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The libarchive library provides a flexible interface for reading and writing streaming archive files such as tar and cpio. The library is inherently stream-oriented; readers serially iterate through the archive, writers serially add things to the archive. In particular, note that there is no built-in support for random access nor for in-place modification.

libarchive can read at least five tar formats, four cpio formats, ISO9660 CD/DVD images (including RockRidge extensions), and ZIP files.

libarchive can write two tar formats (ustar and pax), one cpio format (odc/POSIX), and two types of shar files (with and without uuencoding).

The bsdtar Debian package, which is the default tar(1) on FreeBSD, is built using libarchive.

There is also a manpage, tar(5), that provides an excellent description of the various tar file formats.
Available deb Repositories (how-to add a respository)
Debian 32-bit 64-bit
stable 2.8.4-1 2.8.4-1
testing 2.8.4-1 2.8.4-1
sid 2.8.4-1 2.8.4-1

Ubuntu 32-bit 64-bit
lucid 2.8.0-2 2.8.0-2

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