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What Do You Do With Those .tar.gz Files Anyway?

Mac OS X Tip - What Do You Do With Those .tar.gz Files Anyway?

by , 1:00 PM EDT, October 23rd, 2000

Now that people have been using OS X Beta for some time now, problems with downloading file formats and how to "Unstuff" them have become commonplace. OS X Beta does not handle traditional Stuffit archives particularly well, even launching the Classic environment to try and decompress the file. Many users have complained that the .tar.gz file formats are unusable, and will not work with Stuffit Expander.

This is partially true.

Stuffit Expander, under OS X or Classic, has little idea as of now how to deal with .tar.gz compression formats. However, OS X does know how to deal with these standard UNIX based compression formats. Also, OS X has the tools built-in to decompress .tar.gz files. It does require using the Terminal window and command line interface, but the process is remarkably simple. Follow these simple steps, and you can be a command line user in no time.

Step 1: Download the .tar.gz file of your choice. It is important you know the entire name of the file, watching capitals and other punctuation. OS X Beta right now does not automatically list downloaded files, so you won't be able to go to the Finder to see the file name. Using IE 5, download the file, and watch the Download Manager to be sure that the file does indeed successfully download. At this point, OS X might launch Classic and Stuffit Expander. Ignore them if they do. Once Classic and Stuffif have launched (icons appear in the Dock) you can actually quit them both.

Step 2: In the Finder, click on the Apps button, then the Utilities folder, and then double-click to launch the Terminal.app. This will bring up a spooky command line interface window.

Step 3: Type the following into the Terminal window:

tar -zxvf nameoffile.tar.gz

Once you do this, the Terminal window should give you some feedback, which is basically Unix-ese for telling you the file has been successfully decompressed.

Step 4:Type "exit" (without the quotes) in the Terminal window, and then quit the Terminal.app just like you would quit any other application.

Step 5: Go find the new file. The file will have been decompressed wherever you have set the default location for downloads in IE. Whether that be the desktop or your Home folder. If you absolutely do not know where that is, launch Sherlock and type in the name of the file, in our example, nameoffile.tar.gz, and Sherlock will find it for you. There you go, file decompressed and usable.

For those interested in what the command you entered actually means, our own Dave Hamilton explains it this way:

tar: tape archive program. Used to be (and still is) used for archiving directories to tape. It now supports files as well.

-z - unzip
-x - eXtract from the tar archive
-v - Verbose output (list each file)
-f - perform these operations on the File listed next

From our early experience with OS X Beta, the .tar.gz compression format is far easier to deal with than the early incarnations of Stuffit archives for OS X. If you are given the .tar.gz option, or are forced to download a file in that format, simply follow the steps above and you will be off and running.

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