How to Exclude Files in a Zip Archive

Learn how to exclude specific files when creating a zip archive with these easy-to-follow steps.

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The easiest way to close many specific files or a bunch of similar files from a zip archive is to skip the easy zip utility built into the friendly interface of Mac OS X and go to the command line where the powerful zip command is located.

This is useful for a million and one reasons, but the primary motivation for this post is related to .DS_Store files shipped with zip archives created on one Mac, only to shuffle another machine that decompresses the file, whether on another Mac, Windows PC, or Linux . This happens by default with both the friendly zip tool and the command line zip utility, and is because the default function of zip tools is to include hidden files, regardless of whether they are displayed. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, and in many cases it’s considered useful, but if you don’t want them or other relevant files to appear in your archive, then read on.

Exclude files from the Zip archive

The basic information about excluding files when creating a zip archive is centered around the -x flag, which is used to exclude files from the archive that match a specific name or pattern. It’s the most fundamental, it looks like this:

zip files -x “ExcludeMe”

This means that you can exclude a single file by saying that its name is “Nothanks.jpg”

zip images / -x “Nothanks.jpg”

Here are a few specific examples if this is helpful.

Exclude .DS_Store files from Zip archives

This prevents typically invisible Mac metadata from including .DS_Store files in bundled zip archives by default:

zip -r archived directory -x “* .DS_Store”

However, if the directory contains subdirectories, you must use another command variant to also close the ds_store files from the subdirectories:

zip -r directory -x “* /. DS_Store ”

Note: Not all scripts require quotes for this command to work properly, but in the bash shell (default in Mac OS X), you must use quotation marks to enclose with wildcards and patterns.

Exclude certain file types from the zip archive

Wildcards also allow you to exclude all specific types of files by focusing on the extension. For example, this command compresses the entire directory minus all .jpg files:

zip -r directory -x “* .jpg”

It can be modified to any specific file extension or template that is matched to the file name.

Exclude the .git or .svn directory from the zip archive

Zip directory minus .git and its contents: zip -r directorytozip -x “* .git *”

Zip folder without .svn directory: zip -r directory -x “* .svn *”

Close all hidden files in the zip archive

Because templates and wildcards can be used, you can also exclude all or all invisible files and folders that have been added with a dot, whether it’s a directory like .svn or a single file like .bash_profile or .htaccess.

zip -r driverozip -x “*. * ”

Or exclude all invisible files in all subdirectories:

zip -r directory -x “* /. * ”

Cheers to Macworld forum commenters for the exact syntax of excluding these files from subdirectories as well.

Zip archive icon

Ultimately, this is just one reason for power users to move to the terminal to create archives. Powerful features like wildcard support, exclusion, and optional password protection with zippers, it’s just more versatile, and since everything is included with the Mac anyway, you don’t have to download a new app to support the advanced features.

And yes, technically, if you chose to stay in the UI, you can use the Finder and Spotlight search operators to narrow the contents of folders in Mac OS X before creating the archive, or just select all and manually Command + Click each file without including them, but it’s really not effective in large archiving operations. Thus, the terminal wins easily, and despite being focused on the command line, it really isn’t complicated once you learn the basics.

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The Bollyinside editorial staff is made up of tech experts with more than 10 years of experience Led by Sumit Chauhan. We started in 2014 and now Bollyinside is a leading tech resource, offering everything from product reviews and tech guides to marketing tips. Think of us as your go-to tech encyclopedia!


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