unzip has a nifty option -j, whereby the directory structure of the archive is discarded, and all files are extracted into the same directory.

Is there a way of making tar work in the same way? Nothing in the man page seems to indicate so.

So, is there an alternative, preferably Free Software, tool that will do that?


5 Answers 5


GNU tar lives on featuritis, so naturally also has some options for that.

If you just want to remove a few path segments, then --strip-components=n or --strip=n will often do:

 tar xvzf tgz --strip=1

But it's also possible to regex-rewrite the files to be extracted (flags are --transform or --xform and accept ereg with the /x modifer):

 tar xvzf tgz --xform='s#^[^/]+#.#x'
                 # or 's#^.+/##x' for discarding all paths

For listing a tar you need the additional --show-transformed option:

 tar tvzf tgz --show-transformed --strip=1 --xform='s/abc/xyz/x'

I believe the rewriting options also work for packing, not just for extracting. But pax has obviously a nicer syntax.

  • 4
    Why not s#.*/##?
    – l0b0
    Nov 21, 2012 at 13:57
  • 3
    --strip just made my day. Thanks! Dec 2, 2012 at 1:33
  • --strip not mentioned in the os x tar man page, but it works anyway, thanks!
    – slf
    Apr 1, 2015 at 19:16
  • 3
    Far better than the accepted answer. Feb 10, 2016 at 8:28
  • 1
    is there any difference between --strip and --strip-components?
    – joel
    Feb 20, 2019 at 9:37

You can do it fairly easily in two steps. Adapt as necessary:

$ mkdir /tmp/dirtree
$ tar xfz /path/to/archive -C /tmp/dirtree
$ find /tmp/dirtree -type f -exec mv -i {} . \;
$ rm -rf /tmp/dirtree
  • this is how i'd do it (using find -exec mv -i instead of find | xargs).... simple steps i can repeat on any system without having to carry around a script to do it for me. Nov 18, 2009 at 5:04
  • 1
    +1, tmpdir=$( mktemp -d ) is handy when creating temporary directories
    – sorki
    May 22, 2013 at 8:12

pax can do it:

pax -v -r -s '/.*\///p' < archive.tar


zcat archive.tar.gz | pax -v -r -s '/.*\///p'

You can check the name replacement operation first by omitting the -r option.


A possible solution that doesn't require installing anything.

  1. use a tar tvf to grab all the files from the tarball
  2. Extract those files individually - have tar extract to stdout & redirect to $filename

    tar -tvf $1 | grep -v "^d" | \
                  awk '{for(i=6;i<NF+1;i++) {printf "%s ",$i};print ""}' |\
                  while read filename
                     tar -O -xf $1 "$filename" > `basename "$filename"`

save as extract.sh and run as extract.sh myfile.tar. It will also overwrite any duplicate filenames encountered in the directories pulled from the tarball.

  • Actually I just tested it on some a dir tree at home & It fails on files containing spaces. I'll see if I can't post an update. Nov 18, 2009 at 0:24
  • Fixed it, but it's not nearly as pretty as it was. Nov 18, 2009 at 0:39
tar xf foo.tar.gz foo/path/to/file/bar.mp3 -O > bar.mp3

The -O option extracts a file to standard out, and > redirects that output into a file. So in my example I'm extracting foo.mp3 and redirecting it into bar.mp3. The file names are arbitrary.


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