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Wednesday·21·November·2012

zutils: zcat and friends on Steroids //at 01:18 //by abe

from the DWIM-again dept.

I recently wrote about tools to handle archives conveniently. If you just have to handle compressed text files, there are some widely known shortcut commands to mimic common commands on files compressed with a specific compression format.

  gzip bzip2 lzma xz
cat zcat bzcat lzcat xzcat
cmp zcmp bzcmp lzcmp xzcmp
diff zdiff bzdiff lzdiff xzdiff
grep zgrep bzgrep lzgrep xzgrep
egrep zegrep bzegrep lzegrep xzegrep
fgrep zfgrep bzfgrep lzfgrep xzfgrep
more zmore bzmore lzmore xzmore
less zless bzless lzless xzless

In Debian and derivatives, those tools are part of the according package for that compression utility, i.e. the zcat command is part of the gzip package and the xzfgrep command is part of the xz-utils package.

But despite this matrix is quite easy to remember, the situation has a few drawbacks:

  • Those tools can only handle the format they’re written for (which btw. means that all xz-tools can also handle lzma-compressed files as lzma is xz’s predecessor)
  • zcat and the other cat variants can’t even recognize non-compressed files and throw an error instead of just showing their contents.
  • I always tend to think that lzcat and friends are for lzip-based compression as xzcat can handle lzma-compressed files anyway.

This is where the zutils project comes in: zutils provides the functionality of most of these utilities, too, but with one big difference: You don’t have to remember, think about or type which compression method has been used for your data, just use zcat, zcmp, zdiff, zgrep, zegrep, or zfgrep and it works — independently of what compression method has been used — if any — or if there are different compression types mixed in the parameters to the same command:

$ zfgrep foobar bla.txt fnord.gz hurz.xz quux.lz bar.lzma

Especially if you use logrotate and let logrotate compress old logs, it’s very comfortable that one command suffices to concatenate all the available logfiles, including the current uncompressed one:

$ zcat /var/log/syslog* | …

Additionally, zutils’ versions of these tools also support lzip-compressed files.

The zutils package is available in Debian starting with Wheezy and in Ubuntu since Oneiric. When being installed, it replaces the original z* utilities from the gzip package by diverting them away.

The only drawback so far is that there neither a zless nor a zmore utility from the zutils project, so zless bla.txt fnord.gz hurz.xz quux.lz bar.lzma will not work as expected even after installing zutils as it is still the one from the gzip package and hence it will show you just the first two files in plain text, but not the remaining ones.

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Debian GNU/Linux is my favourite Linux distribution, being stable, flexible, consistent and having a great community. Although I'm not the biggest bug report writer, I try to contribute by staffing the Debian booth at events, carrying the necessary hardware there or even organising the whole booth.


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