Although Sims downloads come in a variety of different file formats, you'll generally find when they are on a website for download they are inside a special folder style format known as a zip file.
Many websites use zips for storing and serving their downloads because multiple items can be put in a single zip and it also makes the content smaller. Making downloads smaller means they are faster for you to download and cheaper for websites to serve because they use less bandwidth than they would if they were not in a zip.
You may also find websites that put their downloads in rar or 7z files, these are similar to zip files, they are more efficient (the files are smaller still) but not as popular and you will need a separate program if you want to open rar or 7z files. At Parsimonious we only use zips.
The most likely reason you might want a special zip program is if you want to open many zips at once, or if you want to open other formats like rars and 7z files. If you use the programs described below then you can use the same method to open other types of archives you'll find on other websites in the same way so it's a useful skill to learn and it is incredibly quick and simple once you know how.
If your computer has Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8 then your operating system already knows how to open a zip file (but not a rar or 7z), they can be opened just like a regular Windows folder by double clicking on them. You can then copy the files and install them. Like accessing files in different folders, you can only open one at a time so therefore having a separate program is a good idea.
The newest versions of OS Leopard and Lion have zip integration in Safari so you can skip the unzipping process entirely, by default your web browser will do it for you, you can just open your Downloads folder on your desktop and install them directly. This means you can download lots of items and they will all simply be ready to use once you are done downloading.
If you have turned off this feature you can turn it back on again by going to Safari > Preferences > General and check "Open Safe files after downloading".
If you've decided you do want a zip program then there are loads and loads of different options, however there are 2 which I recommend:
In the past I tested a large variety of different programs and had previously recommended another program because it was really easy to download and use BUT years after writing this recommendation I learned that particular program was updated to include a nasty piece of spyware as part of its installation. Obviously I never want to encourage visitors to use dangerous programs and so I am no longer offering any links to relatively little known zip programs.
To download 7zip go to www.7Zip.org
You'll need to get the right version for your computer and the website is a little bit geeky! The download links are at the top of the home page, but you'll need to know whether your version of Windows is 32 or 64 bit so you can get the right one. If you're not sure then see this Microsoft information page for details.
Run the file you downloaded by double-clicking it (it's most likely in YOUR NAME\My Documents\Downloads unless your browser is set up to save it somewhere else, otherwise it'll be in the folder you chose to download it to).
Follow the on-screen instructions to install the program - the default options are suitable for general use such as opening Sims downloads zips
After installing you might want to set up context menus to make using it as neat and easy as possible - this only needs to be done once when you install it. Run the program from the Start menu, or the desktop shortcut created: Start > All Programs > 7zip > 7zip File Manager
From the menu select Tools > Options - on the first tab check the boxes to associate zips, rars and 7zips with 7zip, it doesn't matter if you want to enable others too, but those are the 3 you are most likely to want to use
I also like to weed the cascading context menus a little so there aren't lots of options when opening a zip - just the ones I want to use often.
If you want to do this too, then in the Tools > Options page click on the 7Zip tab and uncheck any options you don't want to use - you'll want to keep Extract Here if you want to use the quick method described below. You can change these options any time by simply running the program again and updating the check boxes.
Open the folder your downloaded files are in (see the "How To Download" Topic if you're not sure where your browser puts files you download)
Right click on a single zip, or drag a selection box around multiple zips and then right click to open several at once.
From the cascade menu that pops up, choose Extract Here - this puts everything inside the zip(s) into the same folder.
As you can see, I only have Extract Here and Extract to ZipName\ because I tidied up cascading context menus. By default there will be lots of other options which you can disable as noted above to make your menu tidier and therefore quicker to find the right option.
Now your files are unzipped and you can begin installing them according to the instructions by running them with the game installer, recommended installer software or simply putting them in the correct game folder (remember instructions vary by game version AND sometimes by file type, it's important to get the next step right too!).
To download go to the Keka Home Page - Select the Download Tab then click on the big green Download button
Unfortunately because I don't own a Mac I can't give you detailed instructions for installing this program - but I don't imagine it's difficult! Once the download is complete open your Downloads folder and run the installer file you downloaded and follow the on-screen instructions.
Because this program is based upon 7zip it does everything that 7zip does, it will open the same archive types (including zip, rar and 7z) and you can use the context menus to select multiple archives to extract them into a working folder after which you can then install them into your game as per the instructions provided (see related links below)
After opening the zips you've downloaded you will then need to add them to your Sims game. How you do this will depend on which version of The Sims you are using (remember that you cannot add files from one version to a different version!). It may also depend on the type of content too, Sims 1 and Sims 2 have different file formats for different items.
Just like opening a zip file, it is simple to do once you have learned the process, but it is important to do it correctly if you want the files to work! Choose the correct topic for your game version from the menu at the top, or from the related links below.