How to untar files in Linux/Ubuntu

In Linux, a common file format is the tarball. A tarball is a compressed folder similar to a zip file. Most Linux distributions include a graphical archive manager that allows the user to extract and manage different types of archives. While GUI based packages are great, I prefer using the terminal to manipulate files. A common task I perform is extracting files from a tarball. I always have to lookup the command needed to extract different types of tarballs. This blog post is meant to be a quick reference for myself and also to get the commands to stick in my brain.

For tar.gz(or .tgz) files

These files are compressed using gZip compressor.

tar zxvf file.tar.gz

The options:

z: The z option tells the tar command to uncompress the file.
x: This tells tar to extract the files.
v: v stands for “verbose”. v will list all the extracted files.
f: The f option tells tar which file you want to extract.

For tar.bz2(or tbz) files

tarbz2 files are compressed using the bZip2 compressor.

Use the following command:

tar jxvf file.tar.tbz

As you can see, the two commands are very similar, the only difference is that in this case, we use a ‘j’ option as opposed to using ‘z’.

j: Decompresses a bzip2 file.

A simpler way

While writing this blog post, I came across a utility called dtrx(which stands for “Do The Right Extraction”) that makes extracting archives simple, regardless of the compressor used. To extract an archive, do the following:

dtrx file.tar.gz
dtrx file.tar.bz2

dtrx can be installed using apt-get

sudo apt-get install dtrx

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