Linux Archive Managers Compared: Ark vs. File Roller

Whenever you download any large files or collection of files, they will more than likely be contained in archive files. These archive files can be in various different formats, including .zip, .tar, and .bz2. The default archive managers for Linux, File Roller and Ark, are great programs that can read and edit these kinds of files, but are they identical?

Archive managers may seem pretty simple at first glance, but they could potentially offer a lot more than you think. I compared these two based on their interface, ease of use, functionality, and the amount of supported archive types.


Ark is the default archive manager for the KDE desktop environment. It should already be included with any KDE system; if not, it should be available in your respective package manager when searching for “ark”. You can also open it by searching in the application launcher (start menu) by typing in “ark”.

Ark supports any imaginable archive file type as long as the command line utility for that type is installed. For example, .tar files are supported whenever the tar utility is installed (which can be confirmed by checking to see if the package is installed and if the tar utility can be used). Other archive types have different utilities because they contain different formats, different compression algorithms (if any), and other attributes.


The interface is pretty straightforward — files are presented in a tree view where you can click on arrows next to folders to collapse the view within that folder, the archive’s name is on the right side of the window, and a few controls are located along the top. These controls allow you to create a new archive (with a supported format), open an archive, add a file or folder to the already-open archive, delete a file from the archive, extract all or part of the open archive, and preview a file within the archive (such as pictures and videos).

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here are no other control buttons, nor any sort of additional functionality or settings to tinker around with. For a KDE application, it’s fairly slimmed down. However, using Ark is very easy and requires virtually no learning curve besides the basic concept of archive files.

File Roller

File Roller, the default archive manager for Gnome-based desktop environments, is very similar but offers a few unique differences. It should also already be installed if you’re using a Gnome-based desktop environment, otherwise you’ll need to research in which package File Roller, sometimes also known simply as Archive Manager, is found in.

According to its website, File Roller supports its own set of file types and doesn’t depend on separate utilities to provide functionality. The list is lengthy and includes:

  • 7-Zip Compressed File (.7z)
  • WinAce Compressed File (.ace)
  • ALZip Compressed File (.alz)
  • AIX Small Indexed Archive (.ar)
  • ARJ Compressed Archive (.arj)
  • Cabinet File (.cab)
  • UNIX CPIO Archive (.cpio)
  • Debian Linux Package (.deb) read-only
  • ISO-9660 CD Disc Image (.iso)
  • Java Archive (.jar)
  • Java Enterprise archive (.ear)
  • Java Web Archive (.war)
  • LHA Archive (.lzh, .lha)
  • WinRAR Compressed Archive (.rar)
  • RAR Archived Comic Book (.cbr)
  • RPM Linux Package (.rpm) read-only
  • Stuffit Archives (.bin, .sit)
  • Tar Archives:
    • uncompressed (.tar)
    • compressed with:
      • gzip (.tar.gz , .tgz)
      • bzip ( , .tbz)
      • bzip2 (.tar.bz2 , .tbz2)
      • compress (.tar.Z , .taz)
      • lzip (.tar.lz , .tlz)
      • lzop (.tar.lzo , .tzo)
      • 7zip (.tar.7z)
      • xz (.tar.xz)
  • ZIP Archive (.zip)
  • ZIP Archived Comic Book (.cbz)
  • ZOO Compressed Archive File (.zoo)
  • Single files compressed with gzip, bzip, bzip2, compress, lzip, lzop, rzip, xz

The interface is also very simple but the layout is very different. There are control buttons for a new archive, opening an archive, adding files to an already-open archive, and extracting all or part of an open archive.


Underneath this are a few navigational buttons so you can maintain your bearings while navigating within the archive. This is necessary in the “View as a Folder” view as File Roller shows a simple listing of files, and doesn’t include the tree structure that Ark uses. Switching the view provides a tree structure as well and removes the navigational toolbar.


Unlike Ark, File Roller also allows you to test the integrity of the archive (not a common practice but it’s useful anyways) and allows you to encrypt the archive by adding a package either during creation of the archive or any time afterwards. This encryption functionality is pretty important with all of the security threats lately, and Ark doesn’t deliver on this front whatsoever.

So which archive manager is the winner? I’d have to give it to File Roller, because it offers multiple views of the archive’s contents, supports a defined list of file types without relying on other utilities, and offers integrity tests and encryption via password functionality. Don’t get me wrong, Ark is a good archive manager. But it is somewhat boring and lacks those extra features File Roller includes.

Do you use a graphical archive manager, or do you use the terminal only? What’s your most important feature in archive management? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: jovike

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