tar.gz, also known as tgz, is a file format used for archives compressed with gzip. It's popular in the Linux environment for distributing files because it offers a good balance between compression efficiency and speed.

You can unpack tar.gz files using the tar command-line utility, which comes pre-installed in most Linux distributions. While tar operates in the command-line, it also serves as the foundation for various graphical user interface (GUI) programs.

Steps to open a gzip-compressed tar archive in Linux:

  1. Open the terminal application.
  2. Verify if the file is a valid gzip archive (optional).
    $ file archive.tar.gz
    archive.tar.gz: gzip compressed data, last modified: Wed Aug 21 08:36:18 2019, from Unix, original size 10240
  3. Create a folder where you want to unpack the file (optional).
    $ mkdir target
  4. Navigate to the desired directory where you want to unpack the file (optional).
    $ cd target
  5. Extract the file using the tar command.
    $ tar --extract --gzip --verbose --file=/home/user/archive.tar.gz #Simplified version: tar -xzvf /home/user/archive.tar.gz

    Options for tar.

    $ tar --help
    Usage: tar [OPTION...] [FILE]...
    GNU 'tar' saves many files together into a single tape or disk archive, and can
    restore individual files from the archive.
      tar -cf archive.tar foo bar  # Create archive.tar from files foo and bar.
      tar -tvf archive.tar         # List all files in archive.tar verbosely.
      tar -xf archive.tar          # Extract all files from archive.tar.
     Local file name selection:
          --add-file=FILE        add given FILE to the archive (useful if its name
                                 starts with a dash)
      -C, --directory=DIR        change to directory DIR
          --exclude=PATTERN      exclude files, given as a PATTERN
          --exclude-backups      exclude backup and lock files
          --exclude-caches       exclude contents of directories containing
                                 CACHEDIR.TAG, except for the tag file itself
          --exclude-caches-all   exclude directories containing CACHEDIR.TAG
          --exclude-caches-under exclude everything under directories containing
          --exclude-ignore=FILE  read exclude patterns for each directory from
                                 FILE, if it exists
                                 read exclude patterns for each directory and its
                                 subdirectories from FILE, if it exists
          --exclude-tag=FILE     exclude contents of directories containing FILE,
                                 except for FILE itself
          --exclude-tag-all=FILE exclude directories containing FILE
          --exclude-tag-under=FILE   exclude everything under directories
                                 containing FILE
          --exclude-vcs          exclude version control system directories
          --exclude-vcs-ignores  read exclude patterns from the VCS ignore files
          --no-null              disable the effect of the previous --null option
          --no-recursion         avoid descending automatically in directories
          --no-unquote           do not unquote input file or member names
          --no-verbatim-files-from   -T treats file names starting with dash as
                                 options (default)
          --null                 -T reads null-terminated names; implies
          --recursion            recurse into directories (default)
      -T, --files-from=FILE      get names to extract or create from FILE
          --unquote              unquote input file or member names (default)
          --verbatim-files-from  -T reads file names verbatim (no escape or option
      -X, --exclude-from=FILE    exclude patterns listed in FILE
     File name matching options (affect both exclude and include patterns):
          --anchored             patterns match file name start
          --ignore-case          ignore case
          --no-anchored          patterns match after any '/' (default for
          --no-ignore-case       case sensitive matching (default)
          --no-wildcards         verbatim string matching
          --no-wildcards-match-slash   wildcards do not match '/'
          --wildcards            use wildcards (default for exclusion)
          --wildcards-match-slash   wildcards match '/' (default for exclusion)
     Main operation mode:
      -A, --catenate, --concatenate   append tar files to an archive
      -c, --create               create a new archive
      -d, --diff, --compare      find differences between archive and file system
          --delete               delete from the archive (not on mag tapes!)
      -r, --append               append files to the end of an archive
      -t, --list                 list the contents of an archive
          --test-label           test the archive volume label and exit
      -u, --update               only append files newer than copy in archive
      -x, --extract, --get       extract files from an archive
     Operation modifiers:
          --check-device         check device numbers when creating incremental
                                 archives (default)
      -g, --listed-incremental=FILE   handle new GNU-format incremental backup
      -G, --incremental          handle old GNU-format incremental backup
          --hole-detection=TYPE  technique to detect holes
          --ignore-failed-read   do not exit with nonzero on unreadable files
          --level=NUMBER         dump level for created listed-incremental archive
      -n, --seek                 archive is seekable
          --no-check-device      do not check device numbers when creating
                                 incremental archives
          --no-seek              archive is not seekable
          --occurrence[=NUMBER]  process only the NUMBERth occurrence of each file
                                 in the archive; this option is valid only in
