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Linux

I can’t remember tar commands

.zip, .tar, .tar.gz, .tar.bz, .gz, .tar.bz2 and so much fucking more archive file formats! There are like a bazillion archive/compression formats on this earth. And everyone uses something else.

But how to handle all these? On systems with a proper GUI this is mostly pretty simple stuff – just install a proper tool that can handle all of these. For example on Windows just put it into 7-Zip and you’re good to go. Most modern Linux distros also ship something at least partially useful nowadays.

But what if you’re working pure command line with no fancy tools installed AND YOU JUST WANT TO FUCKING UNZIP THE ARCHIVE YOU JUST DOWNLOADED? The professionals will tell you to just tar -xzf the whole archive1 (or something thereabout). But wait, wasn’t it tar -jxf? I just can’t remember…

“Luckily, there’s always a search machine to help you out”, I thought. “The answer is just one google away.” – And well, it is. But after I googled the same tar command for the 9000th time I just told myself: “I don’t want to do that anymore”. It just feels stupid to forget the same command over and over again, but I can’t help it. So I needed a solution that felt at least slighty more smart than just google the command everytime I unpack some archive.

Protip: Bash supports aliases!

And that’s exactly how I solved it. I just added some aliases for common archive files with an easy to remember alias. The alias rule is pretty simple: Just write “un” (short for “unpack”) and then the file ending without any dots. For example, if I wanted to unpack a .tar.gz file I would just write “untargz <filename>“. MUCH easier to remember, right? Well, at least for me it is.

If you want to do the same thing, you will need to create the neccessary aliases in your shell. A common place to put these is your .bashrc file located in your users home directory (e.g /home/max/.bashrc). Some systems also have a dedicated .bash_aliases file in the same directory which is loaded by the bashrc-file. If you have such a file you may also use that. The following is an excerpt from my .bashrc file, which includes aliases for common Unix archive filetypes.

# ~/.bashrc: executed by bash(1) for non-login shells.

# You may uncomment the following lines if you want `ls' to be colorized: (Everyone likes colors, right?)
export LS_OPTIONS='--color=auto'
eval "`dircolors`"
alias ls='ls $LS_OPTIONS'
alias ll='ls $LS_OPTIONS -l'
alias l='ls $LS_OPTIONS -lA'
alias untargz='tar -xzf'
alias untarbz='tar -xzf'
alias ungz='gunzip'
alias untarbz2='tar -jxf'

There are many more archive filetypes, but the aliases above cover the most common ones – if you need more, you can certainly figure out how to add these yourself. To me these aliases have been highly useful. Maybe someone else will find them useful too.

PS: The “ls” aliases shown above where suggested by another individual. I also found them to be useful, especially the ‘l’ shortcut for ls -lA which is why I included them here too.

  1. Or even worse, tell you to just read the documentation. Blarg.

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