Uncompressing .gz files

This is more of a feature request than anything else, but I think it would be great to have some documentation about uncompressing .gz files directly on the page where you extract data. I often recommend IPUMS to students for projects, and they tend to be unfamiliar with compressed file types.

If they have encountered compressed files before, they have always been able to click on them and have them automatically uncompress (if using Macs) or select the file and Extract All (if using Windows). Both those standard methods fail for .gz files downloaded from IPUMS.

On my Mac, the error message says “Unable to expand [name of file] (Error 79 - Inappropriate file type or format).” On Windows, it’s even more obscure, “The extraction operation was note completed. An unexpected error is preventing the archive from being extracted. Error 0x8096002A: No error description available.”

Having a tooltip or similar that says “this is a .gz file, you might need 7Zip (if on Windows) or Unarchiver (if on a Mac) in order to decompress” would help students, and also remind those of us who have more experience!

As I was looking for documentation to send my students, I checked:

  • the extract instructions, which say you should be able to click on the file in both Mac and Windows, and only provide suggestions for other solutions for Windows users
  • the tutorials section of the website (no resources on .gz files that I can see)
  • the YouTube tutorial for extracting data (nothing about .gz files, and a comment from 2 years ago with no response about .gz files)

Thank you for sharing your experience and suggestions on how we can better improve documentation about uncompressing .gz files. This is something that we are looking into in order to improve user experience. I have shared your concerns with the microdata team who will evaluate and determine a solution that will address the issue.

In the meantime, I recommend sharing this blog post with students interested in using IPUMS data. The post was specifically written as a guide to help new users learn how to open IPUMS data, so I hope it can serve as a helpful resource.

Thanks, yes that’s great! I’ll bookmark the link for the future.