another point that I really love about this app is that it also lets users integrate their cloud storage services such as DropBox, Google Drive, Box,… making it easier to sync and work with files on all your devices.

Also read: 2 Best Video Downloader Apps for iPhone & iPad

Create ZIP files on your iPhone

Creating ZIP files on your iPhone using Documents is very easy. Here’s how to do that

  1. Tap on Edit
  2. Select files you want to compress
  3. Tap More > Zip
  4. Now you should see a new ZIP file named Archive, which is the resulting file. You can select it, upload or mail to others if you want.

Create zip files

Documents will also allow you to directly address opening archives via AirDrop/ When you AirDrop a Zip file from your Mac for instance, you’ll see a list of choices, just choose Documents from the list and you’re good to go.

Documents can be a viewer, editor for document file types such as Office files, PDF or a player for media contents like videos, music, and audio. Combining with the ability to open Zip files, it’s a really powerful all-in-one tool for all iOS users.

While waiting for a perfect native solution, I think this is the best way to deal with compressed Zip and Rar files on iPhone and iPad. Hopefully, you enjoyed the post. If you have any questions or suggestions about this topic, feel free to leave your feedback in the comment section below.

2 Comments

  • Reply Judy Thiessen November 30, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    How can I get this to read aloud???

    • Reply Daniel November 30, 2016 at 10:11 pm

      Sorry, read what?

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