I think they have smaller file sizes meaning they are zipped. Is this right?


These are backup files created by Emacs. See Backup in the Emacs Manual.

The manual also says this:

When Emacs makes a backup file, its name is normally constructed by appending ~ to the file name being edited; thus, the backup file for eval.c would be eval.c~.


To answer the second (main) part of the question:

No, backup files created by Emacs are not compressed; the smaller size of foo.txt~ compared to foo.txt means that foo.txt was smaller when foo.txt~ was created.

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