TAR format has been in existence for a long time and stands for Tape Archive, which is a technology that dates as far back as the 1970s. TAR is a UNIX-based utility which is used for packaging multiple files into one folder. The original function of TAR was a tape backup utility, but now files with the file extension TAR are used with modern day archiving.
Although TAR is actually an archiving tool, it is also known as a zero compression archiver. Multiple files can be archived using TAR, but they are not compressed as in a ZIP file. For example, if you are archiving multiple files that result in a file size of 20KB, the file will still be the same size after you archive it using TAR. However, after archiving TAR files you can use a compression program to compress the files, so they are similar to a Zip file.
How to Open TAR Files
TAR files can be unpacked using a Windows-based PC, Mac OS X or Linux operating system. To understand how to open a TAR file it is important to mention that the TAR utility is used to create a TAR file itself, which is also commonly referred to as a tarball. Therefore, you must use a software application to unpack and open such files.
If you use Windows operating system, you can unpack and open TAR files by downloading and installing a program, such as 7-Zip. It supports the unpacking of TAR files. It will also support files with the .tar.gz extension which are TAR files that have been previously compressed using a file compression program. Other programs which work with Windows include Smith Micro Stuffit Deluxe, E-Merge WinAce, and Acubix PicoZip.
If you use Mac OS X, the Apple Archive Utility works well for opening TAR files. Other programs which are compatible with Mac OS X include Smith Micro Stuffit Deluxe, Zipeg, and GNU Tar. GNU Tar is also used to open TAR files using Linux OS.
To open a TAR file, download and install one of the programs described above, click on File and then choose Open. Choose the TAR file you want to unpack and open and then press the Enter key. Depending upon the program you are using, the process for opening TAR files may vary from the instructions we have described here.
It is also important to mention that TAR files do not offer any type of main index which describes the contents of the file. If you want to open and view a specific file it is necessary to open the entire TAR archive.