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deco file extraction framework

deco is a Un*x program, written in C, that is able to extract various file formats using small “extractor wrapper” scripts.


Consistent command line interface

Instead of having to remember e. g.

tar xjf 1.tar.bz2
unrar x 2.rar
flac -d 3.flac
dpkg-deb --extract 4.deb

you say

deco 1.tar.bz2 2.rar 3.flac 4.deb

and deco extracts them all, provided you’ve also installed the deco-archive package.

Consistent behavior

Where to extract

Some extractors extract in the current working directory, others use the directory the archive resides in. deco extracts relative to the current working directory, unless you give it the -a (“absolute”) option.

Delete archive?

Some extractors delete the archive after successful extraction, others don’t. deco preserves the archive after successful extraction, unless you give it the -u (“unlink”) option.

Quiet or verbose

Some extractors process the archive verbosely by default and expect you to specify that quiet behavior is wanted. Others do the opposite. deco extracts quietly, unless you give it the -v (“verbose”) option.

Partial content

Some extractors will leave the partial content extracted so far around if extraction fails. Others will delete it. deco will keep partial content, unless you give it the -c (“clean”) option.

Unknown file extensions

Some extractors refuse to even try extracting anything with an unknown extension. deco can force an extractor to handle a file with any name. Use the -e (“extension”) option: deco -e gz myarchive

Sanitized permissions

There are extractors that create files with strange permissions. deco can reset these to sensible defaults implied by your current umask.

No tarbombs

When you extract an archive that contains multiple files at its top level, you usually want them to be placed in a directory of their own. However, if the archive contains only one file or one big directory, that behavior would be annoying. The deco extraction algorithm does the right thing automatically: generally, if and only if contains multiple files at its top level, a new directory called archive/ is created and the archive gets extracted there.

No overwriting

deco never overwrites files, nor does it need to prompt you for manual conflict resolution. If the file to be extracted is named foo and a file by that name already exists, the new file will be extracted as 1-foo, if that name also exists, 2-foo, and so on. Since at the top level only one new file or directory is created, at most this one file will have its name changed like that.

Modular design

As all the heavy lifting is done in the core algorithm, adding support for new archive formats requires very little work.


  1. Configure: Edit to change compiler/linker settings, the location to install at, or the location where deco looks for extractor wrappers.

  2. Build: Run make. If you have trouble building on BSD, try removing -D_XOPEN_SOURCE=600 from CPPFLAGS in

  3. Install: Run make install. (You will probably need to do this as the superuser.) To add support for popular archive formats, also install deco-archive.

  4. Use: Run deco to see the usage message.


Extractor wrappers for deco

Similar programs


Copyright 2007-2015 Peter Hartlich. Licensed under the terms of the GNU General Public License, version 3.

Thanks to:

  • Zoë Stephenson for several bug reports
  • Reuben Thomas for the Makefile uninstall target, suggesting that the usage message include deco’s version, and reporting various problems
  • Steve Milner for the concept of what is now the subdirectory file
  • Dirk Jagdmann for reporting the problem with extracting large files
  • Michael Schwendt for diagnosing a crash when handling archive formats that always extract to a subdirectory


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