                                 conjunction with one of the subcommands --delete,
                                 --diff, --extract or --list and when a list of
                                 files is given either on the command line or via
                                 the -T option; NUMBER defaults to 1
                                 set version of the sparse format to use (implies
      -S, --sparse               handle sparse files efficiently
     Overwrite control:
      -k, --keep-old-files       don't replace existing files when extracting,
                                 treat them as errors
          --keep-directory-symlink   preserve existing symlinks to directories when
          --keep-newer-files     don't replace existing files that are newer than
                                 their archive copies
          --no-overwrite-dir     preserve metadata of existing directories
          --one-top-level[=DIR]  create a subdirectory to avoid having loose files
          --overwrite            overwrite existing files when extracting
          --overwrite-dir        overwrite metadata of existing directories when
                                 extracting (default)
          --recursive-unlink     empty hierarchies prior to extracting directory
          --remove-files         remove files after adding them to the archive
          --skip-old-files       don't replace existing files when extracting,
                                 silently skip over them
      -U, --unlink-first         remove each file prior to extracting over it
      -W, --verify               attempt to verify the archive after writing it
     Select output stream:
          --ignore-command-error ignore exit codes of children
          --no-ignore-command-error   treat non-zero exit codes of children as
      -O, --to-stdout            extract files to standard output
          --to-command=COMMAND   pipe extracted files to another program
     Handling of file attributes:
          --atime-preserve[=METHOD]   preserve access times on dumped files, either
                                 by restoring the times after reading
                                 (METHOD='replace'; default) or by not setting the
                                 times in the first place (METHOD='system')
          --clamp-mtime          only set time when the file is more recent than
                                 what was given with --mtime
          --delay-directory-restore   delay setting modification times and
                                 permissions of extracted directories until the end
                                 of extraction
          --group=NAME           force NAME as group for added files
          --group-map=FILE       use FILE to map file owner GIDs and names
          --mode=CHANGES         force (symbolic) mode CHANGES for added files
          --mtime=DATE-OR-FILE   set mtime for added files from DATE-OR-FILE
      -m, --touch                don't extract file modified time
                                 cancel the effect of --delay-directory-restore
          --no-same-owner        extract files as yourself (default for ordinary
          --no-same-permissions  apply the user's umask when extracting permissions
                                 from the archive (default for ordinary users)
          --numeric-owner        always use numbers for user/group names
          --owner=NAME           force NAME as owner for added files
          --owner-map=FILE       use FILE to map file owner UIDs and names
      -p, --preserve-permissions, --same-permissions
                                 extract information about file permissions
                                 (default for superuser)
          --same-owner           try extracting files with the same ownership as
                                 exists in the archive (default for superuser)
      -s, --preserve-order, --same-order
                                 member arguments are listed in the same order as
                                 the files in the archive
          --sort=ORDER           directory sorting order: none (default), name or
     Handling of extended file attributes:
          --acls                 Enable the POSIX ACLs support
          --no-acls              Disable the POSIX ACLs support
          --no-selinux           Disable the SELinux context support
          --no-xattrs            Disable extended attributes support
          --selinux              Enable the SELinux context support
          --xattrs               Enable extended attributes support
          --xattrs-exclude=MASK  specify the exclude pattern for xattr keys
          --xattrs-include=MASK  specify the include pattern for xattr keys
     Device selection and switching:
      -f, --file=ARCHIVE         use archive file or device ARCHIVE
          --force-local          archive file is local even if it has a colon
      -F, --info-script=NAME, --new-volume-script=NAME
                                 run script at end of each tape (implies -M)
      -L, --tape-length=NUMBER   change tape after writing NUMBER x 1024 bytes
      -M, --multi-volume         create/list/extract multi-volume archive
          --rmt-command=COMMAND  use given rmt COMMAND instead of rmt
          --rsh-command=COMMAND  use remote COMMAND instead of rsh
          --volno-file=FILE      use/update the volume number in FILE
     Device blocking:
      -b, --blocking-factor=BLOCKS   BLOCKS x 512 bytes per record
      -B, --read-full-records    reblock as we read (for 4.2BSD pipes)
      -i, --ignore-zeros         ignore zeroed blocks in archive (means EOF)
          --record-size=NUMBER   NUMBER of bytes per record, multiple of 512
     Archive format selection:
      -H, --format=FORMAT        create archive of the given format
     FORMAT is one of the following:
        gnu                      GNU tar 1.13.x format
