List the contents of a tar or tar.gz file

by on September 28, 2006 · 18 comments· LAST UPDATED December 20, 2007

in , ,

Q. How do I list the contents of a tar or tar.gz file?

A. GNU/tar is an archiving program designed to store and extract files from an archive file known as a tarfile. You can create a tar file or compressed tar file tar. However sometime you need to list the contents of a tar or tar.gz file on screen before extracting the all files.

Task: List the contents of a tar file

Use the following command:
$ tar -tvf file.tar

Task: List the contents of a tar.gz file

Use the following command:
$ tar -ztvf file.tar.gz

Task: List the contents of a tar.bz2 file

Use the following command:
$ tar -jtvf file.tar.bz2

Where,

  • t: List the contents of an archive
  • v: Verbosely list files processed (display detailed information)
  • z: Filter the archive through gzip so that we can open compressed (decompress) .gz tar file
  • j: Filter archive through bzip2, use to decompress .bz2 files.
  • f filename: Use archive file called filename
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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shashi September 2, 2008 at 6:19 am

Thanks a lot Vivek…This article is very useful for me….

Reply

2 Bolser September 15, 2008 at 3:25 pm

Perfect!

I don’t know why I always forget this!

Also the ‘j’ trick is killer! I always just try to use ‘z’, and then give up when bzip won’t play. Now I just need to remember … use j in stead of z when bzip.

Reply

3 jitedar December 24, 2008 at 10:37 pm

great and thx..

Reply

4 asd January 25, 2009 at 4:28 am

thanks!

Reply

5 Amit Verma June 3, 2009 at 10:41 am

Rule of Thumb -
{
Use ‘z’ while compressing/decompressing/listing the file with GZIP.
Use ‘j’ while compressing/decompressing/listing the file with BZIP2.
}
- with tar command.

Thanks
Amit Verma

Reply

6 Jeremy July 16, 2009 at 11:16 pm

The exact thing I was looking for, worked like a charm! :)

Reply

7 Ankur Sinha August 27, 2009 at 9:57 am

Good Work!!!
Thanks!!!
keep it up!!!
;)

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8 Nomaun Khan September 22, 2009 at 2:20 pm

Thanks for the helpful contests

Reply

9 kiran October 23, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Thanks a lot for this post guys …:)

Keep it up …

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10 Chris Henley February 16, 2010 at 9:22 pm

thanks. I’m too lazy to read the man page.

Reply

11 ode September 8, 2010 at 10:11 am

$ tar -tvf file.tar works for all three file formats.

$ unzip -l works for zip files

Reply

12 Stefan July 17, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Thanks it works fine however do you know if there is a faster way maybe? I have a 6GB gzip file and it takes ages to list the contents. For smaller files it is ok but for big files it is a pain.

Reply

13 Fixticks July 21, 2011 at 9:25 pm

man pages are too long, thanks vivek.
@Stefan, u cud try

tar -ztvf file.tar.gz > files.txt

now i assume u may be looking for a certain file in that big gzip, so

cat files.txt | grep certain_file_name_or_part_of_it

and u can now check for multiple names without the initial wait of listing the big gz’s files.
I know this coz i have just done it thanks to reading this blog.thx again Vivek.

Reply

14 Liban November 25, 2011 at 12:16 am

I’m trying to find and display, but this isn’t working for me..

find -name “.gz” | tar -tvf {};

Reply

15 brisohn May 1, 2012 at 8:09 am

try this:
find -name “*.gz” -exec tar -tvf {} \;

Reply

16 Moron March 12, 2012 at 9:31 pm

I am getting following error while looking for content of the tar file

$ tar -ztvf
tar: illegal option — z

Usage: tar -{c|r|t|u|x} [ -BdDEFhilmopRsUvw ] [ -Number ] [ -f TarFile ]
[ -b Blocks ] [ -S [ Feet ] | [ Feet@Density ] | [ Blocksb ] ]
[ -L InputList ] [-X ExcludeFile] [ -N Blocks ] [ -C Directory ] File …
Usage: tar {c|r|t|u|x} [ bBdDEfFhilLXmNopRsSUvw[0-9] ]
[ Blocks ] [ TarFile ] [ InputList ] [ ExcludeFile ]
[ [ Feet ] | [ Feet@Density ] | [ Blocksb ] ] [-C Directory ] File …

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17 Piyush January 16, 2013 at 1:40 pm

-z option option is not working on AIX

Reply

18 Suresh July 17, 2012 at 7:06 am

Sequence is important ! tar -ztfv will fail with error ‘v’ not found where as tar -ztvf works – since you need to specify the filename after the f option. Cheers!

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