Compressing and packaging your files for submission and return

Compressing and packaging your files for submission and return

Okay, so now you’ve got the software to produce your course work in a way that your tutor can read. The next step is to send it in the right kind of package. This will involve saving in the right format, compressing the file for storage on the OU servers – if necessary bunching multiple files up into one archive – and then sending it.

Preparing your computer – Cookies

The eTMA system requires “Cookies” to be enabled in your browser. To do this in the following Mac browsers:-


1. Select “Preferences…” from the Safari menu.
2. In the window that opens, select the “Security” icon at the top.
3. A window will open like the one below:-

As you can see, you are able to accept cookies with restrictions that can limit their power to only those sites (like the OU) which you want. Select the option that suits you.


1. Select “Preferences…” from the Firefox menu.
2. In the window that opens, select the “Privacy” icon at the top.
3. A window will open like the one below:-

Select to accept cookies.

Other browsers operate in a similar way – select preferences in the browser’s menu and have a look around.

Preparing an eTMA – Saving your Document in Word Format

Just remember when saving your work that you need to save it in a Microsoft Word format (.doc file), or at very least in Rich Text Format (.rtf), if your tutor is happy to accept RTF.

1. From the File menu of your program, select “Save as…”
2. Select your preferred file format – as a rule of thumb “Word 97/2000/XP” is best, if available – otherwise “Word” or “.doc” format. Failing those two, save in RTF.

File Size Limits – Checking file sizes on the Mac

There is a limit on the file size that can be sent to the eTMA system. You may submit a single file of up to 2 Megabytes. That’s a fair amount for a text file. But if you have multiple documents, then the total file size of a combined package must not exceed 2MB. Combined package? What’s that?

Well, what you have to do with most files going to the eTMA, even those that don’t exceed 2MB, is compress them down first, so they don’t take up too much space on the server. You’d probably be okay sending a small file uncompressed, but it’s good practice to compress them. Added to that, you very often have to send more than one document, or even a whole pile of them, like a series of reports, or a small website! Rather than trying to send several little files separately, what we do is combine them into a single archive, and then send it as a single compressed file. This file must still not exceed 2MB.

Now, there is a very long-established format in the PC world that is used to both compress files down and archive them into one collection. it’s called Zip. This is what the OU requires us to use. More on Zip in a moment.

First you need a quick way to find the size of your files on the Mac, so you can check it’s within limits. There are several ways, but the quickest is to right-click or control-click on the file. This brings up a little contextual menu. On this menu select “Get Info”. This brings up a little window with lots of info on the file – including the file size.

Creating a Zip File

Compressing a file or a folder using Zip, you’ll be very glad to hear, is a built in function of Mac OS X. So you don’t have to go trawling around paying for software solutions. If you use OS9, you will have to pick up some third-party software like MacZip, which is free to use.

The first thing you need to do is prepare your files for zipping. Your course usually informs you in your TMA document of the required name for your Zipped archive, usually a combination of your name, id number or course number, something like “Joe_Bloggs_M999TMA04”. So what you do is create a new folder on your Mac with the name “Joe_Bloggs_M999TMA04”, and then put all your TMA files and subfolders inside. If you’re only sending in a single file, then just name the file as above.

When you’re sure you’ve got all you need, do the following:

1. Right-click or control-click the new folder containing all the files, or the single file.
2. A contextual menu will pop up. Select “Create archive of [filename]”

3. The result will be a new single zipped file – created in the same place as your folder. The file will look like this:-

Notice the new .zip file identifier? Now, if you’ve sent multiple files they will all be packaged up nicely inside here. To test this, just double-click on the new file and it will automatically unzip, unwrapping a perfect new copy of the folder structure you’ve just compressed. This is what the tutor is hopefully going to do at the other end.

