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Image of the Archive menu, in Slackware

The Archive menu

With this menu you can create and manage Archives, and compress/decompress files. Note that it doesn't deal with "virtual" browsing of archives; for this see here.

If the programs are installed on your computer, 4Pane can compress and decompress files using gzip, bzip2, xz, lmza, lzop and compress, corresponding to filenames ending in gz, bz2, xz, lzma, lzo and Z. Similarly it can extract tar, zip, 7-Zip, ar, rar and cpio archives, with filenames ending in .tar.gz, .tgz etc, .zip, .7z, .rar, .ar (and .deb) and .cpio (and rpm). It can create archives using tar and zip; tar archives can be compressed using the above compressors plus 7z. (4Pane doesn't try to create 'standard' 7z archives (like those made in 7-Zip) as these don't store their content's ownership/group info, and so aren't appropriate for Linux. If you especially wish to make an archive compressed with 7z, use .tar.7z.)
All the following are applied to the currently-selected items in the active pane; so to create a new archive containing three particular files, first highlight those files. Most of the dialogs allow you to add extra items later, but pre-selection is usually easier.

The Extract Compressed file dialog, in Mandriva

The first menu item is Extract Archive or Compressed File(s), with the shortcut Ctrl-E. If the highlit items are compressed files, or a mixture of compessed files and archives, a dialog will appear that lists the items to be decompressed. To the right of the list is a section that allows you to add more items: write in another file, or browse for one, then click the Add to List button.
Below are three tickboxes. If first is ticked, and there are directories in the list, any compressed files in those directories and their subdirectories will be decompressed too. The second deals with overwriting existing files; unless it's ticked, if there is already a file called foo, trying to decompress foo.gz will fail. The third determines what to do with any archives in the list. If it's ticked, archives are decompressed but not extracted: so foo.tar.gz becomes foo.tar. If not, archives are ignored.

The Extract Archive dialog, in Mandriva

If the selected item is an archive (you can only extract archives one at a time; if more than one is selected, only the first will be extracted) you get a different dialog that just asks you to choose a directory in which to put the extracted files. By default this is the currect directory.

The Create Archive dialog, in Mandriva

Create a New Archive (Sh-Ctrl-Z) brings up a dialog which starts in the same way as the Extract dialog: a list of files to add, and a way to get more. Below is place for you to type in the name you want for the archive; just the main part, the extension will be added automatically. To the right you optionally can choose a different directory to put the archive in; by default it will be the current one.
Finally choose the type of archive to make: tar or zip. If it's tar, you can choose to compress it with e.g. gzip or xz, or not at all; whether to add any symlinks to the archive, or the files that they target; whether to verify the archive afterwards; and whether to delete the original files once they've been added (not a good idea for important files). These choices will persist for future dialogs.

The next item, Add to an Existing Archive, uses a similar dialog to Create a New Archive. It tries to be intelligent: if the current pane has an archive highlit as well as files, it will suggest adding the files to that archive. However it isn't all that intelligent; it doesn't prevent you from adding the file foo.txt to an archive that already contains a foo.txt.

Test integrity of an Archive or Compressed File(s) does this for the selected archive or compressed files, after showing a dialog.

The Extract Archive dialog, in Mandriva

The last item is Compress Files (Ctrl-Alt-Z). It produces a dialog that by now should be familiar. The main difference is that, for compressors where it's appropriate, you can also choose whether to compress faster/less or slower/better.

A few general points: