How can I view the list of files in a ZIP archive without decompressing it?

  • Is it possible to do the same for a regular unix archive? (tar/gzip/bz2/ etc) – ThorSummoner Oct 17 '14 at 16:59
  • tar tvf. if .gz, add a z. For bz2, add j. Lots more, check the man page. – UtahJarhead Oct 19 '15 at 20:22

10 Answers 10


The less utility is capable of peeking into a zip archive. In fact, if you look at the outputs of unzip -l zipfile and less zipfile, you will find them to be identical.

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    Note, that less zipfile on MacOS-X displays the binary filecontent, so you see a lot of garbage instead of the content of the zip-file. Then you should opt for the ``ùnzip -l zipfile``` – heiglandreas Jan 25 '13 at 9:59
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    @ayaz In what system does less list zipfiles? I see comments telling that it does not work on MAC, Ubuntu, and here I use Debian. Debian also shows binary garbage. – Dr Beco Aug 12 '14 at 4:38
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    In Ubuntu, try view [zipfile]. – Samuel Lampa Sep 10 '14 at 16:07
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    WRONG. unzip -l works well to show the files inside of a zip archive, but less gives out binary content in many cases and that's a mess of course. – Arturas M Nov 5 '14 at 13:48
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    You need the lesspipe helper installed to enable zip file support for less. It's standard on many linux systems but not on OSX, but you can install it with brew. – pimlottc Jun 18 '15 at 19:37

Try unzip -l files.zip | less

Also, See man unzip for more options

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    You can skip the pipe to less command. It is great idea in a big collection of files, though. – omar Jul 9 '14 at 14:39

To list zip contents:

zipinfo -1 myzipfile.zip

For detailed output:

zipinfo myzipfile.zip
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    Nice answer, you don't have to parse the output just to get filenames. – Antoine Pelisse Oct 31 '14 at 23:04

Please use


for the same. This is a simple and easy to remember one.

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    Nice, this also allows to open individual files in the archive without doing the unzip – user3885927 Sep 22 '16 at 17:25
  • Quite unexpected, and extremely handy! Thanks! – Pierre Feb 1 at 16:46
  • Actually: this wont work if unzip is not installed on the system. Besides that, awesome! – sjas Mar 24 at 22:04

You can make the zip appear as a directory (in which you use cd, ls, etc.) by mounting it with the fuse-zip virtual filesystem.

mkdir foo.d
fuse-zip foo.zip foo.d
ls foo.d
cat foo.d/README
fusermount -u foo.d
rmdir foo.d

Another relevant FUSE filesystem is AVFS. It creates a view of your entire directory hierarchy where all archives have an associated directory (same name with # tacked on at the end) that appears to hold the archive content.

ls ~/.avfs/$PWD/foo.zip\#
cat ~/.avfs/$PWD/foo.zip\#/README

Many modern file managers (e.g. Nautilus, Dolphin) show archive contents transparently.

AVFS is read-only. Fuse-zip is read-write, but beware that changes are only written to the zip file at unmount time, so don't start reading the archive expecting it to be modified until fusermount -u returns.

  • Nice, Giles. Thanks. Just a quick: can one add files to it by justing "cp"ing to the directory? – Dr Beco Aug 12 '14 at 4:45
  • @DrBeco With fuse-zip, yes. With avfs, no. – Gilles Aug 12 '14 at 9:15

At least in Ubuntu, the possibly easiest command is:

view [zipfile]

This will open up the file listing in your standard text editor (nano, vim etc).


Its actually unzip -l file.zip | grep "search" or if you have a lot of files

for i in `ls *zip`; do 
  unzip -l $i | grep "search"; 

Update: Changed from '-p' to '-l' in order to search for files.


If you're more graphically oriented, Midnight Commander can also browse zip files as if they were regular directories.


A more comprehensive solution: vim || emacs

The previous answer by @kinORnirvana is my favorite to produce a file with the content of a zip archive.

zipinfo [-1] archive.zip > archive_content.txt

However, I recommend vim or emacs (not nano) if you need to browse into an archive file or even to view the content of a file contained inside it.

vim archive.zip

This approach works with other archive formats too:

vim file.tar
vim file.tar.gz
vim file.tar.bz2

With vim or emacs you can:

  • browse the directory structure of the archive file.
  • view the content of any file inside the archive file.

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(yaa) Yet another answer:

Alias this command:

alias vless='/usr/share/vim/vim73/macros/less.sh'

and you can use vless file.zip to take advantage of vi (or vim) less script.

(also good to substitute less, so you can have colors)

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    less -R do support ANSI colors. – Sylvain Leroux Nov 18 '16 at 14:19

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