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11 What is .bin? .hqx? .cpt? .etc? (Introductory Macintosh FAQ)


This article is from the Introductory Macintosh FAQ, by Elliotte Rusty Harold elharo@shock.njit.edu with numerous contributions by others.

11 What is .bin? .hqx? .cpt? .etc? (Introductory Macintosh FAQ)

Most files available by FTP are modified twice to allow them to
more easily pass through foreign computer systems. First they're
compressed to make them faster to download, and then they're
translated to either a binhex (.hqx) or MacBinary (.bin) format
that other computers can digest. (The Macintosh uses a special
two-fork filing system that chokes most other computers.) BinHex
files are 7-bit ASCII text files, while MacBinary files are pure
8-bit binary data that must always be transferred using a binary

How a file has been translated and compressed is indicated
by its suffix. Normally a file will have a name something like
filename.xxx.yyy. .xxx indicates how it was compressed and .yyy
indicates how it was translated. To use a file you've FTP'd and
downloaded to your Mac you'll need to reverse the process. Most
files you get from the net require a two-step decoding process.
First change the binhex (.hqx) or MacBinary (.bin) file to a
double-clickable Macintosh file; then decompress it. Which
programs decode which file types is covered in the table below.
Also note that most Macintosh telecommunications programs will
automatically convert MacBinary files to regular Macintosh files
as they are downloaded.

Suffix:      .sit  .cpt  .hqx  .bin  .pit  .Z  .image  .dd  .zip .uu  .tar  .gz
StuffIt 3.0|   X     X     X     X     X    X             X   X    X    X    X
Compact Pro|         X     X
Packit     |                           X
UUTool     |                                                       X
MacCompress|                                X
SunTar     |                     X     X                                X                        X
BinHex 5.0 |               X     X
BinHex 4.0 |               X
DiskDoubler|                     X          X
ZipIt      |               X     X                            X
DiskCopy   |                           X
macutil    |         X     X           X                 X
MacGzip    |                                X                                X

A few notes on the decompressors:

StuffIt is a family of products that use several different
compression schemes. The freeware StuffIt Expander will unstuff
all of them. Versions of StuffIt earlier than 3.0 (StuffIt 1.5.1,
StuffIt Classic, UnStuffIt, and StuffIt Deluxe 2.0 and 1.0)
will not unstuff the increasing number of files stuffed by
StuffIt 3.0 and later. You need to get a more recent version of
StuffIt or StuffIt Expander. See


StuffIt 4.0 (available in Lite, Deluxe, DropStuff and SpaceSaver
flavors) consistently makes smaller archives than any other Macintosh
compression utility. To allow maximum space for files on the various
ftp sites and to keep net-bandwidth down, please compress all files
you send to anonymous ftp sites with StuffIt 4.0 or later. See


UUTool, MacCompress, MacGzip and SunTar handle the popular
UNIX formats of uuencode (.uu), compress (.Z), gzip (.gz) and
tar (.tar) respectively. The UNIX versions are often more robust
than the Mac products, so use them instead when that's an option.


StuffIt Deluxe or the combination of the freeware StuffIt Expander
and the shareware DropStuff with Expander Enhancer can also decode
these four formats in a relatively reliable fashion. However be warned
that the registration dialog in these products is more than a little
annoying. See


Macutil is dik winter's package of UNIX utilities to
decompress and debinhex files on a workstation before downloading
them to a Mac. Since UNIX stores files differently than the
Mac, macutil creates MacBinary (.bin) files which should be
automatically converted on download. It can't decompress
everything. In particular it can't decompress StuffIt 3.0 and later
archives. However, if you need only one or two files out of an
archive--for instance if you want to read the README to find out if
a program does what you need it to do before you download all of
it--macutil is indispensable. See


A few notes on the compression formats:

.bin: These are MacBinary files. Always use a binary file
transfer protocol when transferring them, never ASCII or text.
Most files on the net are stored as .hqx instead. Only rascal
stores most of its files in .bin format. Most communications
programs such as ZTerm and Microphone are capable of translating
MacBinary files on the fly as they download if they know in
advance they'll be downloading MacBinary files.

.image: This format is normally used only for system software,
so that on-line users can download files that can easily be
converted into exact copies of the installer floppies. Instead
of using DiskCopy to restore the images to floppies, you can use
the freeware utility ShrinkWrap to treat the images on your hard
disk as actual floppies inserted in a floppy drive. ShrinkWrap
sometimes has problems when doing installs, so you should have
some blank floppies and a copy of DiskCopy handy just in case. See


.sea (.x, .X): .sea files don't merit a position in the above
table because they're self-extracting. They may have been created
with Compact Pro, StuffIt, or even DiskDoubler; but all should be
capable of decompressing themselves when double-clicked. For some
unknown reason Alysis has chosen not to use this industry standard
designation for self-extracting archives created with their
payware products SuperDisk! and More Disk Space. Instead
they append either .x or .X to self-extracting archives.


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