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1.2 Some Definitions

The tar program is used to create and manipulate tar archives. An archive is a single file which contains the contents of many files, while still identifying the names of the files, their owner(s), and so forth. (In addition, archives record access permissions, user and group, size in bytes, and data modification time. Some archives also record the file names in each archived directory, as well as other file and directory information.) You can use tar to create a new archive in a specified directory.

The files inside an archive are called members. Within this manual, we use the term file to refer only to files accessible in the normal ways (by ls, cat, and so forth), and the term member to refer only to the members of an archive. Similarly, a file name is the name of a file, as it resides in the file system, and a member name is the name of an archive member within the archive.

The term extraction refers to the process of copying an archive member (or multiple members) into a file in the file system. Extracting all the members of an archive is often called extracting the archive. The term unpack can also be used to refer to the extraction of many or all the members of an archive. Extracting an archive does not destroy the archive’s structure, just as creating an archive does not destroy the copies of the files that exist outside of the archive. You may also list the members in a given archive (this is often thought of as “printing” them to the standard output, or the command line), or append members to a pre-existing archive. All of these operations can be performed using tar.

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