Did I say perfect copy? Well… almost perfect. MacOSX’s zip facility has a funny little quirk that is basically harmless, but could be confusing to a tutor who only uses Windows. When we zip and unzip stuff on our Macs, one or two invisible files get included in the archive structure, most notably a file called _MACOSX. Now these are just additional to the files we wanted, and their absence would not affect the operation of the archive at all. They can’t even be seen by our Macs. However, on a Windows machine which unzips our Mac file, these little extras do show up. That means a tutor who asked for only certain exact files to be sent, might get thrown by these additional redundant files.

A perfect, quick and free solution to this is to use a wonderful little utility called YemuZip. You just open YemuZip, drop your file or folder onto the window, and it saves a new zip file without the hidden extra files in the archive when you’re running Windows.

Now if you click on your new zip file and “get info” as described above, you should see that the file size has decreased due to the file or folder being compressed. But not necessarily. Some types of file compress better than others. In fact some hardly compress at all. So if the ultimate size of your assignment is large then don’t necessarily trust that Zip will magically reduce all your files to a tiny compressed size. Be careful, and keep checking the zipped size.

Another great zipping solution is BetterZip, which costs 19.95 USD but is very good value. You can save the archive without the Mac specific files, and it offers a much more powerful archiving solution, more like using a normal finder window. You can add and remove files from the archive. Remember to save it again after doing this. If you want a fully-powered zip solution for your OU work, then take a look at BetterZip.

BetterZip allows you manage full zip archives, as well as many other compression formats. It also enables archive encryption.

Sending an eTMA via the website

Okay, so you’re all ready and it’s time for the moment of truth: sending your work in. Happily, the sending of your eTMA on the Mac shouldn’t cause any problems, as you’ve already saved it in a compatible format and zipped it (see above). The actual eTMA mechanism is web-based, so anyone with a browser should be able to send their stuff in and receive it from the server.

Fire up your web browser and go to your course website via the link on your student home page at the OU.
A window similar to this will appear in your browser:

Choose the right TMA and click on “Submit”. This will open a page similar to the following:

Step 1: Choose the file on your system to submit. This is the important step. When you click the ‘Browse’ button the following type of window should open:

Make sure you navigate to the correct zip file. When you’ve picked the right one, press the “Open” button. The window should now look something like the following:

Step 2: Read the messages for format and plagiarism and tick the boxes

Step 3: When ready, click Submit

Your file will now be uploaded to the OU server. Until you click this button, your work will not have been submitted. When your upload is complete, you should now see a receipt window

You can click “test” to check that your file looks like it should sitting on the OUs server. Do note down the receipt code number, as this will be important if there are any problems later regarding your submission.

Collecting a marked eTMA

When your TMA is ready for collection, you will be informed by email. You simply:

  1. Go to the eTMA website like above. The Main eTMA page will appear like in the previous section. This time, click “Collect TMA”.
  2. If you are doing multiple courses, it’ll ask which course you want to collect from. Choose your course.
  3. A window will open which should list your marked file and the mark you’ve been given. Next to this is a button labelled “collect”. But don’t press this just yet! (don’t worry, if you did press it, you can just go back and start the process again)
  4. Just above the button there is a frame labelled “step 2”. In it you can choose which format to download your marked file in. You must choose “ZIP”. The reason is that the default, called “self extract”, is actually a Windows format, and won’t work.
  5. Now click collect. You will be asked if you want to save the file and where. Choose where on your mac you want it and click save.

That’s it!

Now root out the downloaded zip file on your mac and double-click it. It should open to produce a folder with the same name at the same location on your mac. When you open this folder you will generally see your document, duly marked, as well as a tutor document called a PT3 which contains a breakdown of your marks and some general comments. Here’s one of my return folders:

Inserted Comments

Now, if the tutor has included comments in your returned document (which many do) the important thing is to make sure you can see them. The word processing program you chose should have the ability to do this, but make sure you know how to enable this facility. Check the documentation, or speak to your tutor to check where his/her comments are and how to get hold of them. Sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed at how you can miss these hidden notes if you aren’t looking for them (I speak from experience ;-))