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Can I zip an entire folder using gzip?



Unlike zip, gzip functions as a compression algorithm only.

Because of various reasons some of which hearken back to the era of tape drives, Unix uses a program named tar to archive data, which can then be compressed with a compression program like gzip, bzip2, 7zip, etc.

In order to “zip” a directory, the correct command would be

tar -zcvf archive.tar.gz directory/ 

This will tell tar to

  • compress it using the z (gzip) algorithm

  • c (create) an archive from the files in directory (tar is recursive by default)

  • v (verbosely) list (on /dev/stderr so it doesn’t affect piped commands) all the files it adds to the archive.

  • and store the output as a f (file) named archive.tar.gz

The tar command offers gzip support (via the -z flag) purely for your convenience. The gzip command/lib is completely separate. The command above is effectively the same as

tar -cv directory | gzip > archive.tar.gz

To decompress and unpack the archive into the current directory you would use

tar -zxvf archive.tar.gz

That command is effectively the same as

gunzip < archive.tar.gz | tar -xv

tar has many, many, MANY other options and uses as well; I heartily recommend reading through its manpage sometime.

The gzip command will not recursively compress a directory into a single zip file, when using the -r switch. Rather it will walk that directory structure and zip each file that it finds into a separate file.



$ tree dir1/
|-- dir11
|   |-- file11
|   |-- file12
|   `-- file13
|-- file1
|-- file2
`-- file3

now run the gzip command

$ gzip -r dir1


$ tree dir1/
|-- dir11
|   |-- file11.gz
|   |-- file12.gz
|   `-- file13.gz
|-- file1.gz
|-- file2.gz
`-- file3.gz

If you’d prefer to zip up the directory structure then you’ll likely want to use the tar command, and then compress the resulting .tar file.

$ tar zcvf dir1.tar.gz dir1/


$ tar zcvf dir1.tar.gz dir1/

Which results in the following single file:

$ ls -l | grep tar
-rw-rw-r-- 1 saml saml  271 Oct  1 08:07 dir1.tar.gz

You can confirm its contents:

$ tar ztvf dir1.tar.gz 
drwxrwxr-x saml/saml         0 2013-10-01 08:05 dir1/
-rw-rw-r-- saml/saml         0 2013-10-01 07:45 dir1/file1
-rw-rw-r-- saml/saml         0 2013-10-01 07:45 dir1/file2
drwxrwxr-x saml/saml         0 2013-10-01 08:04 dir1/dir11/
-rw-rw-r-- saml/saml        27 2013-10-01 07:45 dir1/dir11/file11.gz
-rw-rw-r-- saml/saml        27 2013-10-01 07:45 dir1/dir11/file12.gz
-rw-rw-r-- saml/saml        27 2013-10-01 07:45 dir1/dir11/file13.gz
-rw-rw-r-- saml/saml         0 2013-10-01 07:45 dir1/file3

The Answer to the question “Can I zip an entire folder using gzip [on linux]?” is that you can use the zip program in place of gzip, with the syntax:

zip -r <zip file name> <folder to zip>

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