        oldgnu                   GNU format as per tar <= 1.12
        pax                      POSIX 1003.1-2001 (pax) format
        posix                    same as pax
        ustar                    POSIX 1003.1-1988 (ustar) format
        v7                       old V7 tar format
          --old-archive, --portability
                                 same as --format=v7
                                 control pax keywords
          --posix                same as --format=posix
      -V, --label=TEXT           create archive with volume name TEXT; at
                                 list/extract time, use TEXT as a globbing pattern
                                 for volume name
     Compression options:
      -a, --auto-compress        use archive suffix to determine the compression
      -I, --use-compress-program=PROG
                                 filter through PROG (must accept -d)
      -j, --bzip2                filter the archive through bzip2
      -J, --xz                   filter the archive through xz
          --lzip                 filter the archive through lzip
          --lzma                 filter the archive through xz
          --lzop                 filter the archive through lzop
          --no-auto-compress     do not use archive suffix to determine the
                                 compression program
      -z, --gzip, --gunzip, --ungzip   filter the archive through gzip
          --zstd                 filter the archive through zstd
      -Z, --compress, --uncompress   filter the archive through compress
     Local file selection:
          --backup[=CONTROL]     backup before removal, choose version CONTROL
      -h, --dereference          follow symlinks; archive and dump the files they
                                 point to
          --hard-dereference     follow hard links; archive and dump the files they
                                 refer to
      -K, --starting-file=MEMBER-NAME
                                 begin at member MEMBER-NAME when reading the
          --newer-mtime=DATE     compare date and time when data changed only
      -N, --newer=DATE-OR-FILE, --after-date=DATE-OR-FILE
                                 only store files newer than DATE-OR-FILE
          --one-file-system      stay in local file system when creating archive
      -P, --absolute-names       don't strip leading '/'s from file names
          --suffix=STRING        backup before removal, override usual suffix ('~'
                                 unless overridden by environment variable
     File name transformations:
          --strip-components=NUMBER   strip NUMBER leading components from file
                                 names on extraction
          --transform=EXPRESSION, --xform=EXPRESSION
                                 use sed replace EXPRESSION to transform file
     Informative output:
          --checkpoint[=NUMBER]  display progress messages every NUMBERth record
                                 (default 10)
          --checkpoint-action=ACTION   execute ACTION on each checkpoint
          --full-time            print file time to its full resolution
          --index-file=FILE      send verbose output to FILE
      -l, --check-links          print a message if not all links are dumped
          --no-quote-chars=STRING   disable quoting for characters from STRING
          --quote-chars=STRING   additionally quote characters from STRING
          --quoting-style=STYLE  set name quoting style; see below for valid STYLE
      -R, --block-number         show block number within archive with each message
          --show-defaults        show tar defaults
          --show-omitted-dirs    when listing or extracting, list each directory
                                 that does not match search criteria
                                 show valid ranges for snapshot-file fields
          --show-transformed-names, --show-stored-names
                                 show file or archive names after transformation
          --totals[=SIGNAL]      print total bytes after processing the archive;
                                 with an argument - print total bytes when this
                                 SIGNAL is delivered; Allowed signals are: SIGHUP,
                                 SIGQUIT, SIGINT, SIGUSR1 and SIGUSR2; the names
                                 without SIG prefix are also accepted
          --utc                  print file modification times in UTC
      -v, --verbose              verbosely list files processed
          --warning=KEYWORD      warning control
      -w, --interactive, --confirmation
                                 ask for confirmation for every action
     Compatibility options:
      -o                         when creating, same as --old-archive; when
                                 extracting, same as --no-same-owner
     Other options:
      -?, --help                 give this help list
          --restrict             disable use of some potentially harmful options
          --usage                give a short usage message
          --version              print program version
    Mandatory or optional arguments to long options are also mandatory or optional
    for any corresponding short options.
    The backup suffix is '~', unless set with --suffix or SIMPLE_BACKUP_SUFFIX.
    The version control may be set with --backup or VERSION_CONTROL, values are:
      none, off       never make backups
      t, numbered     make numbered backups
      nil, existing   numbered if numbered backups exist, simple otherwise
      never, simple   always make simple backups
    Valid arguments for the --quoting-style option are:
    *This* tar defaults to:
    --format=gnu -f- -b20 --quoting-style=escape --rmt-command=/usr/sbin/rmt
  6. View the contents of the unpacked file.
    $ ls -R
    sub-01  sub-02
    file-01  file-02
    file-01  file-02
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