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Introduction to Linux - A Hands on Guide
This guide was created as an overview of the Linux Operating System, geared toward new users as an exploration tour and getting started guide, with exercises at the end of each chapter.
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Tar was started as a way to put many files in a tape (yes is that old). When compressing files became useful the first programs use to compress a single file, so they used tar as a way to group files and then compress that single file. Zip was a replacement for this workflow, and also became a standard.
The commands are asociated with the formats. For information on commands you can see their man pages, info or help in the terminal, like this:
what is the difference between tar and zip commands.
They output archives in different formats.
The "zip" format has built-in compression (and is very popular with Windows users), while the "tar" format is purely an archive format with no compression, and also supports Unix file permissions (and is very popular with Linux users).
Since "tar" files are uncompressed, they are usually compressed afterwards. The most common compression formats used are "gzip", "bzip2", and "xz" (note that all these are purely compression formats, with no archiving fucntionality).
Originally, tar (Tape Archiver) was a cmd to collect multiple files into one archive; specifically storing on tape.
No compression was available.
gzip was designed to compress a file (or files individually with wildcard '*')
Over the years, compression has become so popular that tar now has the -z switch to implement gzip functionality directly. It also has the -j switch for bzip2 compression.
Note that this is the GNU version of tar; the orig tar still found on commercial *nix like Solaris, HP-UX does not have those compression switches, although you may find the GNU version avail as well (Solaris /usr/sfw...)